Inward and outward K+‐selective currents in the plasma membrane of protoplasts from maize root cortex and stele

Stephen K. Roberts*, Mark Tester

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


In an attempt to understand the processes mediating ion transport within the root, the patch clamp technique was applied to protoplasts isolated from the cortex and stele of maize roots and their plasma membrane conductances investigated. in the whole‐cell configuration, membrane hyperpolarization induced a slowly activating inwardly rectifying conductance in most protoplasts isolated from the root cortex. In contrast, most protoplasts isolated from the stele contained a slowly activating outwardly rectifying conductance upon plasma membrane depolarization. The reversal potential of the inward current indicated that it was primarily due to the movement of K+; the outwardly rectifying conductance was comparatively less selective for K+. Membrane hyperpolarization beyond a threshold of about −70 mV induced inward currents. When EK was set negative of this threshold, inward currents activated negative of EK and no outward currents were observed positive of EK. Outward currents in the stelar protoplasts activated at potentials positive of −85 mV. However, when EK was set positive of −85 mV a small inward current was also observed at potentials negative (and slightly positive) of the equilibrium potential for K+. Inwardly and outwardly rectifying K+ channels were observed in outside‐out patches from the plasma membrane of cortical and stelar cells, respectively. Characterization of these channels showed that they were likely to be responsible for the macroscopic ‘whole‐cell’ currents. Inward and outward currents were affected differently by various K+ channel blockers (TEA+, Ba2+ and Cs+). In addition, Ca2+ above 1 mM partially blocked the inward current in a voltage‐dependent manner but had little effect on the outward current. It is suggested that the inwardly rectifying conductance identified in protoplasts isolated from the cortex probably represents an important component of the low‐affinity K+ uptake mechanism (mechanism II) identified in intact roots. The outwardly rectifying conductance identified in protoplasts isolated from the stele could play a role in the release of cations into the xylem vessels for transport to the shoot.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)811-825
Number of pages15
JournalThe Plant Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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