Developing seeds are net importers of organic and inorganic nutrients. Nutrients enter seeds through the maternal vascular system at relatively high concentrations in the phloem. They exit importing sieve elements via interconnecting plasmodesmata and, during subsequent symplasmic passage, are sequestered into labile storage pools (vacuoles; starch). Transporters function to retrieve nutrients leaked to the seed apoplasm during symplasmic passage. Maternal cells responsible for nutrient release to the seed apoplasm are characteristically located at the maternal/filial interface. Their plasma membranes are enriched in transport proteins and, in some species, these cells are modified to a transfer cell morphology. Apoplasmic volumes of seeds are relatively small, but contain high concentrations of sugars, potassium and a range of amino acids. Sucrose and amino acids are taken up from the seed apoplasm by one to two cell layers of filial tissues that juxtapose the maternal tissues. The plasma membranes of the uptake cells are enriched in sucrose and amino acid/H⁺ transporters which co-localize with H⁺-ATPases. In some species, these cells are modified to a transfer cell morphology. High densities of plasmodesmata support symplasmic delivery of accumulated nutrients to underlying storage cells where polymer formation (starch, protein) takes place. Hexoses, resulting from sucrose hydrolysis and leakage to the seed apoplasm, are retrieved by hexose/H⁺ symporters.
Journal of Experimental Botany Vol. 52, no. 356, p. 551-564