Anatomical, physiological and phytohormonal changes involved in drought tolerance were examined in different Pinus radiata D. Don breeds subjected to soil drying and rewatering. Breeds with the smallest stomatal chamber size had the lowest transpiration rate and the highest intrinsic water-use efficiency. Xylem cell size was positively correlated with leaf hydraulic conductance and needle indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) concentrations, whereas transpiration rate was negatively correlated with needle abscisic acid (ABA) levels. Since these two phytohormones seem important in regulating the P. radiata drought response, they were simultaneously immunolocalized in roots and needles of the most tolerant breed (P. radiata var. radiata × var. cedrosensis) during two sequential drought cycles and after rewatering. During drought, IAA was unequally distributed into the pointed area of the needle cross-section and mainly located in mesophyll and vascular tissue cells of needles, possibly inducing needle epinasty, whereas ABA was principally located in guard cells, presumably to elicit stomata closure. In the roots, at the end of the first drought cycle, while strong IAA accumulation was observed in the cortex, ABA levels decreased probably due to translocation to the leaves. Rewatering modified the distribution of both IAA and ABA in the needles, causing an accumulation principally in vascular tissue, with residual concentrations in mesophyll, likely favouring the acclimatization of the plants for further drought cycles. Contrarily, in the roots IAA and ABA were located in the exodermis, a natural barrier that regulates the phytohormone translocation to other plant tissues and hormone losses to the soil solution after rewatering. These results confirm that immunolocalization is an efficient tool to understand the translocation of IAA and ABA in plants subjected to different water stress situations, and clarify their role in regulating physiological responses such as stomata closure and epinasty in needles and root development.
Keywords: ABA; IAA; hardening; tolerance; water stress.