Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Starch-to-sugar conversion in wood parenchyma of field-growing Laurus nobilis plants: a component of the signal pathway for embolism repair?

Sebastiano Salleo A , Patrizia Trifilò B , Sara Esposito B , Andrea Nardini A and Maria A. Lo Gullo B C

A Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita, Università di Trieste, Via L. Giorgieri 10, 34127 Trieste, Italia.

B Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita, ‘M. Malpighi’ sezione Botanica, Università di Messina, Salita Sperone 31, 98166 Messina, S. Agata, Italia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 36(9) 815-825
Submitted: 7 May 2009  Accepted: 19 July 2009   Published: 3 September 2009


The ability of stems of Laurus nobilis (L.) to refill embolised xylem conduits was studied in plants both at optimal water supply (W) and under conditions of soil drought inducing xylem pressures (Px) of –1.54 (S1) and –2.35 MPa (S2). Starch depolymerisation in wood parenchyma was measured as percentage of cells ‘with high starch content’ (HSC-cells) counted under a microscope. HSC-cells decreased during embolism and increased again in refilled stems. A direct relationship was found between percentage of HSC-cells and Px, with HSC-cells between 65 and 75% of the total at Px ≥ –0.6 MPa, at which recovery from PLC was recorded. At low transpiration, starch re-appeared in wood parenchyma cells but only in plants that showed diurnal stomatal opening (W- and S1-plants). In S2-plants showing diurnal stomatal closure and nocturnal opening with Px between –1.2 to –2.4 MPa, HSC-cells were only 25% and plants did not recover from PLC. This finding suggests that (i) the Px threshold for embolism repair was ≥ –0.6 MPa, and (ii) impeded phloem loading limits starch content in wood parenchyma and embolism repair. We conclude that starch depolymerisation acts as a signal to phloem unloading sugars to embolised conduits thus generating the necessary osmotic gradients driving refilling.

Additional keywords: embolism repair, Laurus nobilis, starch-to-sugar conversion, transpiration, xylem pressures.


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