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J Exp Bot. 2005 Nov;56(421):2949-57. Epub 2005 Oct 5.

Functional xylem in the post-veraison grape berry.

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University of California, Department of Viticulture and Enology, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


A number of studies have shown a transition from a primarily xylem to a primarily phloem flow of water as fleshy fruits develop, and the current hypothesis to explain this transition, particularly in grape (Vitis vinifera L.) berries, is that the vascular tissue (tracheids) become non-functional as a result of post-veraison berry growth. In most studies, pedicels have been dipped in a vial containing an apoplastic dye, which was taken up into the entire peripheral and axial xylem vasculature of pre-veraison, but not post-veraison berries. The pressure plate/pressure membrane apparatus that is commonly used to study soil moisture characteristics was adapted and the pre- to post-veraison change in xylem functionality in grape berries was re-evaluated by establishing a hydrostatic (tension) gradient between the pedicel and a cut surface at the stylar end of the berry. Under the influence of this applied hydrostatic gradient, movement of the apoplastic tracer dye, basic fuchsin, was found in the pedicel and throughout the axial and peripheral xylem of the berry mesocarp. A similar movement of dye could be obtained by simply adjoining the stylar cut surface to a dry, hydrophilic wicking material. Since both pre- and post-veraison berries hydrate when the pedicel is dipped in water, it is hypothesized that the absence of dye movement into the vasculature of post-veraison berries indicates not a loss of xylem function, but rather the loss of an appropriate driving force (hydrostatic gradient) in the berry apoplast. Based on this hypothesis, and the substantial decrease in xylem flows that occur in intact grape berries at veraison, it is suggested that there may be significant changes in the pattern of solute partitioning between the fruit symplast and apoplast at veraison. It is further suggested that diurnal patterns in symplast/apoplast solute partitioning in grapes and other fleshy fruit, may explain the observed minimal xylem contribution to the water budgets of these fruits.

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