Recent advances have provided new insights into how sucrose is moved from sites of synthesis to sites of utilisation or storage in sink organs. Sucrose transporters play a central role, as they orchestrate sucrose allocation both intracellularly and at the whole plant level. Sucrose produced in mesophyll cells of leaves may be effluxed into the apoplasm of mesophyll or phloem parenchyma cells by a mechanism that remains elusive, but experimentally consistent with facilitated transport or energy-dependent sucrose/H(+) antiport. From the apoplasm, sucrose/H(+) symporters transport sucrose across the plasma membrane of cells making up the sieve element/companion cell (SE/CC) complex, the long distance conduits of the phloem. Phloem unloading of sucrose in key sinks such as developing seeds involves two sequential transport steps, sucrose efflux followed by sucrose influx. Besides plasma membrane specific sucrose transporters, sucrose transporters on the tonoplast contribute to the capacity for elevated sucrose accumulation in storage organs such as sugar beet roots or sugarcane culms. Except for several sucrose facilitators from seed coats of some leguminous plants all sucrose transporters cloned to date, including recently identified vacuolar sucrose transporters, have been characterised as sucrose/H(+) symporters. Transporters functioning to efflux sucrose into source or sink apoplasms as well as those supporting sucrose/H(+) antiport on tonoplasts, remain to be identified. Sucrose transporter expression and activity is tightly regulated at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional as well as post-translational levels. Light quality and phytohormones play essential regulatory roles and the sucrose molecule itself functions as a signal.
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