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The Movement Of Water And Solutes In Plants

1036 words - 4 pages

The Movement of Water and Solutes in Plants

During the process of osmosis, water molecules move from an area that
is hypotonic to an area that is hypertonic. A hypotonic area is one in
which has less solute and a hypertonic area is one which has more

Plant cells, such as the ones in the epidermis and cortex regions of
the roots of the plant, all have living contents, which are enclosed
by a cell surface membrane and a thick, quite inelastic cellulose cell
wall. The cell wall has special properties, which help the cells
resist during the osmotic uptake of water. If a plant cell is placed
in distilled water, it wonÂ’t swell up and burst like for example, a
red blood cell, but it will take in water until the pressure that the
wall exerts stops any further intake and expansion. When a plant
reaches this condition it is said to be fully turgid. This turgor is
essential for support in the plant, as the plant would wilt if it lost

The term water potential is used to describe the force acting on water
molecules in a solution, when separated from pure water by a membrane,
which only allows water to pass through it. This is a measure of the
potential of water molecules to move from a region of a certain water
molecule concentration to another region of lower water molecule
concentration. Water will move from a region of higher water potential
to one of lower water potential. It is measured in terms of pressure
and the units are either kPa (kilopascals) or MPa (megapascals). The
symbol for water potential is Ψ (Greek letter psi). Pure water has the
highest water potential (0). More negative water potentials indicate
more hypertonic solutions. This change on water potential caused by a
solute being there is called the solute potential and its symbol is Ψs.

When placed in distilled water, the plant cells will tend to take in
water; this is due to plant cells containing various solutes, such as
sugars, which exert a solute potential. The cell wall opposes this
uptake of water with an inward pressure. The term used to describe
this is pressure potential and its symbol is Ψp it is also given a
positive value and this is due to the fact that it goes against the
solute pressure.

The following equation also allows us to express the relationship
between water potential, solute potential and pressure potential in
terms of the water status of the cell:

Ψ = Ψs + Ψp

Water potential = solute potential + pressure potential

Due to osmosis, in plant cells, the water moves from...

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