Because plant wilting has been described as a consequence of cadmium (Cd2+) toxicity, we investigate Cd2+ effects on plant water losses, gas exchanges and stomatal behaviour in Arabidopsis thaliana L. Effects of 1-week Cd2+ application in hydroponic condition (CdCl2 10-100 micro m) were analyzed. A 10- micro m Cd2+ concentration had no significant effect on the plant-water relationship and carbon assimilation. At higher Cd2+ concentrations, a Cd2+ -dependent decrease in leaf conductance and CO2 uptake was observed despite the photosynthetic apparatus appeared not to be affected as probed by fluorescence measurements. In epidermal strip bioassays, nanomolar Cd2+ concentrations reduced stomatal opening under light in A. thaliana, Vicia faba and Commelina communis. Application of 5 micro m ABA limited the root-to-shoot translocation of cadmium. However, the Cd2+-induced stomatal closure was likely ABA-independent, since a 5-day treatment with 50 micro m Cd2+ did not affect the plant relative water content. Additionally, a similar Cd2+-induced stomatal closure was observed in the ABA insensitive mutant abi1-1. Interestingly, this mutant displayed a higher transpiration rate than the wild type but did not accumulate more Cd2+, arguing that Cd2+ uptake is not dependent only on the transpiration flow. Application of putative calcium channels inhibitors suppressed the inhibitory effect of Cd2+ in epidermal strip experiments, suggesting that Cd2+ could enter the guard cell through calcium channels. Patch-clamp studies with V. faba guard cell protoplasts showed that plasma membrane K+ channels were insensitive to external Cd2+ application whereas Ca2+ channels were found permeable to Cd2+. In conclusion, we propose that Cd2+ affects guard cell regulation in an ABA-independent manner by entering the cytosol via Ca2+ channels.