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New tool allows scientists to visualize sugar transport in vivo

July 22, 2015

phospho image of maize leaves

This 18F phosphor image shows the in vivo transport of the radioactive sucrose molecule in normal (WT) and mutant (sut1) maize leaves after 1-hour of exposure. sut1 plants lack a gene involved in loading sugar into the phloem.

Plants move sugar from their leaves to the flowers, roots, and other organs via the phloem. Understanding sugar transport is a significant aspect of plant biology that could have important applications to food and biofuel production. In a new report published in the May 29 online issue of PLOS One, the Braun lab reports on a new radioactive tracer that allows scientists to visually track sucrose as it moves into and through the phloem.

For the study, the researchers synthesized a new radioactive sucrose molecule in the lab and tested it in normal maize plants and in maize plants defective in sugar transport. They found that this radiotracer can be used to accurately visualize sucrose transport in living plant material and has experimental and imaging advantages over current radiotracer technologies.

The research was a collaboration among chemists, radiochemists, and plant biologists at MU.

“There are very few places in the world where this type of interdisciplinary science can be done, and being at MU enables these scientific interactions and cutting edge science,” said David Braun, associate professor of biological sciences and corresponding author of the study.

Read the study: Rotsch D, et al. 2015. Radiosynthesis of 6’-Deoxy-6’[18F]Fluorosucrose via automated synthesis and its utility to study in vivo sucrose transport in maize (Zea mays) leaves, PLOS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128989.

The study was supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

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Written by: Melody Kroll

Related research strengths:
Genetics & Genomics, Plant Biology