The long distance transport of Fe and Zn in the phloem sap of wheat (Triticum aestivum
L.) is the key route for seed supply, due to wheat having a xylem discontinuity. To date, our knowledge is limited on Fe and Zn homeostasis in the phloem sap during the reproductive and grain filling stages. With the use of aphid stylectomy to collect samples of phloem sap, we explored maturity and morning versus afternoon (within-day) changes in nutrient and metabolite profiles. Phloem exudate was collected from a wheat breeding line, SAMNYT16, at three times during the grain filling period and at both midday and mid-afternoon. There were significant changes in the concentration of Mg, K, Fe and Zn during the course of grain loading and there were also significant within-day differences for Fe and K concentrations in the phloem exudate during the early phases of grain development. We found that, for K and Fe, there was an increase of 1.1- and 1.4-fold, respectively, for samples taken prior to midday to those from mid-afternoon. There was also a significant decrease in K, Fe and Zn phloem sap concentration of 1.5-, 1.4- and 1.1-fold, respectively, from the start of peak grain loading to the end of grain loading. Of the 79 metabolites detected within samples of phloem exudate, 43 had significant maturity differences and 38 had significant within-day variability. Glutamine was found to increase by 3.3–5.9-fold from midday to mid-afternoon and citric acid was found to decrease by 1.6-fold from the start of grain loading to the end of grain loading. These two metabolites are of interest as they can complex metal ions and may play a role in long distance transport of metal ions. The work presented here gives further insight into the complex composition of the phloem sap and variability that can occur during the day and also with increasing maturity.
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