Evidence for a plasma membrane proton pump in phloem cells of higher plants


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Metabolic energy is required for the loading of sucrose into the phloem and translocation of sugars throughout the plant. The proton electrochemical gradient generated by a plasma membrane proton pump (H+-ATPase) is thought to provide energy for these processes. The plasma membrane H+-ATPase is encoded by a multi-gene family in Arabidopsis thaliana. Here we characterize the expression of isoform AHA3 (Arabidopsis H+-ATPase isoform 3). The AHA3 mRNA start site was mapped and 464 bp of the putative upstream regulatory region sequenced. A translational fusion of AHA3 to the (3–glucuronidase (GUS) reporter gene was constructed and used to generate transgenic Nicotiana and Arabidopsis plants. Using a histochemical stain, expression of the AHA3/GUS fusion was found predominantly in phloem cells of leaves, stems, roots, and flowers. Biochemical measurements of GUS activity in pith and vascular explants confirmed the histochemical localization. Our results support the hypothesis that a proton pump is present in phloem cells, possibly providing energy to drive plasma membrane co-transport systems required for phloem loading and translocation of photosynthates. In addition to AHA3/ GUS expression in phloem, expression was observed in pollen and regions of the ovule, tissues whose physiological functions correlate with a requirement for high levels of solute transport.