A cytochemical study of the leaf-gland enzymes of insectivorous plants of the genus Pinguicula

Planta. 1971 Sep;96(3):183-211. doi: 10.1007/BF00387439.


Cytochemical methods have been used to study the distribution of acid phosphatase, esterase, ribonuclease, amylase and protease activity in the stimulated and unstimulated leaf glands of Pinguicula grandiflora, P. vulgaris, P. lusitanica, and P. caudata. Two gland types are present, stalked and sessile. The stalked glands bear a muco-polysaccharide secretion droplet, and are concerned with capture of the prey; the sessile glands are specialised for digestion. In unstimulated glands of both classes, acid phosphatase, esterase and ribonuclease activity is associated with the anticlinal walls of the head cells, which have a characteristic spongy inner surface, comparable with that of transfer cells. Acid phosphatase and esterase activity was also detected in the vacuoles of the head cells of the sessile glands. Substrate film tests showed that amylase is readily released from the stalked glands but not from the sessile ones, while in contrast proteolytic activity is mainly associated with the sessile glands.On stimulation by suitable nitrogenous materials, the glands begin to sectete fluid onto the leaf surface within 1 hr. During the process the enzymes held in the spongy walls are discharged, and activity is also lost from the intracellular sites in the sessile glands.Digestion on the leaf surface and resorption of the products has been followed autoradiographically after feeding of (14)C-labelled protein. Within 2 hr, digestion products enter the leaf, and move towards the margin in the vascular system. Movement out of the leaf begins within 12 hr. Microautoradiographs showed a concentration of products around the bases of the sessile glands and in the cells of the gland head, showing that these glands are involved in resorption as well as secretion.A possible mechanism of gland function is discussed.