Casparian strips are ring-like cell-wall modifications in the root endodermis of vascular plants. Their presence generates a paracellular barrier, analogous to animal tight junctions, that is thought to be crucial for selective nutrient uptake, exclusion of pathogens, and many other processes. Despite their importance, the chemical nature of Casparian strips has remained a matter of debate, confounding further molecular analysis. Suberin, lignin, lignin-like polymers, or both, have been claimed to make up Casparian strips. Here we show that, in Arabidopsis, suberin is produced much too late to take part in Casparian strip formation. In addition, we have generated plants devoid of any detectable suberin, which still establish functional Casparian strips. In contrast, manipulating lignin biosynthesis abrogates Casparian strip formation. Finally, monolignol feeding and lignin-specific chemical analysis indicates the presence of archetypal lignin in Casparian strips. Our findings establish the chemical nature of the primary root-diffusion barrier in Arabidopsis and enable a mechanistic dissection of the formation of Casparian strips, which are an independent way of generating tight junctions in eukaryotes.
Via GMI Vienna