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Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2011 Dec;14(6):683-90. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2011.07.007. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

Plasmodesmata - membrane tunnels with attitude.

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John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UH, United Kingdom.


Plasmodesmata are doors in the rigid cell wall. In multicellular tissues, they allow the passage of molecules needed to create physiological gradients and, by closure, symplastic boundaries, which are necessary for the fundamental processes of plant growth, development and defence. Despite this central role in plant growth our knowledge of their contribution has been hindered by difficulties in biochemical and molecular characterisation. Recent advances in proteomic, biochemical, cell biological and genetic analysis of their structure and function is showing that plasmodesmata are plastic yet highly regulated structures. They require the perception of small molecule signals (such as reactive oxygen species) to activate local changes in the cell wall that place physical constraints on the channel. This article reviews recent evidence that highlights the roles of the membrane subcomponents both as structural elements and as environments for resident signalling molecules.

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