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Plant Physiol. 2003 Apr;131(4):1518-28.

Symplastic continuity between companion cells and the translocation stream: long-distance transport is controlled by retention and retrieval mechanisms in the phloem.

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  • 1Department of Plant Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Substantial symplastic continuity appears to exist between companion cells (CCs) and sieve elements of the phloem, which suggests that small solutes within the CC are subject to indiscriminate long-distance transport via the translocation stream. To test this hypothesis, the distributions of exotic and endogenous solutes synthesized in the CCs of minor veins were studied. Octopine, a charged molecule derived from arginine and pyruvate, was efficiently transported through the phloem but was also transferred in substantial amounts to the apoplast, and presumably other non-phloem compartments. The disaccharide galactinol also accumulated in non-phloem compartments, but long-distance transport was limited. Conversely, sucrose, raffinose, and especially stachyose demonstrated reduced accumulation and efficient transport out of the leaf. We conclude that small metabolites in the cytosol of CCs do enter the translocation stream indiscriminately but are also subject to distributive forces, such as nonselective and carrier-mediated membrane transport and symplastic dispersal, that may effectively clear a compound from the phloem or retain it for long-distance transport. A model is proposed in which the transport of oligosaccharides is an adaptive strategy to improve photoassimilate retention, and consequently translocation efficiency, in the phloem.

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