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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Compartmentation of sucrose during radial transfer in mature sorghum culm

Lee Tarpley1* and Donald M Vietor2

Author Affiliations

1 Texas A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center, 1509 Aggie Dr., Beaumont, TX 77713, USA

2 Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

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BMC Plant Biology 2007, 7:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-7-33

Published: 20 June 2007



The sucrose that accumulates in the culm of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) and other large tropical andropogonoid grasses can be of commercial value, and can buffer assimilate supply during development. Previous study conducted with intact plants showed that sucrose can be radially transferred to the intracellular compartment of mature ripening sorghum internode without being hydrolysed. In this study, culm-infused radiolabelled sucrose was traced between cellular compartments and among related metabolites to determine if the compartmental path of sucrose during radial transfer in culm tissue was symplasmic or included an apoplasmic step. This transfer path was evaluated for elongating and ripening culm tissue of intact plants of two semidwarf grain sorghums. The metabolic path in elongating internode tissue was also evaluated.


On the day after culm infusion of the tracer sucrose, the specific radioactivity of sucrose recovered from the intracellular compartment of growing axillary-branch tissue was greater (nearly twice) than that in the free space, indicating that sucrose was preferentially transferred through symplasmic routes. In contrast, the sucrose specific radioactivity in the intracellular compartment of the mature (ripening) culm tissue was probably less (about 3/4's) than that in free space indicating that sucrose was preferentially transferred through routes that included an apoplasmic step. In growing internodes of the axillary branch of sorghum, the tritium label initially provided in the fructose moiety of sucrose molecules was largely (81%) recovered in the fructose moiety, indicating that a large portion of sucrose molecules is not hydrolysed and resynthesized during radial transfer.


During radial transfer of sucrose in ripening internodes of intact sorghum plants, much of the sucrose is transferred intact (without hydrolysis and resynthesis) and primarily through a path that includes an apoplasmic step. In contrast, much of the sucrose is transferred through a symplasmic path in growing internode (axillary branch) tissue. These results contrast with the probable symplasmic path in mature culm of the closely related species, sugarcane. Phylogenetic variability exists in the compartmental path of radial transfer of sucrose in culms of the andropogonoid grasses.