Changes in pH are now widely accepted as a signalling mechanism in cells. In plants, proton pumps in the plasma membrane and tonoplast play a key role in regulation of intracellular pH homeostasis and maintenance of transmembrane proton gradients. Proton transport in response to external stimuli can be expected to be finely regulated spatially and temporally. With the ambition to follow such changes live, a new genetically encoded sensor, pHusion, has been developed. pHusion is especially designed for apoplastic pH measurements. It was constitutively expressed in Arabidopsis and targeted for expression in either the cytosol or the apoplast including intracellular compartments. pHusion consists of the tandem concatenation of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) and monomeric red fluorescent protein (mRFP1), and works as a ratiometric pH sensor. Live microscopy at high spatial and temporal resolution is highly dependent on appropriate immobilization of the specimen for microscopy. Medical adhesive often used in such experiments destroys cell viability in roots. Here a novel system for immobilizing Arabidopsis seedling roots for perfusion experiments is presented which does not impair cell viability. With appropriate immobilization, it was possible to follow changes of the apoplastic and cytosolic pH in mesophyll and root tissue. Rapid pH homeostasis upon external pH changes was reflected by negligible cytosolic pH fluctuations, while the apoplastic pH changed drastically. The great potential for analysing pH regulation in a whole-tissue, physiological context is demonstrated by the immediate alkalinization of the subepidermal apoplast upon external indole-3-acetic acid administration. This change is highly significant in the elongation zone compared with the root hair zone and control roots.
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