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Plant Physiol. 1990 Oct;94(2):455-62.

Measurement of Phloem transport rates by an indicator-dilution technique.

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Department of Botany, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-4238.


An indicator-dilution technique for the measurement of flow rates, commonly used by animal physiologists for circulation measurements, was adapted to the measurement of phloem translocation rates in the wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) peduncle. The approach is based on the observation that, during the transport of a given amount of solute, its mean concentration will be inversely proportional to flow rate. For phloem transport in the wheat peduncle, the necessary measurements are (a) the time course of tracer kinetics in the peduncle phloem, (b) the volume of sieve tubes and companion cells in the monitored segment of the peduncle, and (c) the amount of tracer transported past that point. The method was evaluated by in situ monitoring of (32)PO(4) transport in pulse-labeling experiments. Specific activities (i.e.(32)P concentrations) of phloem exudate were in good agreement with those calculated from in situ count rates and measured phloem areas. Mass transport rates, calculated from volume flow rates and phloem exudate dry matter content, also agreed well with expected mass transport rates based on measurements of grain growth rate and net CO(2) exchange by the ear. The indicator-dilution technique appears to offer good precision and accuracy for short-term measurements of phloem transport rates in the wheast peduncle and should be useful for other systems as well. In contrast to velocities based on time-delay measurements, it is more precise, more accurate, and produces an estimate of mean, rather than maximum, velocity. Also, since only a single detector is required, it can be applied to very short transport paths.

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