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Plant Signal Behav. 2008 Oct;3(10):806-9.

ABC-type transporters and cuticle assembly: Linking function to polarity in epidermis cells.

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Department of Plant Sciences; Weizmann Institute of Science; Rehovot Israel.


The aerial organs of plants are covered with a cuticle, a continuous layer overlaying the outermost cell walls of the epidermis. The cuticle is composed of two major classes of the lipid biopolymers: cutin and waxes, collectively termed cuticular lipids. Biosynthesis and transport of cuticular lipids occur predominantly in the epidermis cells. In the transport pathway, cuticular lipids are exported from their site of biosynthesis in the ER/plastid to the extracellular space through the plasma membrane and cell wall. Growing evidence suggests that ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters are implicated in transport of cuticular lipids across the plasma membrane of epidermal cells. The Arabidopsis ABC-type transporter protein CER5 (WBC12) was reported to act as a wax monomers transporter. In recent works, our group and others showed that a CER5-related protein, DESPERADO (DSO/WBC11), is required for cutin and wax monomers transport through the plasma membrane of Arabidopsis epidermis cells. Unlike the cer5 mutant, DSO loss-of-function had a profound effect on plant growth and development, particularly dwarfism, postgenital organ fusions, and altered epidermal cell differentiation. The partially overlapping function of CER5 and DSO and the fact that these proteins are half-size ABC transporters suggest that they might form a hetero-dimeric complex while transporting wax components. An intriguing observation was the polar localization of DSO in the distal part of epidermis cells. This polar expression might be explained by DSO localization within lipid rafts, specific plasma membrane microdomains which are associated with polar protein expression. In this review we suggest possible mechanisms for cuticular lipids transport and a link between DSO function and polar expression. Furthermore, we also discuss the subsequent transport of cuticular constituents through the hydrophobic cell wall and the possible involvement of lipid transfer proteins in this process.


ABC transporter; cuticular lipids; epidermis; plasma membrane; polar expression

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