Arabidopsis naturally occurring populations have allowed for the identification of considerable genetic variation remodeled by adaptation to different environments and stress conditions. Water is a key resource that limits plant growth, and its availability is initially sensed by root tissues. The root's ability to adjust its physiology and morphology under water deficit makes this organ a useful model to understand how plants respond to water stress. Here, we used hyperosmotic shock stress treatments in different Arabidopsis accessions to analyze the root cell morphological responses. We found that osmotic stress conditions reduced root growth and root apical meristem (RAM) size, promoting premature cell differentiation without affecting the stem cell niche morphology. This phenotype was accompanied by a cluster of small epidermal and cortex cells with radial expansion and root hairs at the transition to the elongation zone. We also found this radial expansion with root hairs when plants are grown under hypoosmotic conditions. Finally, root growth was less affected by osmotic stress in the Sg-2 accession followed by Ws, Cvi-0, and Col-0; however, after a strong osmotic stress, Sg-2 and Cvi-0 were the most resilience accessions. The sensitivity differences among these accessions were not explained by stress-related gene expression. This work provides new cellular insights on the Arabidopsis root phenotypic variability and plasticity to osmotic stress.
Keywords: Arabidopsis accessions; natural variation; osmotic stress; plasticity; root morphology.