New insight into unique sugar transport in plants

phys.org | 1/28/2019 | Staff
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Sugar transport through sugar transport proteins (STP) is unique to plants, and is important for the proper development of plant organs such as pollen. STPs are also used to concentrate sugars in specific tissues like fruit, and they play an important role in the plant defence against fungal attacks from things like rust and mildew.

Sugar is generated in plant leaves by photosynthesis, and is transported as the disaccharide sucrose to other parts of the plant through the sieve tissue. In sink tissues such as roots, pollen and fruits, the plant can absorb the sugar either as sucrose or, after cleavage, as the monosaccharides glucose and fructose.

Uptake - Glucose - Monosaccharides - STPs - Move

Uptake of glucose and other monosaccharides is driven by STPs that move sugar through the otherwise impermeable cell membrane using an acid gradient. These proteins have some specific properties compared to similar proteins from animals or bacteria. They have an extremely high affinity for sugar; in fact, they bind 1000 times more strongly to sugars than similar proteins in humans. At the same time, they maintain a very high level of activity over a broad pH spectrum compared to other acid-driven sugar transporters.

A small group of researchers from the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Aarhus University in Denmark has solved the structure of a STP sugar transport protein for the first time and provided explanations for the particular transport characteristics of STPs.

STPs - Proteins - Cell - Membrane - Years

STPs are proteins located in the cell membrane that are very difficult to work with. Therefore, it often takes many years to obtain new results, which was the case with this study. The researchers had to change strategy and apply new methods several times.

"It has been an extremely challenging process. Along the way, we have had to let go of very promising results and start all over with new methods because the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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