, Volume 131, Issue 3, pp 201-210

Phloem unloading in the potato tuber. Pathways and sites of ATPase

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Potential pathways for sucrose unloading in the potato tuber were examined by light and electron microscopy. Abundant plasmodesmata connected sieve elements with surrounding parenchyma elements and also sieve elements with companion cells. Plasmodesmata were rarer, however, between companion cells and parenchyma elements. These observations suggest that sucrose may leave the sieve elements and enter the storage parenchyma cells directly via the symplast and that transport through the companion cell may not be a prerequisite for unloading. Plasmodesmata, grouped together in primary pit fields, were also abundant between storage cells, and isolated storage cells, separated enzymically, showed considerable variation in plasmodesmatal distribution between cells and also on different faces of a single cell. Deposition of starch was found to occur in the tuber cortex while an endodermis with Casparian strip was present external to the phloem, suggesting that assimilates initially enter the cortical storage cells by an entirely symplastic pathway. The possible involvement of ATPase in the unloading process was examined cytochemically, using a lead-salt precipitation method. By contrast with previous findings for phloem no evidence was found for ATPase activity that was unique to the sieve element-companion cell complex. The present observations favour the view that phloem unloading in the potato tuber is a symplastic and passive process.