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Sugar pump in plants identified
Date:12/13/2011

This release is available in German.

Plants must supply their various tissues with the carbohydrates they produce through photosynthesis in the leaves. However, they do not have a muscular pump like the human heart to help transport this vital fuel. Instead, they use pump proteins in their cell membranes for this purpose. Together with colleagues from the Carnegie Institution for Science in California, Alisdair Fernie from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam has identified a hitherto unknown protein in the carbohydrate transport chain. The researchers' discovery could help to protect plants against pests and increase harvest yields.

Vascular pathways consisting of interconnected cells act as a system for the transport of carbohydrates in plants. Phloem, the tissue that carries the nutrients, consists of, among other things, the actual conducting cells, which are also known as sieve elements, as well as the surrounding companion and phloem parenchyma cells. Carbohydrates are mainly transported in the phloem in the form of sucrose. The cell membrane of the sieve cells contains pump proteins that actively convey sucrose into the vascular pathways. Up to now it was unclear how the sucrose travelled from the parenchyma cells to the transport pumps, the sieve elements. Thus, information about an important element in the transport chain was missing.

With the participation of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, a research group at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, USA, has now succeeded in identifying this previously unknown sucrose transporter. Different proteins are involved here which belong to the recently identified protein family known as SWEET. The SWEETs arise in the cell membrane of the phloem parenchyma cells. They act as molecular pumps that convey the sucrose out of the parenc
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Contact: Alisdair Fernie
Fernie@mpimp-golm.mpg.de
49-331-567-821
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert

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