Capturing arabidopsis root architecture dynamics with root-fit reveals diversity in responses to salinity

Magdalena M. Julkowska, Huub C.J. Hoefsloot, Selena Mol, Richard Feron, Gert Jan De Boer, Michel A. Haring, Christa Testerink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The plant root is the first organ to encounter salinity stress, but the effect of salinity on root system architecture (RSA) remains elusive. Both the reduction in main root (MR) elongation and the redistribution of the root mass between MRs and lateral roots (LRs) are likely to play crucial roles in water extraction efficiency and ion exclusion. To establish which RSA parameters are responsive to salt stress, we performed a detailed time course experiment in which Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) seedlings were grown on agar plates under different salt stress conditions. We captured RSA dynamics with quadratic growth functions (ROOT-FIT) and summarized the salt-induced differences in RSA dynamics in three growth parameters: MR elongation, average LR elongation, and increase in number of LRs. In the ecotype Columbia-0 accession of Arabidopsis, salt stress affected MR elongation more severely than LR elongation and an increase in LRs, leading to a significantly altered RSA. By quantifying RSA dynamics of 31 different Arabidopsis accessions in control and mild salt stress conditions, different strategies for regulation of MR and LR meristems and root branching were revealed. Different RSA strategies partially correlated with natural variation in abscisic acid sensitivity and different Na+/K+ratios in shoots of seedlings grown under mild salt stress. Applying ROOT-FIT to describe the dynamics of RSA allowed us to uncover the natural diversity in root morphology and cluster it into four response types that otherwise would have been overlooked.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1387-1402
Number of pages16
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


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