Author(s): Zhang C, Turgeon R
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Abstract Sucrose is loaded into the phloem in the minor veins of leaves before export. Two active, species-specific loading mechanisms have been proposed. One involves transporter-mediated sucrose transfer from the apoplast into the sieve element-companion cell complex, so-called apoplastic loading. In the putative second mechanism, sucrose follows an entirely symplastic pathway, and the solute concentration is elevated by the synthesis of raffinose and stachyose in the phloem, not by transporter activity. Several sucrose-transporting plants have been shown to be apoplastic loaders by downregulating sucrose transporter 1 (SUT1), leading to accumulation of sugars and leaf chlorosis. In this study we compared the effect of downregulating SUT1 in Nicotiana tabacum, a sucrose transporter, and Verbascum phoeniceum, a species that transports raffinose and stachyose. To test the effectiveness of RNAi downregulation, we measured SUT1 mRNA levels and sucrose-H(+) symport in leaf discs. Mild NtSUT1 downregulation in N. tabacum resulted in the pronounced phenotype associated with loading inhibition. In contrast, no such phenotype developed when VpSUT1 was downregulated in V. phoeniceum, leaving minimal sucrose transport activity. Only those plants with the most severe VpSUT1 downregulation accumulated more carbohydrate than usual and these plants were normal by other criteria: growth rate, photosynthesis, and ability to clear starch during the night. The results provide direct evidence that the mechanism of phloem loading in V. phoeniceum does not require active sucrose uptake from the apoplast and strongly supports the conclusion that the loading pathway is symplastic in this species.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Journal of Plant Biochemistry & Physiology