Computational Models Evaluating the Impact of Sieve Plates and Radial Water Exchange on Phloem Pressure Gradients

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Plant, Cell and Environment

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The sugar conducting phloem in angiosperms is a high resistance pathway made up of sieve elements bounded by sieve plates. The high resistance generated by sieve plates may be a trade‐off for promoting quick sealing in the event of injury. However, previous modeling efforts have demonstrated a wide variation in the contribution of sieve plates towards total sieve tube resistance. In the current study, we generated high resolution scanning electron microscope images of sieve plates from balsam poplar and integrated them into a mathematical model using Comsol Multiphysics software. We found that sieve plates contribute upwards of 85% towards total sieve tube resistance. Utilizing the Navier–Stokes equations, we found that oblong pores may create over 50% more resistance in comparison with round pores of the same area. Although radial water flows in phloem sieve tubes have been previously considered, their impact on alleviating pressure gradients has not been fully studied. Our novel simulations find that radial water flow can reduce pressure requirements by half in comparison with modeled sieve tubes with no radial permeability. We discuss the implication that sieve tubes may alleviate pressure requirements to overcome high resistances by regulating their membrane permeability along the entire transport pathway.


Comsol Multiphysics; Münch hypothesis; Navier–Stokes; Permeable membranes; Phloem model; Phloem sap transport; Radial water exchange; Sieve plates


Life Sciences



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