The phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) triggers stomatal closing as a physiological response to drought stress. Several basic questions limit an understanding of the mechanism of ABA reception in guard cells. Whether primary ABA receptors are located on the extracellular side of the plasma membrane, within the intracellular space of guard cells, or both remains unknown. Furthermore, it is not clear whether ABA must be transported into guard cells to exert control over stomatal movements. In the present study, a combination of microinjection into guard cells and physiological assays of stomatal movements have been performed to determine primary sites of ABA reception in guard cells. Microinjection of ABA into guard cells of Commelina communis L. resulted in injected cytosolic concentrations of 50 to 200 MM ABA and in additional experiments in lower concentrations of approximately 1 μM ABA. Stomata with ABA-loaded guard cells (n > 180) showed opening similar to stomata with uninjected guard cells. The viability of guard cells following ABA injection was demonstrated by neutral red staining as well as monitoring of stomatal opening. Extracellular application of 10 μM ABA inhibited stomatal opening by 98% at pH 6.15 and by 57% at pH 8.0. The pH dependence of extracellular ABA action may suggest a contribution of an intracellular ABA receptor to stomatal regulation. The findings presented here show that intracellular ABA alone does not suffice to inhibit stomatal opening under the imposed conditions. Furthermore, these data provide evidence that a reception site for ABA-mediated inhibition of stomatal opening is on the extracellular side of the plasma membrane of guard cells.
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