Group leader : Christophe Maurel
CNRS Research Director
Tél : 04 99 61 20 11
Mail :

Key words

Aquaporin, Hydraulics, Phosphorylation, Roots, Water stress, Water transport


The Aquaporin team studies the various modes of water transport in plant tissues. The main objective is to understand how these processes are regulated and linked to the plant’s growth and its responses to environmental stresses. The team uses Arabidopsis thaliana as a main plant model, with some recent studies in rice and maize.

Aquaporins, channel proteins that facilitate the transfer of water across cell membranes, play a central role in maintaining the plant water status. The molecular and cellular bases of this process are addressed by studying the multiple facets of aquaporin regulation. The team combines molecular, physiological and genetic approaches and characterizes water transport at the level of cloned aquaporins, purified membranes, living cells or organs like excised roots or rosettes. The numerous post-translational regulations of aquaporins are studied using proteomic and interactomic approaches.

Although identified by focused keywords (aquaporin, water transport), the team keeps diversifying its approaches and the investigated processes. One main focus is cell signaling. The mechanisms of early response of plants to water stress are addressed using super-resolution fluorescence microscopy. Protein kinases involved in water transport regulation are used to explore fundamental properties of plant cell signaling pathways. A second main focus is root hydraulic architecture. Quantitative genetics, root phenotyping and mathematical modeling are combined to address the dynamics of growth and hydraulics in roots. Our objective is to understand how roots adapt to environmental constraints and water stress in particular, by integrating local and systemic signalling processes.

Team members

Permanent staff

Christophe Maurel
Group leader
Research Director

Véronique Santoni
Research Director

Yann Boursiac
Research Associate

Alexandre Martiniere
Research Associate

Philippe Nacry
Research Associate

Lionel Verdoucq
Research Associate

Colette Tournaire
Research Engineer

Amandine Crabos
Assistant Engineer

Non-permanent staff

Louai Rishmawi
Research Associate

Stathis Delivorias
Visiting scientist

Fabrice Bauget
Research Engineer

Morgan Maillard

Virginia Protto
PhD Student

PhD Student

Main results

In the last few years, the team has uncovered novel functions and regulations of plant aquaporins. For instance, light-dependent phosphorylation of a single aquaporin in veins was shown to be sufficient to control leaf hydraulics (Prado et al., 2013). Another single phosphorylation event on the same aquaporin is crucial during stomatal closure as induced by the stress hormone, abscisic acid or the defense elicitor, flagellin (Grondin et al., 2015; Rodrigues et al., 2017). In this case, the aquaporin contributes to cell signaling by facilitating the entry of hydrogen peroxide in the guard cell (Rodrigues et al., 2017). In roots, auxin regulates aquaporins, thereby providing a fine spatial and temporal regulation of cellular water flows to facilitate the emergence of lateral roots (Péret et al., 2012). This finding points to close links between the architecture of roots and their hydraulic properties.

The team recently used quantitative genetic approaches to isolate a gene that regulates the root water permeability in response to combined oxygen limitation and potassium sufficiency (Shahzad et al., 2016). This work identifies a novel mechanism for plant response to flooding and reveals an unsuspected capability of plants to perceive and adapt to multiple environmental constraints.


Significant publications

Tang N, Shahzad Z, Lonjon F, Loudet O, Vailleau F, Maurel C✉ (2018) Natural variation at XND1 impacts root hydraulics and trade-off for stress responses in Arabidopsis. Nat. Commun., 9:3884

Rodrigues O, Reshetnyak G, Grondin A, Saijo Y, Leonhardt N, Maurel C, Verdoucq L✉ (2017) Aquaporins facilitate hydrogen peroxide entry into guard cells to mediate ABA- and pathogen-triggered stomatal closure. P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 114(34):9200-9205

Bellati J, Champeyroux C, Hem S, Rofidal V, Krouk G, Maurel C, Santoni V✉ (2016) Novel aquaporin regulatory mechanisms revealed by interactomics. Mol. Cell. Proteomics, 15(11):3473-3487

Shahzad Z, Canut M, Tournaire-Roux C, Martinière A, Boursiac Y, Loudet O, Maurel C✉ (2016) A potassium-dependent oxygen sensing pathway regulates plant root hydraulics.Cell, 167(1):87-98.e14

Maurel C✉, Boursiac Y, Luu D-T, Santoni V, Shahzad Z, Verdoucq L (2015) Aquaporins in plants. Physiol. Rev., 95(4):1321-1358

Wudick MM, Li X, Valentini V, Geldner N, Chory J, Lin J, Maurel C✉, Luu D-T✉ (2015) Sub-cellular redistribution of root aquaporins induced by hydrogen peroxide. Mol. Plant, 8(7):1103-1114

Grondin A, Rodrigues O, Verdoucq L, Merlot S, Leonhardt N, Maurel C✉ (2015) Aquaporins contribute to ABA-triggered stomatal closure through OST1-mediated phosphorylation. Plant Cell, 27(7):1945-1954

Wudick MM, Luu D-T, Tournaire-Roux C, Sakamoto W, Maurel C✉ (2014) Vegetative and sperm cell-specific aquaporins of highlight the vacuolar equipment of pollen and contribute to plant reproduction. Plant Physiol., 164(4):1697-1706

di Pietro M, Vialaret J, Li G, Hem S, Prado K, Rossignol M, Maurel C, Santoni V✉ (2013) Coordinated post-translational responses of aquaporins to abiotic and nutritional stimuli in Arabidopsis roots. Mol. Cell. Proteomics, 12(12):3886-3897

Prado K, Boursiac Y, Tournaire-Roux C, Monneuse J-M, Postaire O, Da Ines O, Schäffner AR, Hem S, Santoni V, Maurel C✉ (2013) Regulation of Arabidopsis leaf hydraulics involves light-dependent phosphorylation of aquaporins in veins. Plant Cell, 25(3):1029-1039

Péret B*, Li G*, Zhao J*, Band LR*, Voß U, Postaire O, Luu D-T, Da Ines O, Casimiro I, Lucas M, Wells DM, Lazzerini L, Nacry P, King JR, Jensen OE, Schäffner AR✉, Maurel C✉, Bennett MJ✉ (2012) Auxin regulates aquaporin function to facilitate lateral root emergence. Nat. Cell Biol., 14(10):991-998

Luu D-T✉*, Martinière A*, Sorieul M, Runions J, Maurel C (2012) Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching reveals high cycling dynamics of plasma membrane aquaporins inArabidopsis roots under salt stress. Plant J., 69(5):894-905


DROUGHTROOT Marie SkŁodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (2015-2018)
“Plants in search of water: physiological and molecular interplay between root hydraulics and architecture during drought stress”. This European contract supports the post-doctoral work of Dr Miguel Rosales.

MIRGA « Architecture et croissance du système racinaire de maïs » (2016-2019).
An ANR project that involves, in addition to the Aquaporin team, the laboratory of Agroecology (INRA Dijon) and the plant biotechnology company Biogemma.

APLIM “Advanced Plant Life Imaging and Metrology” (2016-2019).
This contract is financed by the Agropolis Foundation. It aims to develop nuclear magnetic resonance techniques (NMR, MRI, nanoprobes) in plants and investigate their responses to abiotic and biotic stresses. It involves several institutes of Montpellier, specialized in plant sciences, physics and chemistry.

i-Rho-bot “Signal integration by Rho GTPases: monotoring Rho-Of-Plant signaling activity in response to multiple stimuli” (2017-2018)

This contract from the Plant Biology and Breeding Division of INRA associates the Aquaporin team with the laboratory for Plant Reproduction and Development (ENS/CNRS/INRA, Lyon)


Former team members

Karine Prado, University of Edimburgh :

Alexandre Grondin, IRD, Montpellier :

Olivier Rodrigues, University of Montpellier :

Zaigham Shahzad, University of Glasgow :

Jorge Bellati, Montpellier :


Post-doctoral researcher: HIR proteins and membrane nanodomains in Arabidopsis thaliana

CDD 24 months : Post-doctoral researcher: HIR proteins and membrane nanodomains in Arabidopsis thaliana

Developmental control of plant Rho GTPase nano-organization by the lipid phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is required for the clustering of ROP6, a small guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase), in membranes in response to signals from the plant hormone auxin. Changes in phosphatidylserine concentration altered the clustering of ROP6 and thus the auxin signaling response

Logo du ERC

Post-Doc Root Hydraulic Modelling

CDD Post-doc 24 months – Team « Aquaporines »

Georges Morel Prize (French Academy of Sciences)

The Georges Morel 2018 prize was awarded to Christophe Maurel, deputy director of BPMP and head of the Aquaporin team. This biennial prize was created in 2013. It rewards a scientist who conducted an outstanding research work in plant biology in a French laboratory.

Natural variation at XND1 impacts root hydraulics and trade-off for stress responses in Arabidopsis

Tang N, Shahzad Z, Lonjon F, Loudet O, Vailleau F, Maurel C (2018) Natural variation at XND1 impacts root hydraulics and trade-off for stress responses in Arabidopsis. Nat. Commun., 9:3884 This work shows that, by inhiting the differentiation of xylem vessels in root...

How drought affects plant roots

Crops may face increasing levels of drought due to a changing climate. Plant scientists funded by the EU investigated the molecular and physiological mechanisms underlying root water transport function during drought conditions. [ Lire l’article ]

Root architecture discoveries could help breed drought-resistant crops

Roots and plant resistance to drought, flagship progress of UMR B&PMP at the European level. A freesia’s root architecture helps the plant store food to survive seasonal weather conditions. Image credit – Brian Atkinson We should breed new varieties of crops...


July 2-13, 2018 – Montpellier International School on ion and water TRAnsport in PLant

Logo du ERC

Christophe Maurel (B&PMP, Aquaporins team), grantee of the ” ERC Advanced Grant 2017 “!

The project, named “HyArchi”, will use maize as a model cereal to investigate how the architecture of the root system, its hydraulic properties and its environmental plasticity contribute to water uptake and to plant resistance to drought.