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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Apr 14;95(8):4784-8.

Sucrose is a signal molecule in assimilate partitioning.

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Department of Plant Biology, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, 190 Madigan Laboratories, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


The proton-sucrose symporter mediates the key transport step in the resource distribution system that allows many plants to function as multicellular organisms. In the results reported here, we identify sucrose as a signaling molecule in a previously undescribed signal-transduction pathway that regulates the symporter. Sucrose symporter activity declined in plasma membrane vesicles isolated from leaves fed exogenous sucrose via the xylem transpiration stream. Symporter activity dropped to 35-50% of water controls when the leaves were fed 100 mM sucrose and to 20-25% of controls with 250 mM sucrose. In contrast, alanine symporter and glucose transporter activities did not change in response to sucrose treatments. Decreased sucrose symporter activity was detectable after 8 h and reached a maximum by 24 h. Kinetic analysis of transport activity showed a decrease in Vmax. RNA gel blot analysis revealed a decrease in symporter message levels, suggesting a drop in transcriptional activity or a decrease in mRNA stability. Control experiments showed that these responses were not the result of changing osmotic conditions. Equal molar concentrations of hexoses did not elicit the response, and mannoheptulose, a hexokinase inhibitor, did not block the sucrose effect. These data are consistent with a sucrose-specific response pathway that is not mediated by hexokinase as the sugar sensor. Sucrose-dependent changes in the sucrose symporter were reversible, suggesting this sucrose-sensing pathway can modulate transport activity as a function of changing sucrose concentrations in the leaf. These results demonstrate the existence of a signaling pathway that can control assimilate partitioning at the level of phloem translocation.

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