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Wild barley, Hordeum vulgare spp. spontaneum, has a wider genetic diversity than its cultivated progeny, Hordeum vulgare spp. vulgare. Osmotic stress leads to a series of different responses in wild barley seminal roots, ranging from no changes in suberization to enhanced endodermal suberization of certain zones and the formation of a suberized exodermis, which was not observed in the modern cultivars studied so far. Further, as a response to osmotic stress, the hydraulic conductivity of roots was not affected in wild barley, but it was 2.5-fold reduced in cultivated barley. In both subspecies, osmotic adjustment by increasing proline concentration and decreasing osmotic potential in roots was observed. RNA-sequencing indicated that the regulation of suberin biosynthesis and water transport via aquaporins were different between wild and cultivated barley. These results indicate that wild barley uses different strategies to cope with osmotic stress compared with cultivated barley. Thus, it seems that wild barley is better adapted to cope with osmotic stress by maintaining a significantly higher hydraulic conductivity of roots during water deficit.
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