Tropical Plant Biology

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 13–22 | Cite as

Functional Specialization of Vacuoles in Sugarcane Leaf and Stem

  • Anne L. RaeEmail author
  • Mark A. Jackson
  • Chau H. Nguyen
  • Graham D. Bonnett


Plant vacuoles are frequently targeted as a storage site for novel products. We have used environment-sensitive fluorescent dyes and the expression of vacuolar marker proteins to characterize the vacuoles in different organs and cell types of sugarcane. The results demonstrated that the lumen of the vacuole in the parenchyma cells of the stem is acidic (<pH 5) and contains active proteases, characteristic of lytic vacuoles. Western blots and tissue labelling with antibodies to vacuolar H+-ATPase suggest that this proton pump is involved in acidification of the vacuolar lumen. Quantitative real-time PCR was used to show that the expression of vacuolar proteases and a vacuolar sorting receptor is also coordinately regulated. In contrast to the stem parenchyma cells, the cells of sugarcane leaves contain diverse types of vacuoles. The pH of these vacuoles and their capacity to hydrolyze protease substrates varies according to cell type and developmental stage. Sugarcane suspension-cultures contain cells with vacuoles that resemble those of stem parenchyma cells and are thus a useful model system for investigating the properties of the vacuole. Understanding the growth and development of storage capacity will be useful in designing strategies to maximize the production of sucrose or alternative bioproducts.


C4 grasses Lytic vacuole Proteases Saccharum Vacuolar development 



adenosine triphosphate


bovine serum albumin




expressed sequence tag


glyceraldehyde-6-phosphate dehydrogenase


polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis


piperazine-1,4-bis(2-ethanesulfonic acid)


polyvinylidene fluoride


quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction


sodium dodecyl sulfate


Tris-buffered saline


top visible dewlap





The authors thank Professor Masayoshi Maeshima, Nagoya University, Japan, for the kind gift of antisera. Mark Jackson was supported by a PhD research scholarship and Chau Nguyen by a vacation scholarship from the Cooperative Research Centre for Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne L. Rae
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mark A. Jackson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Chau H. Nguyen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Graham D. Bonnett
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Cooperative Research Centre for Sugar Industry Innovation through BiotechnologyUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Plant IndustryQueensland Bioscience PrecinctBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.School of Integrative BiologyUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Biomedical SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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