Key component in the transport of sugar in pants have been discovered

Image representing the localization of protein the plant's leaf
Image representing the localization of protein the plant's leaf

Researchers have found the mechanism through which sugar moves in the plant body.

This research has been led by led by Carnegie’s Wolf Frommer and his team including Carnegie’s Li-Qing Chen, the paper’s lead author, Xiao-Quing Qu, Bi-Huei Hou and Davide Sosso, as well as Sonia Osorio and Alisdair Fernie of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, and published online in the December 8, issue of the Journal Science.

Just like in humans, plants have pumps that move sugar to all the parts of the plant’s body. In humans, we have circulatory system that causes the circulation of nutrient to all parts of the body through pumping action of the heart but in plants, they have no heart like pumps, they have molecular pumps. Frommer’s team worked on this molecular pump and found an important component responsible for loading the sugar into the plant’s veins referred to as phloem about twenty years ago. However, it was still a mystery that how the sugars get to that component.

In this research, the researchers have found that missing piece of molecular pump system i.e. “SWEET Proteins as a Key Step for Phloem Transport”.

“Like engineers, we can now fine tune the pump components to address one of the major challenges for our future — namely, to increase the translocation of sugars towards seeds in order to increase crop yield,” Frommer said “The identification of these critical transporters is a major step towards developing strategies to ensure food supplies and keep food prices in check.”

Moreover, this research is important from the perspective of plant pathology as novel ways of protecting plants from pathogens could be initiated. Another important point of this research is that animals have their own version of this protein, which could be involved in the movement of sugars and could help in landmark researches in diabetes and obesity.


Li-Qing Chen, Xiao-Qing Qu, Bi-Huei Hou, Davide Sosso, Sonia Osorio, Alisdair R. Fernie, Wolf B. Frommer, (2011). Sucrose Efflux Mediated by SWEET Proteins as a Key Step for Phloem Transport. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1213351

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