SEORious Business: Structural Proteins in Sieve Tubes and their Involvement in Sieve Element Occlusion

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Journal of Experimental Botany



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doi: 10.1093/jxb/eru071

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The phloem provides a network of sieve tubes for long-distance translocation of photosynthates. For over a century, structural proteins in sieve tubes have presented a conundrum since they presumably increase the hydraulic resistance of the tubes while no potential function other than sieve tube or wound sealing in the case of injury has been suggested. Here we summarize and critically evaluate current speculations regarding the roles of these proteins. Our understanding suffers from the suggestive power of images; what looks like a sieve tube plug on micrographs may not actually impede translocation very much. Recent reports of an involvement of SEOR (sieve element occlusion-related) proteins, a class of P-proteins, in the sealing of injured sieve tubes are inconclusive; various lines of evidence suggest that, in neither intact nor injured plants, are SEORs determinative of translocation stoppage. Similarly, the popular notion that P-proteins serve in the defence against phloem sap-feeding insects is unsupported by empirical facts; it is conceivable that in functional sieve tubes, aphids actually could benefit from inducing a plug. The idea that rising cytosolic Ca2+. generally triggers sieve tube blockage by P-proteins appears widely accepted, despite lacking experimental support. Even in forisomes, P-protein assemblages restricted to one single plant family and the only Ca2+-responsive P-proteins known, the available evidence does not unequivocally suggest that plug formation is the cause rather than a consequence of translocation stoppage. We conclude that the physiological roles of structural P-proteins remain elusive, and that in vivo studies of their dynamics in continuous sieve tube networks combined with flow velocity measurements will be required to (hopefully) resolve this scientific roadblock.


Review Article, Forisome, papilionoid legumes (Fabaceae sensu stricto), phloem transport, P-protein, sieve element occlusion (SEO) protein, sieve element occlusion-related (SEOR) protein, sieve tube slime



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