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Environmental and Experimental Botany 120 (2015) 1822

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Inuence of dehydration rate on cell sucrose and water relations

parameters in an inducible desiccation tolerant aquatic bryophyte
R. Cruz de Carvalhoa,* , A. Bernardes da Silvab , C. Branquinhoa , J. Marques da Silvab
cE3c, Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes, Faculdade de Cincias, Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, Edifcio C2, Piso 5,
1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal
BioISI, Biosystems and Integrative Sciences Institute and Departamento de Biologia Vegetal, Faculdade de Cincias, Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande,
Edifcio C2, Piso 4, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal



Article history:
Received 30 March 2015
Received in revised form 29 June 2015
Accepted 2 July 2015
Available online 6 July 2015

During desiccation, plant cells are subjected to very low water potentials. Osmoregulation through
increase of soluble materials (e.g. soluble sugars, compatible inorganic ions) is a response to the
decreasing turgor pressure in the cells. In bryophytes, sucrose acts as an osmolyte and also stabilizing
membranes and proteins through vitrication. We used psychrometric measurements in the aquatic
bryophyte Fontinalis antipyretica Hedw. to construct pressurevolume isotherms and determine the
water relations parameters under fast and slow dehydration rates. Sucrose was also quantied. The
starting hypothesis was that a slow dehydration rate would increase sucrose concentration, thereby
decreasing the osmotic potential at turgor loss point, and would also increase cell wall elasticity,
postponing turgor loss and allowing time for induction of molecular and structural acclimation
mechanisms. In fact, we found that slowly dehydrated samples presented more elastic cell walls,
allowing cells to shrink and maintain turgor, helping to better preserve their metabolic functions and
therefore to induce desiccation tolerance (DT). On the other hand, in fast dehydrated samples the osmotic
potential at turgor loss point decreased, indicating the activity of osmoregulation processes, possibly
connected to the increase observed in sucrose content. Upon rehydration, fast dried samples lost 50% of
the sucrose through leakage due to cell membrane rupture, while slow dehydrated leaves maintained
their sucrose content constant. DT appears to be achieved through slow dehydration, meaning that a high
sucrose content alone does not contribute to DT establishment. Moreover, in natural conditions external
water can be maintained at very high values due to the life form of F. antipyretica, which grows in long and
compact oating stems in streams, allowing a slow dehydration rate required for induction of other DT
2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Desiccation rate
Fontinalis antipyretica
Cell wall elasticity

1. Introduction
Bryophytes are typically poikilohydric plants, with water
content depending on the humidity of the surrounding
atmosphere. Unlike vascular plants, these organisms lack
conducting tissues, absorbing external water directly. In addition
to the symplast water fraction (within the protoplasts) and the
apoplast water fraction (cell walls and spaces between cells) also
present in vascular plants, a third fraction, the external capillary
water, must be taken into account (Dilks and Proctor, 1979; Beckett,
1997; Proctor et al., 1998; Proctor and Tuba, 2002). Bryophytes also

* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (R. Cruz de Carvalho).
0098-8472/ 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

exhibit different mechanisms to delay water loss and are often able
to tolerate extreme desiccation (Proctor and Pence, 2002).
The water loss that takes place when tissues are exposed to a
drying atmosphere can be counteracted by a decrease of the
cellular osmotic potential achieved by increasing soluble
molecules concentration, thereby maintain homeostasis and
preserving cell structure and function. The construction of
pressurevolume (PV) curves allows the determination of several
water relations parameters that describe this process (Santarius,
1994; Beckett, 1997; Proctor et al., 1998; Hjek and Beckett, 2008),
allowing the assessment of osmoregulation.
Osmotic adjustment enables turgor to be maintained during
mild dehydration, involving compatible solutes, namely potassium
and sugars such as sucrose (Ingram and Bartels, 1996). This sugar
has an important role in desiccation tolerance (DT), acting as an
osmoregulator and preventing denaturation of important

R. Cruz de Carvalho et al. / Environmental and Experimental Botany 120 (2015) 1822

macromolecules and membranes, contributing to biological

vitrication of the cytoplasm of dried cells, slowing down
damaging reactions with reactive oxygen species and maintaining
cell structure intact (Crowe et al., 1992; Smirnoff, 1992). High
concentrations of sucrose were found in dry tissues of DT plants
(Buitink et al., 2002). In vascular DT plants, such as Craterostigma
plantagineum Hochst., the sugar 2-octulose is present at high
contents in well-watered conditions. During dehydration it is
converted to sucrose which can increase up to 40% of dry weight
(DW) (Ingram and Bartels, 1996). In the bryophyte Syntrichia ruralis
(Hedw.) F. Weber & D. Mohr, sucrose makes up approximately 10%
of the DW and its concentration is maintained during desiccation
and rehydration (Bewley et al., 1978), while for the bryophyte
Physcomitrella patens (Hedw.) Bruch & Schimp, it remains at 4% of
DW (Oldenhof et al., 2006). Nevertheless, the impact of the drying
rate in tissue sucrose concentration has been scarcely studied in
bryophytes (Cruz de Carvalho et al., 2014).
Drying rate is crucial for DT induction in bryophytes (Stark et al.,
2013; Greenwood and Stark, 2014), namely in the aquatic
bryophyte Fontinalis antipyretica Hedw., where slow drying was
previously shown to be essential (Cruz de Carvalho et al., 2011,
2012, 2014). The aim of the present work was to investigate how
contrasting (fast and slow) dehydration rates change cell water
relations in an aquatic bryophyte and how those changes explain
the need for slow dehydration to induce DT. Sucrose content was
evaluated as well as the role of this sugar on cell osmoregulation.
The initial hypothesis was that sucrose content is essential to DT
induction and is related with dehydration rate, leading to
differences in water relation parameters, especially in osmotic
potential. Thus, a higher sucrose content would be expected in a
slow dehydration rate in order to osmoregulate, compensating the
water loss and postponing the shutdown of the metabolism,
allowing time for acclimation and to attain the high cell survival
previously observed (Cruz de Carvalho et al., 2011). For the same
reasons, a higher cell wall elasticity was expected in the slow
dehydrated samples.
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Plant material and culture conditions
Bryophyte samples of F. antipyretica were collected in a shaded
stream bordered by Quercus pyrenaica Willd., Castanea sativa Mill.,
and Cistus sp. woodlands at the Serra de S. Mamede Natural Park,
central Portugal in a clean stream, away from important human
impact. Samples were transported to the laboratory under cooling
conditions (about 5  C) and cleaned of debris and sediments in
distilled water. Bryophyte were grown in a modied Knop culture
medium (Traubenberg and Ah-Peng, 2004) under controlled
conditions (17  C day/13  C night, photosynthetic photon ux
density [PPFD] of 2030 mmol m2 s1 and photoperiod of 16 h).
Samples were left in the lab for no more than 60 days before
analysis. In the water relations assay, each sample consisted of a
single 1 cm shoot tip, while in the sucrose assay samples consisted
of ten shoot tips bundled together. Relative water content (RWC)
was calculated according to Deltoro et al. (1998). After blotting any
external water from the tips and before drying, samples where
weighted to determine full turgor weight (FTW). After the
dehydration treatment, fresh weight (stress weight) was
determined. At the end of the assays, dry weight (DW) was
determined by placing the samples at 80  C for 48 h.
2.2. Dehydration induction
Different dehydration rates were attained by placing shoots in
small containers over saturated salt solutions of K2SO4 (slow


dehydration, 95% relative humidity [RH], 6 MPa, 0.08  0.01 g

H2O g1 dry weight h1, circa 24 h) and Ca(NO3)24H2O (fast
dehydration, 50% RH, 100 MPa, 0.74  0.12 g H2O g1 dry weight
h1, circa 3 h). During this period, conditions where maintained
under controlled temperature (circa 2023  C) and at low PAR
(25 mmol m2 s1). In the water relations assay, slow dehydration
was attained by air drying bryophytes at lab conditions (circa 80%
RH) a value lower than the one used in previous works (Cruz de
Carvalho et al., 2011, 2012, 2014), but still high enough to allow
slow dehydration (0.25  0.02 g H2O g1 dry weight h1, circa 8 h).
Rehydration was made through immersion in culture medium for
72 h under similar growth conditions.
2.3. Water potential determination and water relation components
Slow dehydrated (blotted and non-blotted) and fast dehydrated
(blotted) samples were placed in a small steel cup (319 mm3) and
introduced in a C-52 chamber (Wescor Electronics, Logan, USA)
linked to a PsyPro microvoltmeter (Water Potential System,
Wescor Electronics, Logan, USA) for an equilibration period of
30 min before water potential (c) measurement. Between
measurements, samples were allowed to lose water inside small
containers containing a saturated salt solution (see previous
description of dehydration induction). Five standard solutions of
NaCl (0, 0.05, 0.25, 0.5 and 1 molal) where used to establish a
calibration curve. After RWC determination, PV curves where
plotted as 1/c versus 1  RWC. All water relations components
were calculated according to Hjek and Beckett (2008). At low c,
turgor does not contribute to c and the PV curve is linear.
Apoplastic water was determined as the x-intercept of the linear
portion of the PV curve. Osmotic potential (cp) at full turgor (cps)
was calculated as the y-intercept of the same linear portion of the
PV curve. Turgor potential (cp) was determined as the difference
of the extrapolated linear portion and the real curve. For
simplication of visualization, it was not plotted on the graph.
Turgor loss point (TLP) was determined at the point where cp
reached zero, where it was also determined the osmotic potential
at turgor loss point (cpTLP). Above TLP, cp increased linearly until
full turgor was achieved and, after plotted against relative water
content (RWC), cell walls elasticity modulus (e) was determined as
the slope of the linear function in this correlation (for more details
see Supplementary information). Blotting was an efcient method
to remove all capillary water, not affecting the course of water
potential below RWC = 100% (see Supplement data, Fig. 2)
2.4. Sucrose quantication
Soluble sugars extraction was performed as described by
Arrabaa (1981) on blotted shoots submitted to the small container
drying method described in Section 2.2. Shoots with
approximately 0.1 g (control: n = 17; treatments: n = 4) were
quickly grinded with 500 ml of 80% (v/v) ethanol in a mortar with
pestle at room temperature. The homogenate was quickly
transferred to tubes with 1 ml of 80% (v/v) ethanol and placed
for 5 min at 80  C. Extracts were cooled on ice, and then centrifuged
at 16,000  g, for 5 min in a microcentrifuge (Centrifuge 5415C,
Eppendorf). The supernatant was transferred to another tube,
evaporated in nitrogen (N2) ow, resuspended in 1 ml of ultra-pure
water and ltered through 0.45 mm lters (Dinistrat Filter RC 25,
Sartorius). Sucrose quantication was determined following the
resorcinol (1,3-dihidroxybenzene) method (Roe, 1934). Briey,
100 ml of the extract or the recovery solution were added to 0.25 ml
of resorcinol solution (1% diluted in absolute ethanol (w/v)), and to
0.75 ml of a solution of 30% HCl (w/v), mixed and incubated at 80  C
for 8 min. Samples were cooled on ice and absorbance at 405 nm


R. Cruz de Carvalho et al. / Environmental and Experimental Botany 120 (2015) 1822

Fig. 1. Reciprocal of water potential (1/c) plotted against 1  RWC (pressurevolume curves) of the aquatic bryophyte Fontinalis antipyretica (three independent samples:
, 4, &) in (a) slow dehydrated and (b) fast dehydrated. Turgor loss point (TLP) was determined when turgor pressure (cp) reached zero (not plotted) calculated as the
difference of the extrapolated linear portion and the actual pressurevolume curves. At low c, turgor does not contribute to c and the PV curve is linear (, - - -,   ),
corresponding the y-intercept of the extrapolated line at RWC = 1 to the reciprocal of osmotic potential at full turgor (1/cps) and the x-intercept to the apoplastic water in the
shoots. In fast dehydrated samples, no apoplastic water was present.

was read in the microplate reader (ELx800, BioTek, USA). In an

independent assay, sucrose leakage upon 30 min rehydration was
also determined measuring sucrose content in leaves and in the
recovery medium in slow and fast dehydrated samples (n = 3 for
each dehydration rate). A regression trendline was determined
through the application of this method to solutions with
quantication in the sample (mmol g1 DW). In this specic case,
the DW was determined by weighting independent samples and
using a linear regression to determine the theoretical value.
2.5. Statistical analysis
All statistical analyses were performed with GraphPad Prism
5.03 for Windows (2009) (GraphPad Software, San Diego California
investigated running linear regression analysis. Three replicates of
slow dehydrated and fast dehydrated samples where used in the
measurements of water relation components. Whenever necessary,
signicant differences between groups were determined through
ANOVA with Tukey post-test (signicance level a = 0.05).

turgor (cps) and at turgor loss point (cpTLP) are less negative in
slow dehydrated samples than in fast dehydrated ones. Regarding
the content of apoplastic water, in slow dehydrated samples it is
circa 16% but in fast dehydrated samples it was absent.
3.2. Sucrose quantication
Sucrose content was measured in non-stressed control samples,
at the end of slow and fast dehydration, and after 72 h after
rehydration of slow and fast dehydrated samples (Fig. 2a). Sucrose
leakage was also quantied after retrieving the recovery solution
(Fig. 2b). The results show that the sucrose content is circa
170 mmol g1 DW (6% of DW) in unstressed conditions and in slow
dehydrated samples but increases to circa 250 mmol g1 DW (9% of
DW) after being submitted to fast dehydration. After recovery,
sucrose content remains unchanged in slow dehydration, but
decreases to circa 120 mmol g1 DW (4% of DW) in fast dehydrated
samples. From the sucrose determinations in the recovery medium
collected after rehydration, it is estimated that 5060% of cell
sucrose is lost in fast dehydration samples, whereas in slow
dehydration only about 2030% is lost, although not statistically
different from control in the latter case (Fig. 2b).

3. Results
4. Discussion
3.1. Cell water relations
Pressurevolume (PV) curves for slow and fast dehydrated
samples where constructed (Fig. 1) allowing the determination of
several parameters of water relations (Table 1).
The RWC at turgor loss (RWCTLP) is higher in fast dehydrated
than in slow dehydrated samples. However, the elasticity modulus
of cell walls (e) is lower (more elastic cell walls) in slow dehydrated
than in fast dehydrated samples. Also the osmotic potentials at full

Table 1
Parameters of water relations in slow and fast dehydrated samples of the aquatic
bryophyte Fontinalis antipyretica. Values are mean  SD of three replicates. Different
letters indicate signicant differences between treatments (P < 0.05; Tukeys HSD
test). For parameter explanation, see text.

e (MPa)
cps (MPa)
cpTLP (MPa)
Apoplastic water (%)

Slow dehydration

Fast dehydration

0.68  0.05a
1.19  0.23a
0.65  0.10a
0.89  0.13a
16  2a

0.78  0.03b
2.73  0.39b
1.18  0.09b
1.71  0.10b
0  0b

This study compared the water relations parameters (such as

cell wall modulus of elasticity, RWC at turgor loss point, osmotic
potential at full turgor and at turgor loss point and apoplastic
water) of the aquatic bryophyte F. antipyretica under contrasting
drying rates (slow and fast), allowing a further analysis of its DT
features. Whereas no signs of cell membrane rupture were found in
slowly dehydrated samples, cell disruption in part of the cells of
rapidly dehydrated samples probably occurred, as evidenced by
the signicant sucrose leakage after rehydration. Therefore, the
water relation parameters (e.g. the absence of apoplastic water) of
the fast dehydrated samples should be interpreted with caution
and taking this fact into account.
4.1. Osmoregulation and high sucrose alone does not contribute to
desiccation tolerance
The RWCTLP in F. antipyretica was different, depending on the
drying rate, being higher under fast (circa 80%) than under slow
(circa 70%) dehydration. Nevertheless, RWCTLP in F. antipyretica is
higher than those found for other bryophytes, such as Plagiomnium
rhynchophorum (Harv.) T.J. Kop. (circa 55%; Beckett, 1997),

R. Cruz de Carvalho et al. / Environmental and Experimental Botany 120 (2015) 1822


Fig. 2. Sucrose content (mmol g1 DW) of the aquatic bryophyte Fontinalis antipyretica samples (a) non-stressed (white bar, n = 17) and slow (grey bars, n = 4) and fast (black
bars, n = 4) dehydrated at the end of dehydration and after recovery (72 h, n = 4 for each dehydration rate). In an independent assay, sucrose leakage upon 30 min rehydration
(b) was also determined measuring sucrose content in F. antipyretica leaves (black bars) and released to the recovery medium (white bars) in slow and fast dehydrated samples
(n = 3 for each dehydration treatment; percentages of sucrose leakage are shown). Values are mean and SD. Different letters indicate signicant differences between

Conocephalum conicum (L.) Underw. (circa 45%; Proctor et al., 1998)

and Sphagnum spp. (3560%; Hjek and Beckett, 2008), being
closer to the ones observed in vascular plants (circa 75%; Bartlett
et al., 2012) placing this species in an intermediate position.
In vascular plants cps appears to have a good correlation with
water in the habitat (Bartlett et al., 2012), but in bryophytes no
correlation was found (Proctor et al., 1998). In fact, in disagreement
to what was seen in vascular plants, in bryophytes the cell wall
modulus of elasticity (e) seems to be the best predictor for
dehydration tolerance, as was pointed out by Hjek and Beckett
(2008). This is a characteristic of desiccation tolerant organisms,
such as lichens (24 MPa; Beckett, 1995), liverworts such as
C. conicum (circa 2 MPa; Proctor et al., 1998) and Dumortiera hirsuta
(Sw.) Nees (circa 7 MPa; Proctor, 1999), and bryophytes such as
Syntrichia ruraliformis (Besch.) Cardot (circa 6 MPa; Proctor, 1999)
and Sphagnum sp. (circa 1.54 MPa; Hjek and Beckett, 2008). In
contrast, much higher values (circa 20 MPa) have been reported for
higher plants (Saito et al., 2006).
However, works involving the determination of PV curves
commonly use only one dehydration rate, usually a slow one (more
than 4 h; Beckett, 1995; Proctor et al., 1998; Proctor, 1999; Hjek
and Beckett, 2008). This is the rst work, to our knowledge, that
demonstrates that a poikilohydric organism can display
differences of e in response to different dehydration rates (slow
with 1.19  0.23 MPa and fast with 2.73  0.39 MPa). These
differences in e between treatments may be an induced
acclimation to dehydration, resulting from early signal perception
in cell walls (Kohorn, 2001). The reversible alterations in cell wall
structure and composition avoid mechanical stress allowing cells
to shrink as water loss increases (Saito et al., 2006), as seen in
lichens (Beckett, 1995) and the vascular resurrection plant C.
plantagineum (Jones and McQueen-Mason, 2004). The slow water
loss may also allow the induction of other DT mechanisms allowing
time for the synthesis of the new compounds (Cruz de Carvalho
et al., 2014). Upon fast dehydration, albeit not being responsible for
the major part of osmotic adjustment, there was an increase in the
concentration of sucrose, and possibly of other osmoregulators. In
higher plants, Marques da Silva and Arrabaa (2004) showed that
the osmotic adjustment to water stress was in part dependent on
the accumulation of soluble sugars, but mostly on the
accumulation of inorganic ions. The accumulation of osmolytes
translated in the differences in cpTLP, being lower in fast
dehydration (1.71  0.10 MPa) compared with slow dehydration
(0.89  0.13 MPa). Moreover, this early perception of the
dehydration rate may also explains the signicant differences
observed in cps between treatments (1.18  0.09 MPa in fast and

0.65  0.10 MPa in slow), i.e. very close to full turgor and upon
minimal variations in water content there was already
accumulation/production of osmoregulators in response to fast
dehydration. However, since cps is obtained by extrapolation to
full hydration of the c results measured after turgor loss, when in
rapidly dehydrated samples part of the cells may have lost viability,
these results should be regarded with caution.
The lower cpTLP in fast dehydration (1.71  0.10 MPa)
compared with slow dehydration samples (0.89  0.13 MPa)
reects in part the higher sucrose production in the rst treatment.
The accumulation of sucrose in this brief period (less than 2 h) in
fast dehydrated samples may be an attempt to protect membranes
by increasing the viscosity of the cytoplasm to decrease the
damaging effects of ROS produced from impaired metabolism
(Crowe et al., 1992; Cruz de Carvalho et al., 2012). Nevertheless,
sucrose accumulation did not avoid signicant membrane damage
upon rehydration of fast dehydrated samples, as shown by the high
sucrose content in the external medium and lower sucrose content
of the leaves, a clear sign of sucrose leakage. After slow
dehydration, sucrose content in the leaves was not statistically
different from control. However, in the rst moments following
rehydration of slow dehydrated samples some sucrose leakage was
also detected, although sucrose content remained constant in the
leaves. This transient leakage is common upon rehydration of
desiccated tissues reecting probably the lipid-phase transitions
occurring in the plasma membrane (Crowe et al., 1992).
Nevertheless, some sucrose was synthesized allowing to maintain
a stable concentration inside the cells. However, our work shows
that not only different dehydration rates led to different sucrose
content but also that its increased concentration alone is not
enough to establish DT and prevent membrane damage resulting in
high cell death (Cruz de Carvalho et al., 2012). The elevated sucrose
content may be an important part of the DT mechanisms but
combined with changes in the proteome (Cruz de Carvalho et al.,
2014), particularly LEA proteins, contributing to form a more stable
vitried cytoplasm during slow dehydration that can improve cells
DT (Shih et al., 2012), reducing the metabolism and hazardous ROS
production (Crowe et al., 1992; Smirnoff, 1992).
4.2. Life form as an induction agent of desiccation tolerance
External water content was very high, about ve times the
tissue water content at full turgor. Unblotted shoots start to lose
their turgidity at different moments, contrary to what happens in
blotted shoots, which start to lose water at the same time. The
morphology of the leaves and the chemical properties of the cell


R. Cruz de Carvalho et al. / Environmental and Experimental Botany 120 (2015) 1822

walls keep the external water layer that slows dehydration. If one
small shoot with external water starts to lose its turgidity only after
23 h, a colony with a clump structure would take longer to dry,
leading to a slow dehydration rate when the shoots are exposed to
the atmosphere. In some cases, as in F. antipyretica, the slow rate
allows apoplastic water to remain bound to the walls and prolong
even longer the slow drying effect. A similar situation occurs in
S. ruralis, which forms clumps in nature allowing a slower
dehydration rate (Oliver, 1991). This demonstrates the importance
of the bryophytes life form traits, as patch size and structure, in
establishing a slow dehydration rate that allows for the possibility
of inductive processes of DT. A number of recent studies have
indicated that the ecological strategy of DT in bryophytes is largely
inducible, including both aquatic (Cruz de Carvalho et al., 2011,
2012, 2014) and desert mosses (Stark et al., 2013, 2014), thus
challenging the idea that the bryophytes as a clade are largely
constitutively protected from desiccation.
5. Conclusions
Slow dehydration appears to change the characteristics of the
bryophytes cell walls, allowing it to become more elastic and
allowing time to induce DT before the loss of cell turgor, since high
sucrose content alone is not enough to prevent membrane damage
and the consequent cellular leakage. From an ecological point of
view, this has tremendous importance in survival during the
drying season. Moreover, slow dehydration provided by the
compact life form may allow the induction of full DT mechanisms,
which are probably seen across most bryophyte species.
This work has been supported by Fundao para a Cincia e
Tecnologia (Scientic Doctoral Grant no. SFRH/BD/31424/2006;
Project NativeScapesGR no. EXPL/ATP-ARP/0252/2013) and
Investigador FCT contract (Cristina Branquinho). The authors wish
to thank Tom Hjek (University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic)
for discussion of the water relations parameters determination.
Appendix A. Supplementary data
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