Diversity of funnel plasmodesmata in angiosperms: the impact of geometry on plasmodesmal resistance

Grayson P. Ostermeyer, Kaare H. Jensen, Aslak R. Franzen, Winfried S. Peters, Michael Knoblauch*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In most plant tissues, threads of cytoplasm, or plasmodesmata, connect the protoplasts via pores in the cell walls. This enables symplasmic transport, for instance in phloem loading, transport and unloading. Importantly, the geometry of the wall pore limits the size of the particles that may be transported, and also (co-)defines plasmodesmal resistance to diffusion and convective flow. However, quantitative information on transport through plasmodesmata in non-cylindrical cell wall pores is scarce. We have found conical, funnel-shaped cell wall pores in the phloem-unloading zone in growing root tips of five eudicot and two monocot species, specifically between protophloem sieve elements and phloem pole pericycle cells. 3D reconstructions by electron tomography suggested that funnel plasmodesmata possess a desmotubule but lack tethers to fix it in a central position. Model calculations showed that both diffusive and hydraulic resistance decrease drastically in conical and trumpet-shaped cell wall pores compared with cylindrical channels, even at very small opening angles. Notably, the effect on hydraulic resistance was relatively larger. We conclude that funnel plasmodesmata generally are present in specific cell–cell interfaces in angiosperm roots, where they appear to facilitate symplasmic phloem unloading. Interestingly, cytosolic sleeves of most plasmodesmata reported in the literature do not resemble annuli of constant diameter but possess variously shaped widenings. Our evaluations suggest that widenings too small for unambiguous identification on electron micrographs may drastically reduce the hydraulic and diffusional resistance of these pores. Consequently, theoretical models assuming cylindrical symmetries will underestimate plasmodesmal conductivities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)707-719
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Funnel plasmodesma
  • Phloem unloading
  • Plasmodesma structure
  • Root growth zone
  • Symplasmic transport


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