The plant hormone auxin serves as central regulator of growth and development. Auxin transporters in the plasma membrane are assumed to define tissue-level patterns of auxin distribution [1, 2]. However, auxin is small enough to diffuse through the plasmodesmata that connect neighboring cells , presenting an alternative pathway, whose contribution to auxin transport remained largely unexplored . Here, photoactivation microscopy [5, 6] was used to measure the capacity for small-molecule diffusion in the epidermis of Arabidopsis thaliana leaves. In the elongated epidermis cells covering the midrib and petiole, the plasmodesmata-mediated cell-wall permeability was found to be several times higher in the longitudinal than in the transverse direction. The physiological relevance of this asymmetry was tested through quantification of the shade-avoidance response, which depends on auxin transport from the leaf tip to the petiole in the abaxial side of the leaf , with the hypothesis that directionality of diffusion supplements transporter-mediated auxin movement . Triggering the response by auxin application at the tip led to stronger leaf movement in wild-type plants than in gsl8 mutants , which lack the callose synthase necessary to establish directionality. The results match the predictions of a mathematical model of auxin transport based on the permeabilities measured in wild-type and mutant plants. It is concluded that plasmodesmata permeability can be selectively modulated within a plant cell and that the conferred directionality in diffusion can influence the tissue-specific distribution patterns of small molecules, like auxin.
Gao, C., Liu, X., De Storme, N., Jensen, K. H., Xu, Q., Yang, J., Liu, X., Chen, S., Martens, H. J., Schulz, A., & Liesche, J. (Accepted/In press). Directionality of Plasmodesmata-Mediated Transport in Arabidopsis Leaves Supports Auxin Channeling. Current Biology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.03.014