Sucrose transporters in plants: update on function and structure

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2000 May 1;1465(1-2):246-62. doi: 10.1016/s0005-2736(00)00142-5.


In plants, sucrose is the major transport form for photoassimilated carbon and is both a source of carbon skeletons and energy for plant organs unable to perform photosynthesis (sink organs). As a molecule translocated over distance, sucrose has to pass through a number of membranes. Membrane transport of sucrose has therefore been considered for a long time as a major determinant of plant productivity. After several decades of physiological and biochemical experiments measuring the activity of sucrose carriers, unequivocal evidence came from the first identification of a cDNA coding a sucrose carrier (SoSUT1, Riesmeier et al. (1992) EMBO J. 11, 4705-4713). At present 20 different cDNAs encoding sucrose carriers have been identified in different plant species, in both dicots and monocots (one case). The total number is increasing rapidly and most importantly, it can be guessed from the results obtained for Arabidopsis, that in each species, sucrose transporters represent a gene family. The sequences are highly conserved and those carriers display the typical 12 transmembrane alpha-helices of members of the Major Facilitator superfamily. Yeast expression of those carriers indicate that they are all influx carriers, all cotransport sucrose and proton and that their affinity for sucrose is surprisingly similar (0.2-2 mM). All their characteristics are in agreement with those demonstrated at the physiological level in plants. These characteristics are discussed in relation to the function in plants and the few data available on the structure of those transporters in relation to their function are presented.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Arabidopsis
  • Biological Transport
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli
  • Humans
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Sucrose / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • sucrose transport protein, plant
  • Sucrose