Structural and Physiological Changes in Sugar Beet Leaves during Sink to Source Conversion

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Plant Physiology


The onset of export during leaf development was correlated with changes in metabolism and ultrastructure and with patterns of solute distribution in the developing seventh leaf of sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) in order to study the cause of initiation of translocation. Infrared gas analysis of carbon dioxide uptake showed a broad peak for net photosynthesis dm−2 at 35 to 40% final laminar length. Pulse labeling with 14CO2 demonstrated that maximum import of translocate occurred at 25% final laminar length; export was first observed at 35% final laminar length. Between 40 and 50% final laminar length a rapid increase in amount of export occurred, primarily as a result of the increase in the area of leaf which was exporting. Whole leaf autoradiography revealed that onset of phloem loading spread basipetally from the leaf tip; loading was initiated at about 22% final laminar length and was essentially complete by 50% final laminar length. Those areas which clearly exhibited loading no longer imported from other parts of the plant while the area in transition still appeared to import label from source regions. There was little difference between source and sink leaf tissue in the kinetic parameters Kj and Jmax (30) for uptake of exogenous sucrose supplied via free space. The concentration of solutes in sieve elements and companion cells of the sink leaf was highest in the mature tip area and gradually Dec.reased in the direction of the immature base. There appeared to be no dramatic structural transformation within the phloem of the minor veins that was closely correlated with the time when phloem loading or export began. Rather, there appeared to be a gradual differentiation of phloem which resulted in a sizable proportion of the population of minor vein sieve elements and companion cells attaining maturity in the older sink regions prior to initiation of phloem loading. The area of the leaf undergoing development appeared to exhibit the beginnings of phloem loading 30 to 45 hours prior to onset of export. Import continued into the area in transition until the full level of vein loading was attained. Structural maturation of the phloem and onset of phloem loading are felt to be more preparatory in nature rather than immediately causal events which triggered export. The initiation of export out of a developing leaf, we believe, is the result of the increasing solute content within the sieve element and companion cells of the minor veins, in particular. The higher osmotic pressure in the sieve tubes causes a reversal of the previously inward directed gradient and produces a mass flow, through unobstructed sieve elements, out of the new source region of the leaf.

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American Society of Plant Biologists



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