, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 96-110

Structure and function of leaf minor veins in trees and herbs

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The structure of leaf minor veins in 700 species from 140 families of dicotyledons, monocotyledons and conifers has been studied by light and electron microscopy. The presence of several structural types of minor veins has been shown. The main types are open and closed veins characteristic of trees and herbs, respectively. These vein types differ by the structure of intermediate cells, and by the mechanisms of phloem loading and sugar transport. Most woody plants have intermediate cells with numerous plasmodesmal fields, symplastic transport as the main phloem loading mechanism, as well as oligosaccharides and other complex sugars as the main phloem transport substances. By contrast, the majority of herbs have intermediate cells without plasmodesmal connections, and apoplastic loading of sucrose occurs only by membrane proton cotransport. The closed type is divided into three subtypes, differing in the degree of development of the structures used for sugar uptake from the apoplast. A list of the plants investigated with their vein types is given. The evolution of the minor vein structure and phloem loading mechanism are discussed in relation to the evolution of life forms of higher plants.