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Planta. 1983 Nov;159(3):193-206. doi: 10.1007/BF00397525.

Microautoradiographic studies of phloem loading and transport in the leaf of Zea mays L.

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Forstbotanisches Institut der Universität Göttingen, Büsgenweg 2, D-3400, Göttingen-Weende, Federal Republic of Germany.


Microautoradiographs showed that [(14)C]sucrose taken up in the xylem of small and intermediate (longitudinal) vascular bundles of Zea mays leaf strips was quickly accumulated by vascular parenchyma cells abutting the vessels. The first sieve tubes to exhibit (14)C-labeling during the [(14)C]sucrose experiments were thick-walled sieve tubes contiguous to the more heavily labeled vascular parenchyma cells. (These two cell types typically have numerous plasmodesmatal connections.) With increasing [(14)C]sucrose feeding periods, greater proportions of thick- and thin-walled sieve tubes became labeled, but few of the labeled thin-walled sieve tubes were associated with labeled companion cells. (Only the thin-walled sieve tubes are associated with companion cells.) When portions of leaf strips were exposed to (14)CO2 for 5 min, the vascular parenchyma cells-regardless of their location in relation to the vessels or sieve tubes-were the most consistently labeled cells of small and intermediate bundles, and label ((14)C-photosynthate) appeared in a greater proportion of thin-walled sieve tubes than thick-walled sieve tubes. After a 5-min chase with (12)CO2, the thin-walled sieve tubes were more heavily labeled than any other cell type of the leaf. After a 10-min chase with (12)CO2, the thin-walled sieve tubes were even more heavily labeled. The companion cells generally were less heavily labeled than their associated thin-walled sieve tubes. Although all of the thick-walled sieve tubes were labeled in portions of leaf strips fed (14)CO2 for 5 min and given a 10-min (12)CO2 chase, only five of 72 vascular bundles below the (14)CO2-exposed portions contained labeled thick-walled sieve tubes. Moreover, the few labeled thick-walledsieve tubes of the "transport region" always abutted (14)C-labeled vascular parenchyma cells. The results of this study indicate that (1) the vascular parenchyma cells are able to retrieve at least sucrose from the vessels and transfer it to the thick-walled sieve tubes, (2) the thick-walled sieve tubes are not involved in long-distance transport, and (3) the thin-walled sieve tubes are capable themselves of accumulating sucrose and photosynthates from the apoplast, without the companion cells serving as intermediary cells.


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