Phelipanche aegyptiaca parasitizes a wide range of plants, including important crops, and causes serious damage to their production. P. aegyptiaca develops a specialized intrusive organ called a haustorium that establishes connections to the host's xylem and phloem. In parallel with the development of xylem vessels, the differentiation of phloem-conducting cells has been demonstrated by the translocation of symplasmic tracers from the host to the parasite. However, it is unclear yet whether haustorial phloem-conducting cells are sieve elements. In this study, we identified phloem-conducting cells in haustoria by the host-to-parasite translocation of green fluorescent protein (GFP) from AtSUC2pro::GFP tomato sieve tubes. Haustorial GFP-conducting cells contained nuclei but not callose-rich sieve plates, indicating that phloem-conducting cells in haustoria differ from conventional sieve elements. To ascertain why the nuclei were not degenerated, expression of the P. aegyptiaca homologs NAC-domain containing transcription factor (NAC45), NAC45/86-dependent exonuclease-domain protein 1 (NEN1), and NEN4 was examined. However, these genes were more highly expressed in the haustorium than in tubercle protrusion, implying that nuclear degradation in haustoria may not be exclusively controlled by the NAC45/86-NEN regulatory pathway. Our results also suggest that the formation of plasmodesmata with large size exclusion limits is independent of nuclear degradation and callose deposition.
Keywords: NAC45; NEN1; NEN4; Phelipanche aegyptiaca; haustorium; phloem; sieve element.