Plant Cell Physiology

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Plant Cells Are Surrounded by Rigid Cell Walls

New Cells Are Produced by Dividing Tissues Called Meristems

Three Major Tissue Systems Make Up the Plant Body

  • dermal tissue
    • Cuticle
    • Stomata, guard cells and trichomes
  • ground tissue
    • Parenchyma
    • Collenchyma
    • Sclerenchyma
      • Sclereids
      • Fibers
  • vascular tissue
    • Xylem
      • Vessel members
      • Tracheids
    • Phloem
      • Sieve cells and companion cells
    • Procambium cell development

Biological Membranes Are Phospholipid Bilayers That Contain Proteins

All cells are enclosed in a membrane that serves as their outer boundary, separating the cytoplasm from the exter- nal environment. This plasma membrane (also called plas- malemma) allows the cell to take up and retain certain sub- stances while excluding others. Various transport proteins embedded in the plasma membrane are responsible for this selective traffic of solutes across the membrane. The accu- mulation of ions or molecules in the cytosol through the action of transport proteins consumes metabolic energy. Membranes also delimit the boundaries of the specialized internal organelles of the cell and regulate the fluxes of ions and metabolites into and out of these compartments.

According to the fluid-mosaic model, all biological membranes have the same basic molecular organization. They consist of a double layer (bilayer) of either phospho- lipids or, in the case of chloroplasts, glycosylglycerides, in which proteins are embedded (Figure 1.5A and B). In most membranes, proteins make up about half of the mem- brane’s mass. However, the composition of the lipid com- ponents and the properties of the proteins vary from mem- brane to membrane, conferring on each membrane its unique functional characteristics

Phospholipids. Phospholipids are a class of lipids in which two fatty acids are covalently linked to glycerol, which is covalently linked to a phosphate group. Also attached to this phosphate group is a variable component, called the head group, such as serine, choline, glycerol, or inositol (Figure 1.5C). In contrast to the fatty acids, the head groups are highly polar; consequently, phospholipid mol- ecules display both hydrophilic and hydrophobic proper- ties (i.e., they are amphipathic). The nonpolar hydrocarbon chains of the fatty acids form a region that is exclusively hydrophobic—that is, that excludes water.

Plastid membranes are unique in that their lipid com- ponent consists almost entirely of glycosylglycerides rather than phospholipids. In glycosylglycerides, the polar head group consists of galactose, digalactose, or sulfated galactose, without a phosphate group. The fatty acid chains of phospholipids and glycosyl- glycerides are variable in length, but they usually consist of 14 to 24 carbons. One of the fatty acids is typically saturated (i.e., it contains no double bonds); the other fatty acid chain usually has one or more cis double bonds (i.e., it is unsaturated).

The presence of cis double bonds creates a kink in the chain that prevents tight packing of the phospholipids in the bilayer. As a result, the fluidity of the membrane is increased. The fluidity of the membrane, in turn, plays a critical role in many membrane functions. Membrane flu- idity is also strongly influenced by temperature. Because plants generally cannot regulate their body temperatures, they are often faced with the problem of maintaining mem- brane fluidity under conditions of low temperature, which tends to decrease membrane fluidity. Thus, plant phos- pholipids have a high percentage of unsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid (one double bond), linoleic acid (two double bonds) and a-linolenic acid (three double bonds), which increase the fluidity of their membranes.

plant cell membranes


 The proteins associated with the lipid bilayer are of three types: integral, peripheral, and anchored. Inte gral proteins are embedded in the lipid bilayer. Most inte- gral proteins span the entire width of the phospholipid bilayer, so one part of the protein interacts with the outside of the cell, another part interacts with the hydrophobic core of the membrane, and a third part interacts with the inte- rior of the cell, the cytosol. Proteins that serve as ion chan- nels (see Chapter 6) are always integral membrane pro- teins, as are certain receptors that participate in signal transduction pathways (see Chapter 14). Some receptor-like proteins on the outer surface of the plasma membrane rec- ognize and bind tightly to cell wall consituents, effectively cross-linking the membrane to the cell wall.

Peripheral proteins are bound to the membrane surface by noncovalent bonds, such as ionic bonds or hydrogen bonds, and can be dissociated from the membrane with high salt solutions or chaotropic agents, which break ionic and hydrogen bonds, respectively. Peripheral proteins serve a variety of functions in the cell. For example, some are involved in interactions between the plasma membrane and components of the cytoskeleton, such as microtubules and actin microfilaments, which are discussed later in this chapter.

Anchored proteins are bound to the membrane surface via lipid molecules, to which they are covalently attached. These lipids include fatty acids (myristic acid and palmitic acid), prenyl groups derived from the isoprenoid pathway (farnesyl and geranylgeranyl groups), and glycosylphos- phatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins (Figure 1.6) (Buchanan et al. 2000).

membrane proteins

The Nucleus Contains Most of the Genetic Material of the Cell

The nucleus (plural nuclei) is the organelle that contains the genetic information primarily responsible for regulating the metabolism, growth, and differentiation of the cell. Collectively, these genes and their intervening sequences are referred to as the nuclear genome. The size of the nuclear genome in plants is highly variable, ranging from about 1.2 × 108 base pairs for the diminutive dicot Arabidopsis thaliana to 1 × 1011 base pairs for the lily Fritillaria assyriaca.  The  remainder of the genetic information of the cell is contained in the two semiautonomous organelles—the chloroplasts and mitochondria—which we will discuss a little later in this chapter. The nucleus is surrounded by a double membrane called the nuclear envelope (Figure 1.7A). The space between the two membranes of the nuclear envelope is called the perinuclear space, and the two membranes of the nuclear envelope join at sites called nuclear pores (Figure 1.7B).

plant cell nucleus
nuclear pore complex
Nuclear import and export through nuclear pore complexes. An import complex consisting of an NLS-bearing cargo and a nuclear transport receptor (NTR) is formed in the cytoplasm. After translocation through the NPC, Ran-GTP displaces the cargo from the NTR, resulting in nuclear cargo release. This reaction occurs due to the chromatin localization of the Ran guanine nucleotide exchange factor (RanGEF), which is restricted to the nucleus. The NTR–Ran-GTP complex returns to the cytoplasm through the NPC where the Ran GTPase-activating protein (RanGAP1) stimulates GTP hydrolysis, releasing the NTR for another import cycle. Nuclear export cycles require the formation of a trimeric cargo–NTR–Ran-GTP complex in the nucleus. After NPC passage, this complex dissociates due to Ran-GTP hydrolysis, releasing the cargo into the cytoplasm.   Perforating the nuclear boundary – how nuclear pore complexes assemble  

 The nuclear “pore” is actually an elaborate structure composed of more than a hundred different proteins arranged octagonally to form a nuclear pore complex (Figure 1.8). There can be very few to many thousands of nuclear pore complexes on an individual nuclear envelope. The central “plug” of the complex acts as an active (ATPdriven) transporter that facilitates the movement of macromolecules and ribosomal subunits both into and out of the nucleus. (Active transport will be discussed in detail in Chapter 6.) A specific amino acid sequence called the nuclear localization signal is required for a protein to gain entry into the nucleus.  The nucleus is the site of storage and replication of the  chromosomes, composed of DNA and its associated proteins. Collectively, this DNA–protein complex is known  chromatin. The linear length of all the DNA within any plant genome is usually millions of times greater than the diameter of the nucleus in which it is found. To solve the problem of packaging this chromosomal DNA within the  nucleus, segments of the linear double helix of DNA are coiled twice around a solid cylinder of eight histone protein molecules, forming a nucleosome. Nucleosomes are arranged like beads on a string along the length of each chromosome. During mitosis, the chromatin condenses, first by coiling tightly into a 30 nm chromatin fiber, with six nucleosomes per turn, followed by further folding and packing processes that depend on interactions between proteins and nucleic acids (Figure 1.9). At interphase, two types of chromatin are visible: heterochromatin and euchromatin. About 10% of the DNA consists of heterochromatin, a highly compact and transcriptionally inactive form of chromatin. The rest of the DNA consists of euchromatin, the dispersed, transcriptionally active form. Only about 10% of the euchromatin is transcriptionally active at any given time. The remainder exists in an intermediate state of condensation, between heterochromatin and transcriptionally active euchromatin. Nuclei contain a densely granular region, called the nucleolus (plural nucleoli), that is the site of ribosome synthesis (see Figure 1.7A). The nucleolus includes portions of one or more chromosomes where ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes are clustered to form a structure called the nucleolar organizer. Typical cells have one or more nucleoli per nucleus. Each 80S ribosome is made of a large and a small subunit, and each subunit is a complex aggregate of rRNA and specific proteins. The two subunits exit the nucleus separately, through the nuclear pore, and then unite in the cytoplasm to form a complete ribosome (Figure 1.10A). Ribosomes are the sites of protein synthesis. Protein Synthesis Involves Transcription and Translation The complex process of protein synthesis starts with transcription— the synthesis of an RNA polymer bearing a base  Translation is the process whereby a specific protein is synthesized from amino acids, according to the sequence information encoded by the mRNA. The ribosome travels the entire length of the mRNA and serves as the site for the sequential bonding of amino acids as specified by the base sequence of the mRNA (Figure 1.10B).

MPC nuclear pore complex

The Endoplasmic Reticulum Is a Network of Internal Membranes

 Cells have an elaborate network of internal membranes called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The membranes of the ER are typical lipid bilayers with interspersed integral and peripheral proteins. These membranes form flattened or tubular sacs known as cisternae (singular cisterna). Ultrastructural studies have shown that the ER is continuous with the outer membrane of the nuclear envelope. There are two types of ER—smooth and rough (Figure 1.11)—and the two types are interconnected. Rough ER (RER) differs from smooth ER in that it is covered with ribosomes that are actively engaged in protein synthesis; in addition, rough ER tends to be lamellar (a flat sheet composed of two unit membranes), while smooth ER tends to be tubular, although a gradation for each type can be observed in almost any cell. The structural differences between the two forms of ER are accompanied by functional differences. Smooth ER functions as a major site of lipid synthesis and membrane assembly. Rough ER is the site of synthesis of membrane proteins and proteins to be secreted outside the cell or into the vacuoles.

endoplasmic ER
golgi apparatus transport
Transport pathways between the ER and the Golgi complex. COPII vesicles exiting from the ER (shown on the left) carry transport machinery (black), membrane phospholipids (red), membrane cargo proteins (green), fluid (light blue) and captured soluble cargo (dark blue) in the forward direction, as indicated by the colored arrows (1). COPI vesicles (shown on the right) retrieve the machinery to the ER but might be insufficient to also recycle lipids and fluid. This concept is schematically illustrated by the relative lengths of the colored arrows representing COPII-dependent forward transport (1) and COPI-dependent retrograde transport (2). Fluid content of the ER could re-equilibrate with the cytosol (curved light-blue arrows at the bottom of the figure), whereas phospholipids could be returned by Rab6-dependent tubular carriers (arrows, 3). The imbalance of fluid transport between the anterograde and retrograde directions could be responsible for a valve-like system that ensures movement in the forward direction of soluble cargo (light and dark blue arrows, 4). Membrane cargo could be captured into the COPI-independent retrograde carriers more efficiently than fluid could, because of the high surface-to-volume ratio of tubules; this partitioning phenomenon is expected to cause recycling of membrane cargo (green arrow, 3) with a consequent delay in their anterograde transport. Membrane cargo that escapes this recycling phenomenon progresses further through the Golgi (green arrow, 4). Membrane cargo proteins that carry export signals are not represented in this cartoon.   Getting membrane proteins on and off the shuttle bus between the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi complex

Secretion of Proteins from Cells Begins with the Rough ER

 Proteins destined for secretion cross the RER membrane and enter the lumen of the ER. This is the first step in the secretion pathway that involves the Golgi body and vesicles that fuse with the plasma membrane. The mechanism of transport across the membrane is complex, involving the ribosomes, the mRNA that codes for the secretory protein, and a special receptor in the ER membrane. All secretory proteins and most integral membrane proteins have been shown to have a hydrophobic sequence of 18 to 30 amino acid residues at the amino-terminal end of the chain. During translation, this hydrophobic leader, called the signal peptide sequence, is recognized by a signal recognition particle (SRP), made up of protein and RNA, which facilitates binding of the free ribosome to SRP receptor proteins (or “docking proteins”) on the ER (see Figure 1.10A). The signal peptide then mediates the transfer of the elongating polypeptide across the ER membrane into the lumen. (In the case of integral membrane proteins, a portion of the completed polypeptide remains embedded in the membrane.) Once inside the lumen of the ER, the signal sequence is cleaved off by a signal peptidase. In some cases, a branched oligosaccharide chain made up of N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNac), mannose (Man), and glucose (Glc), having the stoichiometry GlcNac2Man9Glc3, is attached to the free amino group of a specific asparagine side chain. This carbohydrate assembly is called an N-linked glycan (Faye et al. 1992). The three terminal glucose residues are then removed by specific glucosidases, and the processed glycoprotein (i.e., a protein with covalently attached sugars) is ready for transport to the Golgi apparatus. The so-called N-linked glycoproteins are then transported to the Golgi apparatus via small vesicles. The vesicles move through the cytosol and fuse with cisternae on the cis face of the Golgi apparatus (Figure 1.12). 

 Proteins and Polysaccharides for Secretion Are Processed in the Golgi Apparatus

 The Golgi apparatus (also called Golgi complex) of plant cells is a dynamic structure consisting of one or more stacks of three to ten flattened membrane sacs, or cisternae, and an irregular network of tubules and vesicles called the trans Golgi network (TGN) (see Figure 1.12). Each individual stack is called a Golgi body or dictyosome. As Figure 1.12 shows, the Golgi body has distinct functional regions: The cisternae closest to the plasma membrane are called the trans face, and the cisternae closest to the center of the cell are called the cis face. The medial cisternae are between the trans and cis cisternae. The trans Golgi network is located on the trans face. The entire structure is stabilized by the presence of intercisternal elements, protein crosslinks that hold the cisternae together. Whereas in animal cells Golgi bodies tend to be clustered in one part of the cell and are interconnected via tubules, plant cells contain up to several hundred apparently separate Golgi bodies dispersed throughout the cytoplasm (Driouich et al. 1994). The Golgi apparatus plays a key role in the synthesis and secretion of complex polysaccharides (polymers composed of different types of sugars) and in the assembly of the oligosaccharide side chains of glycoproteins (Driouich et al. 1994). As noted already, the polypeptide chains of future glycoproteins are first synthesized on the rough ER, then transferred across the ER membrane, and glycosylated on the —NH2 groups of asparagine residues. Further modifications of, and additions to, the oligosaccharide side chains are carried out in the Golgi. Glycoproteins destined for secretion reach the Golgi via vesicles that bud off from the RER. The exact pathway of glycoproteins through the plant Golgi apparatus is not yet known. Since there appears to  be no direct membrane continuity between successive cisternae, the contents of one cisterna are transferred to the next cisterna via small vesicles budding off from the margins, as occurs in the Golgi apparatus of animals. In some cases, however, entire cisternae may progress through the Golgi body and emerge from the trans face. Within the lumens of the Golgi cisternae, the glycoproteins are enzymatically modified. Certain sugars, such as mannose, are removed from the oligosaccharide chains, and other sugars are added. In addition to these modifications, glycosylation of the —OH groups of hydroxyproline, serine, threonine, and tyrosine residues (O-linked oligosaccharides) also occurs in the Golgi. After being processed within the Golgi, the glycoproteins leave the organelle in other vesicles, usually from the trans side of the stack. All of this processing appears to confer on each protein a specific tag or marker that specifies the ultimate destination of that protein inside or outside the cell. In plant cells, the Golgi body plays an important role in cell wall formation (see Chapter 15). Noncellulosic cell wall polysaccharides (hemicellulose and pectin) are synthesized, and a variety of glycoproteins, including hydroxyprolinerich glycoproteins, are processed within the Golgi. Secretory vesicles derived from the Golgi carry the polysaccharides and glycoproteins to the plasma membrane, where the vesicles fuse with the plasma membrane and empty their contents into the region of the cell wall. Secretory vesicles may either be smooth or have a protein coat. Vesicles budding from the ER are generally smooth. Most vesicles budding from the Golgi have protein coats of some type. These proteins aid in the budding process during vesicle formation. Vesicles involved in traffic from the ER to the Golgi, between Golgi compartments, and from the Golgi to the TGN have protein coats. Clathrin-coated vesicles (Figure 1.13) are involved in the transport of storage proteins from the Golgi to specialized protein-storing vacuoles. They also participate in endocytosis, the process that brings soluble and membrane-bound proteins into the cell. The

Central Vacuole Contains Water and Solutes

Mature living plant cells contain large, water-filled central vacuoles that can occupy 80 to 90% of the total volume of the cell (see Figure 1.4). Each vacuole is surrounded by a vacuolar membrane, or tonoplast. Many cells also have cytoplasmic strands that run through the vacuole, but each transvacuolar strand is surrounded by the tonoplast.  In meristematic tissue, vacuoles are less prominent, though they are always present as small provacuoles. Provacuoles are produced by the trans Golgi network (see Figure 1.12). As the cell begins to mature, the provacuoles fuse to produce the large central vacuoles that are characteristic of most mature plant cells. In such cells, the cytoplasm is restricted to a thin layer surrounding the vacuole. The vacuole contains water and dissolved inorganic ions, organic acids, sugars, enzymes, and a variety of secondary metabolites (see Chapter 13), which often play roles in plant defense. Active solute accumulation provides the osmotic driving force for water uptake by the vacuole, which is required for plant cell enlargement. The turgor pressure generated by this water uptake provides the structural rigidity needed to keep herbaceous plants upright, since they lack the lignified support tissues of woody plants. Like animal lysosomes, plant vacuoles contain hydrolytic enzymes, including proteases, ribonucleases, and glycosidases. Unlike animal lysosomes, however, plant vacuoles do not participate in the turnover of macromolecules throughout the life of the cell. Instead, their degradative enzymes leak out into the cytosol as the cell undergoes senescence, thereby helping to recycle valuable nutrients to the living portion of the plant. Specialized protein-storing vacuoles, called protein bodies, are abundant in seeds. During germination the storage proteins in the protein bodies are hydrolyzed to amino acids and exported to the cytosol for use in protein synthesis. The hydrolytic enzymes are stored in specialized lytic vacuoles, which fuse with the protein bodies to initiate the breakdown process (Figure 1.14).

physiology chloroplast

Mitochondria and Chloroplasts Are Sites of Energy Conversion

A typical plant cell has two types of energy-producing organelles: mitochondria and chloroplasts. Both types are separated from the cytosol by a double membrane (an  outer and an inner membrane). Mitochondria (singular mitochondrion) are the cellular sites of respiration, a process in which the energy released from sugar metabolism is used for the synthesis of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) from ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and inorganic phosphate (Pi) (see Chapter 11). Mitochondria can vary in shape from spherical to tubular, but they all have a smooth outer membrane and a highly convoluted inner membrane (Figure 1.15). The infoldings of the inner membrane are called cristae (singular crista). The compartment enclosed by the inner membrane, the mitochondrial matrix, contains the enzymes of the pathway of intermediary metabolism called the Krebs cycle. In contrast to the mitochondrial outer membrane and all other membranes in the cell, the inner membrane of a mitochondrion is almost 70% protein and contains some phospholipids that are unique to the organelle (e.g., cardiolipin). The proteins in and on the inner membrane have special enzymatic and transport capacities. The inner membrane is highly impermeable to the passage of H+; that is, it serves as a barrier to the movement of protons. This important feature allows the formation of electrochemical gradients. Dissipation of such gradients by the controlled movement of H+ ions through the transmembrane enzyme ATP synthase is coupled to the phosphorylation of ADP to produce ATP. ATP can then be released to other cellular sites where energy is needed to drive specific reactions. Chloroplasts (Figure 1.16A) belong to another group of double membrane–enclosed organelles called plastids. Chloroplast membranes are rich in glycosylglycerides  Chloroplast membranes contain chlorophyll and its associated proteins and are the sites of photosynthesis. In addition to their inner and outer envelope membranes, chloroplasts possess a third system of membranes called thylakoids. A stack of thylakoids forms a granum (plural grana) (Figure 1.16B). Proteins and pigments (chlorophylls and carotenoids) that function in the photochemical events of photosynthesis are embedded in the thylakoid membrane. The fluid compartment surrounding the thylakoids, called the stroma, is analogous to the matrix of the mitochondrion. Adjacent grana are connected by unstacked membranes called stroma lamellae (singular lamella). The different components of the photosynthetic apparatus are localized in different areas of the grana and the stroma lamellae. The ATP synthases of the chloroplast are located on the thylakoid membranes (Figure 1.16C). During photosynthesis, light-driven electron transfer reactions result in a proton gradient across the thylakoid membrane. As in the mitochondria, ATP is synthesized when the proton gradient is dissipated via the ATP synthase. Plastids that contain high concentrations of carotenoid pigments rather than chlorophyll are called chromoplasts. They are one of the causes of the yellow, orange, or red colors of many fruits and flowers, as well as of autumn leaves (Figure 1.17). Nonpigmented plastids are called leucoplasts. The most important type of leucoplast is the amyloplast, a starchstoring plastid. Amyloplasts are abundant in storage tissues of the shoot and root, and in seeds. Specialized amyloplasts in the root cap also serve as gravity sensors that direct root growth downward into the soil (see Chapter 19).

Mitochondria and Chloroplasts Are Semiautonomous Organelles

 Both mitochondria and chloroplasts contain their own DNA and protein-synthesizing machinery (ribosomes, transfer RNAs, and other components) and are believed to have evolved from endosymbiotic bacteria. Both plastids and mitochondria divide by fission, and mitochondria can also undergo extensive fusion to form elongated structures or networks.  The DNA of these organelles is in the form of circular chromosomes, similar to those of bacteria and very different from the linear chromosomes in the nucleus. These DNA circles are localized in specific regions of the mitochondrial matrix or plastid stroma called nucleoids. DNA replication in both mitochondria and chloroplasts is independent of DNAreplication in the nucleus. On the other hand, the numbers of these organelles within a given cell type remain approximately constant, suggesting that some aspects of organelle replication are under cellular regulation. The mitochondrial genome of plants consists of about 200 kilobase pairs (200,000 base pairs), a size considerably larger than that of most animal mitochondria. The mitochondria of meristematic cells are typically polyploid; that is, they contain multiple copies of the circular chromosome. However, the number of copies per mitochondrion gradually decreases as cells mature because the mitochondria continue to divide in the absence of DNA synthesis. Most of the proteins encoded by the mitochondrial genome are prokaryotic-type 70S ribosomal proteins and components of the electron transfer system. The majority of mitochondrial proteins, including Krebs cycle enzymes, are encoded by nuclear genes and are imported from the cytosol. The chloroplast genome is smaller than the mitochondrial genome, about 145 kilobase pairs (145,000 base pairs). Whereas mitochondria are polyploid only in the meristems, chloroplasts become polyploid during cell maturation. Thus the average amount of DNA per chloroplast in the plant is much greater than that of the mitochondria. The total amount of DNA from the mitochondria and plastids combined is about one-third of the nuclear genome (Gunning and Steer 1996). Chloroplast DNA encodes rRNA; transfer RNA (tRNA); the large subunit of the enzyme that fixes CO2, ribulose-1,5- bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (rubisco); and several of the proteins that participate in photosynthesis. Nevertheless, the majority of chloroplast proteins, like those of mitochondria, are encoded by nuclear genes, synthesized in the cytosol, and transported to the organelle. Although mitochondria and chloroplasts have their own genomes and can divide independently of the cell, they are characterized as semiautonomous organelles because they depend on the nucleus for the majority of their proteins.

Different Plastid Types Are Interconvertible

Meristem cells contain proplastids, which have few or no internal membranes, no chlorophyll, and an incomplete complement of the enzymes necessary to carry out photosynthesis (Figure 1.18A). In angiosperms and some gymnosperms, chloroplast development from proplastids is triggered by light. Upon illumination, enzymes are formed inside the proplastid or imported from the cytosol, light-absorbing pigments are produced, and membranes proliferate rapidly, giving rise to stroma lamellae and grana stacks (Figure 1.18B). Seeds usually germinate in the soil away from light, and chloroplasts develop only when the young shoot is exposed to light. If seeds are germinated in the dark, the proplastids differentiate into etioplasts, which contain semicrystalline tubular arrays of membrane known as prolamellar bodies (Figure 1.18C). Instead of chlorophyll, the etioplast contains a pale yellow green precursor pigment, protochlorophyll. Within minutes after exposure to light, the etioplast differentiates, converting the prolamellar body into thylakoids and stroma lamellae, and the protochlorophyll into chlorophyll. The maintenance of chloroplast structure depends on the presence of light, and mature chloroplasts can revert to etioplasts during extended periods of darkness. Chloroplasts can be converted to chromoplasts, as in the case of autumn leaves and ripening fruit, and in some cases  Another type of microbody, the glyoxysome, is present in oil-storing seeds. Glyoxysomes contain the glyoxylate cycle enzymes, which help convert stored fatty acids into sugars that can be translocated throughout the young plant to provide energy for growth (see Chapter 11). Because both types of microbodies carry out oxidative reactions, it has been suggested they may have evolved from primitive respiratory organelles that were superseded by mitochondria.

Oleosomes Are Lipid-Storing Organelles

In addition to starch and protein, many plants synthesize and store large quantities of triacylglycerol in the form of oil during seed development. These oils accumulate in organelles called oleosomes, also referred to as lipid bodies or spherosomes (Figure 1.20A). Oleosomes are unique among the organelles in that they are surrounded by a “half–unit membrane”—that is, a phospholipid monolayer—derived from the ER (Harwood 1997). The phospholipids in the half–unit membrane are oriented with their polar head groups toward the aqueous phase and their hydrophobic fatty acid tails facing the lumen, dissolved in the stored lipid. Oleosomes are thought to arise from the deposition of lipids within the bilayer itself (Figure 1.20B). Proteins called oleosins are present in the half–unit membrane (see Figure 1.20B). One of the functions of the oleosins may be to maintain each oleosome as a discrete organelle by preventing fusion. Oleosins may also help other proteins bind to the organelle surface. As noted earlier, during seed germination the lipids in the oleosomes are broken down and converted to sucrose with the help of the glyoxysome. The first step in the process is the hydrolysis of the fatty acid chains from the glycerol backbone by the enzyme lipase. Lipase is tightly associated with the surface of the half–unit membrane and may be attached to the oleosins.


 The cytosol is organized into a three-dimensional network of filamentous proteins called the cytoskeleton. This network provides the spatial organization for the organelles and serves as a scaffolding for the movements of organelles and other cytoskeletal components. It also plays fundamental roles in mitosis, meiosis, cytokinesis, wall deposition, the maintenance of cell shape, and cell differentiation.

physiology microtubule

Plant Cells Contain  Microtubules,Microfilaments, and Intermediate Filaments

filament assembley

 Three types of cytoskeletal elements have been demonstrated in plant cells: microtubules, microfilaments, and intermediate filament–like structures. Each type is filamentous, having a fixed diameter and a variable length, up to many micrometers.  Microtubules and microfilaments are macromolecular assemblies of globular proteins. Microtubules are hollow  cylinders with an outer diameter of 25 nm; they are composed of polymers of the protein tubulin. The tubulin monomer of microtubules is a heterodimer composed of two similar polypeptide chains (á- and â-tubulin), each having an apparent molecular mass of 55,000 daltons (Figure 1.21A). A single microtubule consists of hundreds of thousands of tubulin monomers arranged in 13 columns called protofilaments. Microfilaments are solid, with a diameter of 7 nm; they are composed of a special form of the protein found in muscle: globular actin, or G-actin. Each actin molecule is composed of a single polypeptide with a molecular mass of approximately 42,000 daltons. Amicrofilament consists of two chains of polymerized actin subunits that intertwine in a helical fashion (Figure 1.21B). Intermediate filaments are a diverse group of helically wound fibrous elements, 10 nm in diameter. Intermediate filaments are composed of linear polypeptide monomers of various types. In animal cells, for example, the nuclear lamins are composed of a specific polypeptide monomer, while the keratins, a type of intermediate filament found in the cytoplasm, are composed of a different polypeptide monomer. In animal intermediate filaments, pairs of parallel monomers (i.e., aligned with their —NH2 groups at the same ends) are helically wound around each other in a coiled coil. Two coiled-coil dimers then align in an antiparallel fashion (i.e., with their —NH2 groups at opposite ends) to form a tetrameric unit. The tetrameric units then assemble into the final intermediate filament (Figure 1.22). Although nuclear lamins appear to be present in plant cells, there is as yet no convincing evidence for plant keratin intermediate filaments in the cytosol. As noted earlier, integral proteins cross-link the plasma membrane of plant cells to the rigid cell wall. Such connections to the wall  undoubtedly stabilize the protoplast and help maintain cell shape. The plant cell wall thus serves as a kind of cellular exoskeleton, perhaps obviating the need for keratin-type intermediate filaments for structural support.

Microtubules and Microfilaments Can Assemble and Disassemble

In the cell, actin and tubulin monomers exist as pools of free proteins that are in dynamic equilibrium with the polymerized forms. Polymerization requires energy: ATP is required for microfilament polymerization, GTP (guanosine triphosphate) for microtubule polymerization. The attachments between subunits in the polymer are noncovalent, but they are strong enough to render the structure stable under cellular conditions. Both microtubules and microfilaments are polarized; that is, the two ends are different. In microtubules, the polarity arises from the polarity of the á- and -tubulin heterodimer; in microfilaments, the polarity arises from the polarity of the actin monomer itself. The opposite ends of microtubules and microfilaments are termed plus and minus, and polymerization is more rapid at the positive end. Once formed, microtubules and microfilaments can disassemble. The overall rate of assembly and disassembly of these structures is affected by the relative concentrations of free or assembled subunits. In general, microtubules are more unstable than microfilaments. In animal cells, the half-life of an individual microtubule is about 10 minutes. Thus microtubules are said to exist in a state of dynamic instability. In contrast to microtubules and microfilaments, intermediate filaments lack polarity because of the antiparallel orientation of the dimers that make up the tetramers. In addition, intermediate filaments appear to be much more stable than either microtubules or microfilaments. Although very little is known about intermediate filament–like structures in plant cells, in animal cells nearly all of the intermediate- filament protein exists in the polymerized state. Microtubules Function in Mitosis and Cytokinesis Mitosis is the process by which previously replicated chromosomes are aligned, separated, and distributed in an orderly fashion to daughter cells (Figure 1.23). Microtubules are an integral part of mitosis. Before mitosis begins, microtubules in the cortical (outer) cytoplasm depolymerize, breaking down into their constituent subunits. The subunits then repolymerize before the start of prophase to form the preprophase band (PPB), a ring of microtubules encircling the nucleus (see Figure 1.23C–F). The PPB appears in the region where the future cell wall will form after the completion of mitosis, and it is thought to be involved in regulating the plane of cell division. During prophase, microtubules begin to assemble at two foci on opposite sides of the nucleus, forming the prophase spindle (Figure 1.24). Although not associated with any specific structure, these foci serve the same function as animal cell centrosomes in organizing and assembling microtubules. In early metaphase the nuclear envelope breaks down, the PPB disassembles, and new microtubules polymerize to form the mitotic spindle. In animal cells the spindle microtubules radiate toward each other from two discrete foci at the poles (the centrosomes), resulting in an ellipsoidal, or football-shaped, array of microtubules. The mitotic spindle of plant cells, which lack centrosomes, is more boxlike in shape because the spindle microtubules arise from a diffuse zone consisting of multiple foci at opposite ends of the cell and extend toward the middle in nearly parallel arrays (see Figure 1.24). Some of the microtubules of the spindle apparatus become attached to the chromosomes at their kinetochores, while others remain unattached. The kinetochores are located in the centromeric regions of the chromosomes. Some of the unattached microtubules overlap with microtubules from the opposite polar region in the spindle midzone. Cytokinesis is the process whereby a cell is partitioned into two progeny cells. Cytokinesis usually begins late in mitosis. The precursor of the new wall, the cell plate that Plant Cells 21  forms between incipient daughter cells, is rich in pectins (Figure 1.25). Cell plate formation in higher plants is a multistep process.  Vesicle aggregation in the spindle midzone is organized by the phragmoplast, a complex of microtubules and ER that forms during late anaphase or early telophase from dissociated spindle subunits.

Microfilaments Are Involved in Cytoplasmic Streaming and in Tip Growth

Cytoplasmic streaming is the coordinated movement of particles and organelles through the cytosol in a helical path down one side of a cell and up the other side. Cytoplasmic streaming occurs in most plant cells and has been studied extensively in the giant cells of the green algae Chara and Nitella, in which speeds up to 75 ìm s–1 have been measured. The mechanism of cytoplasmic streaming involves bundles of microfilaments that are arranged parallel to the longitudinal direction of particle movement. The forces necessary for movement may be generated by an interaction of the microfilament protein actin with the protein myosin in a fashion comparable to that of the protein interaction that occurs during muscle contraction in animals. Myosins are proteins that have the ability to hydrolyze ATP to ADP and Pi when activated by binding to an actin microfilament. The energy released by ATP hydrolysis propels myosin molecules along the actin microfilament from the minus end to the plus end. Thus, myosins belong to the general class of motor proteins that drive cytoplasmic streaming and the movements of organelles within the cell. Examples of other motor proteins include the kinesins and dyneins, which drive movements of organelles and other cytoskeletal components along the surfaces of microtubules. Actin microfilaments also participate in the growth of the pollen tube. Upon germination, a pollen grain forms a tubular extension that grows down the style toward the embryo sac. As the tip of the pollen tube extends, new cell wall material is continually deposited to maintain the integrity of the wall. A network of microfilaments appears to guide vesicles containing wall precursors from their site of formation in the Golgi through the cytosol to the site of new wall formation at the tip. Fusion of these vesicles with the plasma membrane deposits wall precursors outside the cell, where they are assembled into wall material.

 Intermediate Filaments Occur in the Cytosol and Nucleus of Plant Cells

 Relatively little is known about plant intermediate filaments. Intermediate filament–like structures have been identified in the cytoplasm of plant cells (Yang et al. 1995), but these may not be based on keratin, as in animal cells, since as yet no plant keratin genes have been found. Nuclear lamins, intermediate filaments of another type that form a dense network on the inner surface of the nuclear membrane, have also been identified in plant cells (Frederick et al. 1992), and genes encoding laminlike proteins are present in the Arabidopsis genome. Presumably, plant lamins perform functions similar to those in animal cells as a structural component of the nuclear envelope.


 The cell division cycle, or cell cycle, is the process by which cells reproduce themselves and their genetic material, the nuclear DNA. The four phases of the cell cycle are designated G1, S, G2, and M (Figure 1.26A).

 Each Phase of the Cell Cycle Has a Specific Set of Biochemical and Cellular Activities

 Nuclear DNA is prepared for replication in G1 by the assembly of a prereplication complex at the origins of replication along the chromatin. DNA is replicated during the S phase, and G2 cells prepare for mitosis. The whole architecture of the cell is altered as cells enter mitosis: The nuclear envelope breaks down, chromatin condenses to form recognizable chromosomes, the mitotic spindle forms, and the replicated chromosomes attach to the spindle fibers. The transition from metaphase to anaphase of mitosis marks a major transition point when the two chromatids of each replicated chromosome, which were held together at their kinetochores, are separated and the daughter chromosomes are pulled to opposite poles by spindle fibers. At a key regulatory point early in G1 of the cell cycle, the cell becomes committed to the initiation of DNA synthesis. In yeasts, this point is called START. Once a cell has passed START, it is irreversibly committed to initiating DNA synthesis and completing the cell cycle through mitosis and cytokinesis. After the cell has completed mitosis, it may initiate another complete cycle (G1 through mitosis), or it may leave the cell cycle and differentiate. This choice is made at the critical G1 point, before the cell begins to replicate its DNA. DNAreplication and mitosis are linked in mammalian cells. Often mammalian cells that have stopped dividing can be stimulated to reenter the cell cycle by a variety of hormones and growth factors. When they do so, they reenter the cell cycle at the critical point in early G1. In contrast, plant cells can leave the cell division cycle either before or after replicating their DNA (i.e., during G1 or G2). As a consequence, whereas most animal cells are diploid (having two sets of chromosomes), plant cells frequently are tetraploid (having four sets of chromosomes), or even polyploid (having many sets of chromosomes), after going through additional cycles of nuclear DNA replication without mitosis.

plamy physiology cell cycle

The Cell Cycle Is Regulated by Protein Kinases

The mechanism regulating the progression of cells through their division cycle is highly conserved in evolution, and plants have retained the basic components of this mechanism (Renaudin et al. 1996). The key enzymes that control the transitions between the different states of the cell cycle, and the entry of nondividing cells into the cell cycle, are the cyclin-dependent protein kinases, or CDKs (Figure 1.26B). Protein kinases are enzymes that phosphorylate proteins using ATP. Most multicellular eukaryotes use several protein kinases that are active in different phases of the cell cycle. All depend on regulatory subunits called cyclins for their activities. The regulated activity of CDKs is essential for the transitions from G1 to S and from G2 to M, and for the entry of nondividing cells into the cell cycle. CDK activity can be regulated in various ways, but two of the most important mechanisms are (1) cyclin synthesis and destruction and (2) the phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of key amino acid residues within the CDK protein. CDKs are inactive unless they are associated  with a cyclin. Most cyclins turn over rapidly. They are synthesized and then actively degraded (using ATP) at specific points in the cell cycle. Cyclins are degraded in the cytosol by a large proteolytic complex called the proteasome. Before being degraded by the proteasome, the cyclins are marked for destruction by the attachment of a small protein called ubiquitin, a process that requires ATP. Ubiquitination is a general mechanism for tagging cellular proteins destined for turnover (see Chapter 14). The transition from G1 to S requires a set of cyclins (known as G1 cyclins) different from those required in the transition from G2 to mitosis, where mitotic cyclins activate the CDKs (see Figure 1.26B). CDKs possess two tyrosine phosphorylation sites: One causes activation of the enzyme; the other causes inactivation. Specific kinases carry out both the stimulatory and the inhibitory phosphorylations. Similarly, protein phosphatases can remove phosphate from CDKs, either stimulating or inhibiting their activity, depending on the position of the phosphate. The addition or removal of phosphate groups from CDKs is highly regulated and an important mechanism for the control of cell cycle progression (see Figure 1.26B). Cyclin inhibitors play an important role in regulating the cell cycle in animals, and probably in plants as well, although little is known about plant cyclin inhibitors. Finally, as we will see later in the book, certain plant hormones are able to regulate the cell cycle by regulating the synthesis of key enzymes in the regulatory pathway.


Plasmodesmata (singular plasmodesma) are tubular extensions of the plasma membrane, 40 to 50 nm in diameter, that traverse the cell wall and connect the cytoplasms of adjacent cells. Because most plant cells are interconnected in this way, their cytoplasms form a continuum referred to as the symplast. Intercellular transport of solutes through plasmodesmata is thus called symplastic transport (see Chapters 4 and 6).  

There Are Two Types of Plasmodesmata: Primary and Secondary

 Primary plasmodesmata form during cytokinesis when Golgi-derived vesicles containing cell wall precursors fuse to form the cell plate (the future middle lamella). Rather than forming a continuous uninterrupted sheet, the newly deposited cell plate is penetrated by numerous pores (Figure 1.27A), where remnants of the spindle apparatus, consisting of ER and microtubules, disrupt vesicle fusion. Further deposition of wall polymers increases the thickness of the two primary cell walls on either side of the middle lamella, generating linear membrane-lined channels (Figure 1.27B). Development of primary plasmodesmata thus provides direct continuity and communication between cells that are clonally related (i.e., derived from the same mother cell). Secondary plasmodesmata form between cells after their cell walls have been deposited. They arise either by evagination of the plasma membrane at the cell surface, or by branching from a primary plasmodesma (Lucas and Wolf 1993). In addition to increasing the communication between cells that are clonally related, secondary plasmodesmata allow symplastic continuity between cells that are not clonally related.

Plasmodesmata Have a Complex Internal Structure

Like nuclear pores, plasmodesmata have a complex internal structure that functions in regulating macromolecular traffic from cell to cell. Each plasmodesma contains a narrow tubule of ER called a desmotubule (see Figure 1.27). The desmotubule is continuous with the ER of the adjacent cells. Thus the symplast joins not only the cytosol of neighboring cells, but the contents of the ER lumens as well. However, it is not clear that the desmotubule actually represents a passage, since there does not appear to be a space between the membranes, which are tightly appressed. Globular proteins are associated with both the desmotubule membrane and the plasma membrane within the pore (see Figure 1.27B). These globular proteins appear to be interconnected by spokelike extensions, dividing the pore into eight to ten microchannels (Ding et al. 1992). Some molecules can pass from cell to cell through plasmodesmata, probably by flowing through the microchannels, although the exact pathway of communication has not been established. By following the movement of fluorescent dye molecules of different sizes through plasmodesmata connecting leaf epidermal cells, Robards and Lucas (1990) determined  the limiting molecular mass for transport to be about 700 to 1000 daltons, equivalent to a molecular size of about 1.5 to 2.0 nm. This is the size exclusion limit, or SEL, of plasmodesmata. If the width of the cytoplasmic sleeve is approximately 5 to 6 nm, how are molecules larger than 2.0 nm excluded? The proteins attached to the plasma membrane and the ER within the plasmodesmata appear to act to restrict the size of molecules that can pass through the pore. As we’ll see in Chapter 16, the SELs of plasmodesmata can be regulated. The mechanism for regulating the SEL is poorly understood, but the localization of both actin and myosin within plasmodesmata, possibly forming the “spoke” extensions (see Figure 1.27B), suggests that they may participate in the process (White et al. 1994; Radford and White 1996). Recent studies have also implicated calcium-dependent protein kinases in the regulation of plasmodesmatal SEL.


 Despite their great diversity in form and size, all plants carry out similar physiological processes. As primary producers, plants convert solar energy to chemical energy. Being nonmotile, plants must grow toward light, and they must have efficient vascular systems for movement of water, mineral nutrients, and photosynthetic products throughout the plant body. Green land plants must also have mechanisms for avoiding desiccation. The major vegetative organ systems of seed plants are the shoot and the root. The shoot consists of two types of organs: stems and leaves. Unlike animal development, plant growth is indeterminate because of the presence of permanent meristem tissue at the shoot and root apices, which gives rise to new tissues and organs during the entire vegetative phase of the life cycle. Lateral meristems (the vascular cambium and the cork cambium) produce growth in girth, or secondary growth. Three major tissue systems are recognized: dermal, ground, and vascular. Each of these tissues contains a variety of cell types specialized for different functions. Plants are eukaryotes and have the typical eukaryotic cell organization, consisting of nucleus and cytoplasm. The nuclear genome directs the growth and development of the organism. The cytoplasm is enclosed by a plasma membrane and contains numerous membrane-enclosed organelles, including plastids, mitochondria, microbodies, oleosomes, and a large central vacuole. Chloroplasts and mitochondria are semiautonomous organelles that contain their own DNA. Nevertheless, most of their proteins are encoded by nuclear DNA and are imported from the cytosol. The cytoskeletal components—microtubules, microfilaments, and intermediate filaments—participate in a variety of processes involving intracellular movements, such as mitosis, cytoplasmic streaming, secretory vesicle transport  transport, cell plate formation, and cellulose microfibril deposition. The process by which cells reproduce is called the cell cycle. The cell cycle consists of the G1, S, G2, and M phases. The transition from one phase to another is regulated by cyclin-dependent protein kinases. The activity of the CDKs is regulated by cyclins and by protein phosphorylation. During cytokinesis, the phragmoplast gives rise to the cell plate in a multistep process that involves vesicle fusion. After cytokinesis, primary cell walls are deposited. The cytosol of adjacent cells is continuous through the cell walls because of the presence of membrane-lined channels called plasmodesmata, which play a role in cell–cell communication-