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J Exp Bot. 2014 Apr;65(7):1713-35. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ert416. Epub 2013 Dec 17.

Understanding and manipulating sucrose phloem loading, unloading, metabolism, and signalling to enhance crop yield and food security.

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Division of Biological Sciences, Interdisciplinary Plant Group, and Missouri Maize Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.


Sucrose is produced in, and translocated from, photosynthetically active leaves (sources) to support non-photosynthetic tissues (sinks), such as developing seeds, fruits, and tubers. Different plants can utilize distinct mechanisms to transport sucrose into the phloem sieve tubes in source leaves. While phloem loading mechanisms have been extensively studied in dicot plants, there is less information about phloem loading in monocots. Maize and rice are major dietary staples, which have previously been proposed to use different cellular routes to transport sucrose from photosynthetic cells into the translocation stream. The anatomical, physiological, and genetic evidence supporting these conflicting hypotheses is examined. Upon entering sink cells, sucrose often is degraded into hexoses for a wide range of metabolic and storage processes, including biosynthesis of starch, protein, and cellulose, which are all major constituents for food, fibre, and fuel. Sucrose, glucose, fructose, and their derivate, trehalose-6-phosphate, also serve as signalling molecules to regulate gene expression either directly or through cross-talk with other signalling pathways. As such, sugar transport and metabolism play pivotal roles in plant development and realization of crop yield that needs to be increased substantially to meet the projected population demand in the foreseeable future. This review will discuss the current understanding of the control of carbon partitioning from the cellular to whole-plant levels, focusing on (i) the pathways employed for phloem loading in source leaves, particularly in grasses, and the routes used in sink organs for phloem unloading; (ii) the transporter proteins responsible for sugar efflux and influx across plasma membranes; and (iii) the key enzymes regulating sucrose metabolism, signalling, and utilization. Examples of how sugar transport and metabolism can be manipulated to improve crop productivity and stress tolerance are discussed.


Apoplasmic; invertase; maize; phloem; rice; sink; source; sugar; symplasmic.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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