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J Exp Bot. 2017 Dec 18;69(1):91-103. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erx225.

Shaping intercellular channels of plasmodesmata: the structure-to-function missing link.

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Laboratoire de Biogénèse Membranaire, UMR 5200 CNRS, University of Bordeaux, France.


Plasmodesmata (PD) are a hallmark of the plant kingdom and a cornerstone of plant biology and physiology, forming the conduits for the cell-to-cell transfer of proteins, RNA and various metabolites, including hormones. They connect the cytosols and endomembranes of cells, which allows enhanced cell-to-cell communication and synchronization. Because of their unique position as intercellular gateways, they are at the frontline of plant defence and signalling and constitute the battleground for virus replication and spreading. The membranous organization of PD is remarkable, where a tightly furled strand of endoplasmic reticulum comes into close apposition with the plasma membrane, the two connected by spoke-like elements. The role of these structural features is, to date, still not completely understood. Recent data on PD seem to point in an unexpected direction, establishing a close parallel between PD and membrane contact sites and defining plasmodesmal membranes as microdomains. However, the implications of this new viewpoint are not fully understood. Aided by available phylogenetic data, this review attempts to reassess the function of the different elements comprising the PD and the relevance of membrane lipid composition and biophysics in defining specialized microdomains of PD, critical for their function.


Plasmodesmata; lipid; membrane contact sites; plant cell-to-cell communication

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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