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Plant Signal Behav. 2011 Nov;6(11):1732-8. doi: 10.4161/psb.6.11.17639. Epub 2011 Nov 1.

Plant lipid bodies and cell-cell signaling: a new role for an old organelle?

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Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway.


Plant lipid droplets are found in seeds and in post-embryonic tissues. Lipid droplets in seeds have been intensively studied, but those in post-embryonic tissues are less well characterised. Although known by a variety of names, here we will refer to all of them as lipid bodies (LBs). LBs are unique spherical organelles which bud off from the endoplasmic reticulum, and are composed of a single phospholipid (PL) layer enclosing a core of triacylglycerides. The PL monolayer is coated with oleosin, a structural protein that stabilizes the LB, restricts its size, and prevents fusion with adjacent LBs. Oleosin is uniquely present at LBs and is regarded as a LB marker. Although initially viewed as simple stores for energy and carbon, the emerging view is that LBs also function in cytoplasmic signalling, with the minor LB proteins caleosin and steroleosin in a prominent role. Apart from seeds, a variety of vegetative and floral structures contain LBs. Recently, it was found that numerous LBs emerge in the shoot apex of perennial plants during seasonal growth arrest and bud formation. They appear to function in dormancy release by reconstituting cell-cell signalling paths in the apex. As apices and orthodox seeds proceed through comparable cycles of dormancy and dehydration, the question arises to what degree LBs in apices share functions with those in seeds. We here review what is known about LBs, particularly in seeds, and speculate about possible unique functions of LBs in post-embryonic tissues in general and in apices in particular.

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