Sexual reproduction is key to creating a diverse population that secures competitiveness in nature, and evolution is based on this diversity. Plants as largely immobile organisms had to solve a problem: they needed to find ways to spread their genetic material beyond individual flowers. To make sure that flying pollinators such as insects, birds and bats come to the flowers to pick up pollen, plants evolved special organs, the nectaries, to attract and reward the animals.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena (Germany) and their colleagues from Stanford and Duluth (USA) have identified the sugar transporter that plays a key role in plants' nectar production. SWEET9 transports sugar into extracellular areas of the nectaries where nectar is secreted. Thus, SWEET9 may have been crucial for the evolution of flowering plants that attract and reward pollinators with sweet nectar. (Nature
, March 16, 2014, doi: 10.1038/nature13082)
Despite the obvious importance of nectar, the process by which plants manufacture and secrete it has remained a mystery. New research from a team led by Wolf Frommer, director of the Plant Biology Department, Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, in collaboration with the Carter lab in Minnesota and the Baldwin lab at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, now identified key components of the sugar synthesis and secretion mechanisms. Their work also suggests that the components were recruited for this purpose early during the evolution of flowering plants. Their work is published by Nature