Measuring Electrical Responses during Acute Exposure of Roots and Rhizoids of Plants to Compounds Using a Flow-Through System

Robin Lewis Cooper, Matthew A. Thomas, Rachael M. Vascassenno, Kaitlyn E. Brock, David Nicholas McLetchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Monitoring electrical signals in plants allows the examination of their acute and chronic physiological changes and responses to stimuli. Understanding how plant roots/rhizoids respond to chemical cues in their environment will provide insight into how these structures acquire resources. Chronic exposure to L-glutamate alters root growth and is known to alter Ca2+ flux inside roots. The ionic flux can be detected by electrical changes. A rapid and relatively easy approach is presented to screen the electrical sensitivity of roots/rhizoids to compounds such as amino acids and known agonists/antagonists to receptors and ion channels. The approach uses a background-flow system of basal salt or water; then, the administered compounds are added to the roots/rhizoids while monitoring their electrical responses. As a proof of concept, the response to flow-through of glutamate (1 mM) was targeted at the root/rhizoids of three plants (Arabidopsis thaliana, Pisum sativum and Marchantia inflexa). Both Arabidopsis thaliana and Pisum sativum produced rapid depolarization upon exposure to glutamate, while M. inflexa did not show an electrical response. In some experiments, simultaneous recordings with impedance measures for acute changes and glass electrodes for chronic electrical potential changes were used. The effect of potassium chloride (300 mM) as a depolarizing stimulus produced responses in both P. sativum and M. inflexa. The protocol presented can be used to screen various compounds in a relatively rapid manner for responsiveness by the roots/rhizoids of plants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number62
JournalMethods and Protocols
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Department of Biology, University of Kentucky. Personal funds (R.L.C.; M.T.). Chellgren Endowed Funding (R.L.C.). Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103436 (R.M.V.); College of Arts and Sciences and Department of Neuroscience summer fellowship (K.E.B.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • electrophysiology
  • flow-though
  • roots

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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