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J Exp Bot. 2008;59(12):3425-34. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ern191. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Nectar formation and floral nectary anatomy of Anigozanthos flavidus: a combined magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy study.

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  • 1Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Ecology, Beutenberg Campus, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, D-07745 Jena, Germany.


Metabolic processes underlying the formation of floral nectar carbohydrates, especially the generation of the proportions of fructose, glucose, and sucrose, are important for understanding ecological plant-pollinator interactions. The ratio of sucrose-derived hexoses, fructose and glucose, in the floral nectar of Anigozanthos flavidus (Haemodoraceae) was observed to be different from 1:1, which cannot be explained by the simple action of invertases. Various NMR techniques were used to investigate how such an unbalanced ratio of the two nectar hexoses can be formed. High-resolution (13)C NMR spectroscopy in solution was used to determine the proportion of carbohydrates in vascular bundles of excised inflorescences fed with (13)C-labelled carbohydrates. These experiments verified that feeding did not affect the metabolic processes involved in nectar formation. In vivo magnetic resonance imaging (e.g. cyclic J cross-polarization) was used to detect carbohydrates in vascular bundles and (1)H spin echo imaging non-invasively displayed the architecture of tepal nectaries and showed how they are connected to the vascular bundles. A model of the carbohydrate metabolism involved in forming A. flavidus floral nectar was established. Sucrose from the vascular bundles is not directly secreted into the lumen of the nectary but, either before or after invertase-catalysed hydrolyses, taken up by nectary cells and cycled at least partly through glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, and the pentose phosphate pathway. Secretion of the two hexoses in the cytosolic proportion could elegantly explain the observed fructose:glucose ratio of the nectar.

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