Expression of the phloem lectin is developmentally linked to vascular differentiation in cucurbits
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The conducting elements of phloem in angiosperms are a complex of two cell types, sieve elements and companion cells, that form a single developmental and functional unit. During ontogeny of the sieve element/companion cell complex, specific proteins accumulate forming unique structures within sieve elements. Synthesis of these proteins coincides with vascular development and was studied in Cucurbita seedlings by following accumulation of the phloem lectin (PP2) and its mRNA by RNA blot analysis, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, immunocytochemistry and in␣situ hybridization. Genes encoding PP2 were developmentally regulated during vascular differentiation in hypocotyls of Cucurbita maxima Duch. Accumulation of PP2 mRNA and protein paralleled one another during hypocotyl elongation, after which mRNA levels decreased, while the protein appeared to be stable. Both PP2 and its mRNA were initially detected during metaphloem differentiation. However, PP2 mRNA was detected in companion cells of both bundle and extrafascicular phloem, but never in differentiating sieve elements. At later stages of development, PP2 mRNA was most often observed in extrafascicular phloem. In developing stems of Cucurbita moschata L., PP2 was immunolocalized in companion cells but not to filamentous phloem protein (P-protein) bodies that characterize immature sieve elements of bundle phloem. In contrast, PP2 was immunolocalized to persistent ␣ P-protein bodies in sieve elements of the extrafascicular phloem. Immunolocalization of PP2 in mature wound sieve elements was similar to that in bundle phloem. It appears that PP2 is synthesized in companion cells, then transported into differentiated sieve elements where it is a component of P-protein filaments in bundle phloem and persistent P-protein bodies in extrafascicular phloem. This differential accumulation in bundle and extrafascicular elements may result from different functional roles of the two types of phloem.
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