J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2013, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (4): 294-388.DOI: 10.1111/jipb.12041

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The plant vascular system: Evolution, development and functions

William J. Lucas1*, Andrew Groover2, Raffael Lichtenberger3, Kaori Furuta3, Shri-Ram Yadav3, Ykä Helariutta3, Xin-Qiang He4, Hiroo Fukuda5, Julie Kang6, Siobhan M. Brady1, John W. Patrick7, John Sperry8, Akiko Yoshida1, Ana-Flor López-Millón9, Michael A. Grusak10 and Pradeep Kachroo11   

  1. 1Dept. of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
    2US Forest Service, Pacific SW Res Stn, Institute for Forest Genetics, Davis, CA 95618, USA
    3Institute of Biotechnology/Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, FIN-00014, Finland
    4State Key Laboratory of Protein and Plant Gene Research, College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    5Dept. of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan
    6Biology Department, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA, USA
    7School of Environmental and Life Sciences, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia
    8Biology Department, University of Utah, 257S 1400E Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
    9Plant Nutrition Department, Aula Dei Experimental Station (CSIC), P.O. Box 13034, E-50080, Zaragoza, Spain
    10USDA-ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center, Dept. of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, 1100 Bates Street, Houston, TX 77030, USA
    11Dept. of Plant Pathology, College of Agriculture, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546, USA
  • Received:2013-01-20 Accepted:2013-02-19 Published:2013-04-01
  • About author:*Corresponding author Tel: +1 530 752 1093; Fax: +1 530 752 5410; E-mail: wjlucas@ucdavis.edu


The emergence of the tracheophyte-based vascular system of land plants had major impacts on the evolution of terrestrial biology, in general, through its role in facilitating the development of plants with increased stature, photosynthetic output, and ability to colonize a greatly expanded range of environmental habitats. Recently, considerable progress has been made in terms of our understanding of the developmental and physiological programs involved in the formation and function of the plant vascular system. In this review, we first examine the evolutionary events that gave rise to the tracheophytes, followed by analysis of the genetic and hormonal networks that cooperate to orchestrate vascular development in the gymnosperms and angiosperms. The two essential functions performed by the vascular system, namely the delivery of resources (water, essential mineral nutrients, sugars and amino acids) to the various plant organs and provision of mechanical support are next discussed. Here, we focus on critical questions relating to structural and physiological properties controlling the delivery of material through the xylem and phloem. Recent discoveries into the role of the vascular system as an effective long-distance communication system are next assessed in terms of the coordination of developmental, physiological and defense-related processes, at the whole-plant level. A concerted effort has been made to integrate all these new findings into a comprehensive picture of the state-of-the-art in the area of plant vascular biology. Finally, areas important for future research are highlighted in terms of their likely contribution both to basic knowledge and applications to primary industry.

Lucas WJ, Groover A, Lichtenberger R, Furuta K, Yadav SR, Helariutta Y, He XQ, Fukuda H, Kang J, Brady SM, Patrick JW, Sperry J, Yoshida A, L´ opez-Mill´an AF, Grusak MA, Kachroo P (2013) The plant vascular system: Evolution, development and functions. J. Integr. Plant Biol. 55(4), 294–388.

Key words: Evolution, vascular development, phloem, xylem, nutrient delivery, long-distance communication, systemic signaling

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