Radial-axial transport coordination enhances sugar translocation in the phloem vasculature of plants

Journal Article

Mass transport of photosynthates in the phloem of plants is necessary for describing plant carbon allocation, productivity, and responses to water and thermal stress. Several hypotheses about optimization of phloem structure and function and limitations of phloem transport under drought have been proposed, and tested with models and anatomical data. However, the true impact of radial water exchange of phloem conduits with their surroundings on mass transport of photosynthates has not been addressed. Here, the physics of the Munch mechanism of sugar transport is re-evaluated to include local variations in viscosity resulting from the radial water exchange in two dimensions (axial and radial). Model results show that radial water exchange pushes sucrose away from conduit walls thereby reducing wall frictional stress due to a decrease in sap viscosity and an increase in sugar concentration in the central region of the conduit. These two co-occurring effects lead to increased sugar front speed and axial mass transport across a wide range of phloem conduit lengths. Thus, sugar transport operates more efficiently than predicted by previous models that ignore these two effects. A faster front speed leads to higher phloem resiliency under drought because more sugar can be transported with a smaller pressure gradient.


The overall speed of sap increased by including a concentrationdependent viscosity in axial and radial directions.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Nakad, M; Domec, J-C; Sevanto, S; Katul, G

Published Date

  • 2021

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1101/2021.09.24.461704