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Article|19 Apr 2023|OPEN
Drought stress triggers alterations of adaxial and abaxial stomatal development in basil leaves increasing water-use efficiency
Elisa Driesen1 , , Maurice De Proft1 and Wouter Saeys,1
1Department of Biosystems, KU Leuven, Willem De Croylaan 42, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
*Corresponding author. E-mail:

Horticulture Research 10,
Article number: uhad075 (2023)
Views: 160

Received: 26 Oct 2022
Accepted: 10 Apr 2023
Published online: 19 Apr 2023


The physiological control of stomatal opening by which plants adjust for water availability has been extensively researched. However, the impact of water availability on stomatal development has not received as much attention, especially for amphistomatic plants. Therefore, the acclimation of stomatal development in basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) leaves was investigated. Our results show that leaves developed under water-deficit conditions possess higher stomatal densities and decreased stomatal length for both the adaxial and abaxial leaf sides. Although the stomatal developmental reaction to water deficit was similar for the two leaf surfaces, it was proven that adaxial stomata are more sensitive to water stress than abaxial stomata, with more closed adaxial stomata under water-deficit conditions. Furthermore, plants with leaves containing smaller stomata at higher densities possessed a higher water use efficiency. Our findings highlight the importance of stomatal development as a tool for long-term acclimation to limit water loss, with minimal reduction in biomass production. This highlights the central role that stomata play in both the short (opening) and long-term (development) reaction of plants to water availability, making them key tools for efficient resource use and anticipation of future environmental changes.