Plant physiology

Sucrose Transporter ZmSut1 Expression and Localization Uncover New Insights into Sucrose Phloem Loading.

PMID 27621426


Sucrose transporters (SUTs) translocate sucrose (Suc) across cellular membranes, and in eudicots, multiple SUTs are known to function in Suc phloem loading in leaves. In maize (Zea mays), the Sucrose Transporter1 (ZmSut1) gene has been implicated in Suc phloem loading based upon RNA expression in leaves, electrophysiological experiments, and phenotypic analysis of zmsut1 mutant plants. However, no previous studies have examined the cellular expression of ZmSut1 RNA or the subcellular localization of the ZmSUT1 protein to assess the gene's hypothesized function in Suc phloem loading or to evaluate its potential roles, such as phloem unloading, in nonphotosynthetic tissues. To this end, we performed RNA in situ hybridization experiments, promoter-reporter gene analyses, and ZmSUT1 localization studies to elucidate the cellular expression pattern of the ZmSut1 transcript and protein. These data showed that ZmSut1 was expressed in multiple cell types throughout the plant and indicated that it functions in phloem companion cells to load Suc and also in other cell types to retrieve Suc from the apoplasm to prevent its accumulation and loss to the transpiration stream. Additionally, by comparing a phloem-mobile tracer with ZmSut1 expression, we determined that developing maize leaves dynamically switch from symplasmic to apoplasmic phloem unloading, reconciling previously conflicting reports, and suggest that ZmSut1 does not have an apparent function in either unloading process. A model for the dual roles for ZmSut1 function (phloem loading and apoplasmic recycling), Sut1 evolution, and its possible use to enhance Suc export from leaves in engineering C3 grasses for C4 photosynthesis is discussed.

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