In unstressed apple seedlings (Malus domestics Borkh.), concentrations of free abscisic acid (ABA) decreased in order from apical stem sections, immature expanding leaves, mature stem sections, and mature leaves. PEG-induced water stress stimulated a 2- to 10-fold increase in free ABA concentrations 1 day after treatment, depending on the amount of stress and the tissue. By the 3rd day of stress, free ABA concentrations were nearly the same as the unstressed treatment and remained low for the remainder of the 21-day stress period. Bound ABA concentrations were an order of magnitude lower than free ABA and were not influenced dramatically by water stress. Shoot growth rate, leaf expansion rate, and leaf emergence rate were reduced by water stress in relation to the severity of the stress; this reduction was associated with the initial increase in ABA. However, there was no increase in shoot or leaf growth rates associated with the decline in ABA concentrations by day 3 as growth rates remained depressed on water-stressed plants throughout the 21-day stress period. Water stress reduced evapotranspiration rate and midshoot leaf water potential (ψW)after 1 day, but leaf osmotic potential (ψS) adjusted more slowly, resulting in a loss of leaf turgor. The reduction in leaf turgor pressure (ψP) was highly correlated with decreased shoot growth rate and increased ABA concentrations on day 1 after treatment. By the 3rd day of water stress, ψP bad recovered even in the most severe treatment, and the recovery of turgor was associated with the drop in ABA concentrations. However, the increase in midshoot ψP and the decline in ABA were not associated with any increase in shoot growth rate. The continued inhibition of shoot growth was probably not related to ABA or turgor pressure of mature leaves but may have been related to turgor pressure in the growing tip.
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