CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- In humans, the heart is the mechanical pump that circulates the blood of life. In plants, according to new research, it is sucrose accumulation that energizes the heart's equivalent -- an osmotically driven pressure-gradient -- in a vascular system that regulates and directs where life-giving resources go.
At the heart of the findings, published in the April 14 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is improved understanding of how plants regulate the distribution of organic nutrients synthesized during photosynthesis, says a University of Illinois scientist.
"We could have diagrammed the mechanics of the plant's vascular system 10 years ago, but what we didn't have at that time were biochemical and molecular understanding of the proteins that mediate the key steps," said Daniel R. Bush, a professor of plant biology and scientist with the Photosynthesis Research Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service.
Bush previously had used a biochemical assay to describe a proton-sucrose transporter in plant cells. Sucrose is the primary end product of photosynthesis. When it departs from leaves, it is loaded into the elongated phloem cells of the vascular tissue by the transporter, which boosts sucrose concentration 50 to 100 times higher than it is in all surrounding cells. As water moves in, Bush said, positive hydrostatic pressure builds, forcing the sucrose through the continuously linked phloem cells and to the non-photosynthetic sink tissues that need organic nutrients.
These nutrient import-dependent tissues include every harvested product in agriculture.
Bush and postdoctoral researcher Tzyy-Jen Chiou, the co-author on the PNAS paper, discovered a regulatory system that controls the long-distance transport of sucrose.
"This paper provides the first clue to a system that can regulate
resource allocation," Bush said. "The vascular tissue, I think
Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign