Sugar translocation between cells and between subcellular compartments in plants requires either plasmodesmata or a diverse array of sugar transporters. Interactions between plants and associated microorganisms also depend on sugar transporters. The sugars will eventually be exported transporter (SWEET) family is made up of conserved and essential transporters involved in many critical biological processes. The functional significance and small size of these proteins have motivated crystallographers to successfully capture several structures of SWEETs and their bacterial homologs in different conformations. These studies together with molecular dynamics simulations have provided unprecedented insights into sugar transport mechanisms in general and into substrate recognition of glucose and sucrose in particular. This review summarizes our current understanding of the SWEET family, from the atomic to the whole-plant level. We cover methods used for their characterization, theories about their evolutionary origins, biochemical properties, physiological functions, and regulation. We also include perspectives on the future work needed to translate basic research into higher crop yields.
Development and quantitative analysis of a biosensor based on the Arabidopsis SWEET1 sugar transporter
SWEETs are transporters with homologs in Archeae, plants, some fungi, and animals. As the only transporters known to facilitate the cellular release of sugars in plants, SWEETs play critical roles in the allocation of sugars from photosynthetic leaves to storage tissues in seeds, fruits, and tubers. Here, we report the design and use of genetically encoded biosensors to measure the activity of SWEETs. We created a SweetTrac1 sensor by inserting a circularly permutated green fluorescent protein into the Arabidopsis SWEET1, resulting in a chimera that translates substrate binding during the transport cycle into detectable changes in fluorescence intensity. We demonstrate that a combination of cell sorting and bioinformatics can accelerate the design of biosensors and formulate a mass action kinetics model to correlate the fluorescence response of SweetTrac1 with the transport of glucose. Our analysis suggests that SWEETs are low-affinity, symmetric transporters that can rapidly equilibrate intra- and extracellular concentrations of sugars. This approach can be extended to SWEET homologs and other transporters.
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- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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- National Science Foundation
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