The evolution of disparity between the regular and variant phloem in Bignonieae (Bignoniaceae)

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American Journal of Botany


Premise of the study: The phloem is a plant tissue with a critical role in plant nutrition and signaling. However, little is still known about the evolution of this tissue. In lianas of the Bignoniaceae, two distinct types of phloem coexist: a regular and a variant phloem. The cells associated with these two phloem types are known to be anatomically different; however, it is still unclear what steps were involved in the evolution of such differences. Methods: Here we studied the anatomical development of the regular and variant phloem in representatives of all 21 genera of Bignonieae and used a phylogenetic framework to investigate the timing of changes associated with the evolution of each phloem type. Key results: We found that the variant phloem always appears in a determinate location, between the leaf orthostichies. Furthermore, the variant phloem was mostly occupied by very wide sieve tubes and generally included a higher concentration of fibers, indicating an increase in conduction and mechanical support. On the other hand, the regular phloem included much more parenchyma, more and wider rays, and tiny sieve tubes that resembled terminal sieve tubes from plants with seasonal formation of vascular tissues; these findings suggest reduced conduction and higher storage capacity in the regular phloem. Conclusions: Overall, differences between the regular and variant phloem increased over time, leading to further specialization in conduction in the variant phloem and an increase in storage specialization in the regular phloem.

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