by Michael Palmgren
In a growing plant root, the inner vascular system is sealed off by an epithelium, the endodermis. The space between all of the cells in the endodermal layer is filled with an impermeable mass called the Casparian strip, which closes the spaces between cells in the endodermal layer. The role of the Casparian strip has been proposed to prevent backflow of water and nutrients into the soil, but as mutant plants lacking the Casparian strip only have weak phenotypes, the view that it serves an essential function in plants has been challenged. In an accompanying paper, it is shown that loss of the Casparian strip impacts the ability of the plant to take up ammonium and allocate it to the shoots.