The guard cell ionome: Understanding the role of ions in guard cell functions

Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2019 Sep;146:50-62. doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2018.11.007. Epub 2018 Nov 17.


The ionome is critical for plant growth, productivity, defense, and it eventually affects human food quantity and quality. Located on the leaf surface, stomatal guard cells are critical gatekeepers for water, gas, and pathogens. Insights form ionomics (metallomics) is imperative as we enter an omics-driven systems biology era where an understanding of guard cell function and physiology is advanced through efforts in genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. While the roles of major cations (K, Ca) and anions (Cl) are well known in guard cell function, the related physiology, movement and regulation of trace elements, metal ions, and heavy metals are poorly understood. The majority of the information on the role of trace elements in guard cells emanates from classical feeding experiments, field or in vitro fortification, micropropagation, and microscopy studies, while novel insights are available from limited metal ion transporter and ion channel studies. Given the rejuvenated and recent interest in the constantly changing ionome in plant mineral balance and eventually in human nutrition and health, we looked into the far from established guard cell ionome in lieu of the modern omics era of high throughput research endeavors. Newer technologies and tools i.e., high resolution mass spectrometry, advanced imaging, and phenomics are now available to delve into the guard cell ionomes. In this review, research efforts on guard cell ionomes were collated and categorized, and we highlight the underlying role of the largely unknown ionome in guard cell function towards a systems physiology understanding of plant health and productivity.

Keywords: Cations; Conductance; Environment; Guard cell; Heavy metal; Ionomics; Mass spectrometry; Metallomics; Stomata; Stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ions / metabolism
  • Metabolomics*
  • Plant Cells / metabolism*


  • Ions