Sieve Tube - Plant Anatomy

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Sieve Tube and Sieve Cell: Parts of Phloem

The plant anatomy of the higher class plants such as angiosperms and gymnosperms contains an excellent system of transportation of water and organic compounds. One of the prime tissues that constitute this transportation system is the phloem. This tissue is made of a cluster of sieve tubes and other complex cells to cater to the functions. In this segment, we will learn more about sieve cells, their anatomy, and important functions. We will also study how these complex tissues for the transportation of organic compounds originate.


Sieve Tube Elements: A Short Introduction

A seed-producing plant has higher-level anatomy than the rest of the primitive species. The anatomy can be properly segmented based on the different types of tissues found in the systems. One such system runs through the entire plant body and is responsible for the transportation of water and organic compounds. These tissues are widely divided into two segments, xylem, and phloem. Phloem is made of different components. One such component is the sieve tube. These tubes are connected to each other and run from the roots to the leaves. Let us define the sieve tube elements first.


Sieve tubes are the prime constituent cells of the phloem tissue system of angiosperms and higher-level gymnosperms. These tissues developed from the meristematic tissues as the plant grows. Phloem is made of two types of cells mainly. They are sieve cells and companion cells. These are living cells present in the transportation tissues that actively multiple throughout the lifespan of a plant and aid in transporting active organic compounds in the entire anatomy. This is the reason why these cells originate from meristems that are present in almost every growing part of a plant. In this context, we will have to understand the difference between sieve tubes and sieve cells.


What are Sieve Cells?

Sieve elements were discovered by Theodor Hartig in the year 1837. The physiology of these elements was later clearly defined with the advancement in microscope technology. Multiple studies later suggested that there are two different types of sieve elements to understand. Sieve cells are elongated conducting cells with similar functions. They are not similar to the sieve tubes as they do are accompanied by sieve plates. They are also narrower but longer than sieve tubes. They are associated with the albuminous cells that store water and nutrients for nourishing the adjacent cells in the phloem tissue. They also help in maintaining a proper flow of organic compounds to the entire plant physiology.


If we consider the presence of these cells, you will find them in abundance in the gymnosperms. Angiosperms, on the other hand, have complex sieve members whereas gymnosperms only have sieve cells associated with the albuminous cells. They lack companion cells and sieve plates but perform the same functions. The function of sieve cells is to conduct active organic compounds and nutrition to the rest of the tissues spread throughout the plant system. They have narrower pores and are evenly distributed in this transportation tissue. Seedless plants have these cells as the prime constituent of phloem.


What are Sieve Tubes?

A sieve tube is a prime component of the phloem tissue present in the angiosperms. These cells are accompanied by companion cells forming an elegant transportation system to deliver carbohydrates and other organic compounds to the rest of the plant parts. Sieve tubes and companion cells are dominantly present in this tissue. These cells are living but do not have a nucleus. The entire space is used for the transportation of nutrients. This is where the companion cells function to support these tubes. The tubes do not have ribosomes to synthesize protein. Hence, all the functions managed by ribosomes and the nucleus are done by the companion cells adjacent to sieve tubes.


When you think it carefully, there must be a proper connection between the sieve tubes and companion cells in the phloem tissue. The former needs the support of the latter. On observing closely, you will find small connections or channels on the adjacent walls of these plant cells. They are called plasmodesmata. A sieve tube is connected with the adjacent companion cells via these channels to get proper nutrition, protein, and other organic compounds for functioning. These channels eventually become sieve plates in due course of time.


On properly analyzing the phloem sieve tubes, you will observe that these sieve-tube members are arranged from one end to the other longitudinally. They form sieve tubes by connecting with each other vertically. Due to this arrangement, these cells can transport organic compounds after facing a minimum resistance from the walls.


Functions of Sieve Tube Members

The sieve tube cells form into longitudinal pipes with no nucleus and ribosomes. It means they act as hollow pipes to transport necessary organic material to the entire plant anatomy. The same happens to the sieve cells. A vertical connection is maintained to function as the primary connection for material transport in the plant anatomy.


You will be astonished to know that the anatomy of these cells changes with the changes in the plant anatomy, growth patterns, etc but the sieve tube function remains the same throughout the lifecycle.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is a Sieve Plate?

A sieve plate is a sieve tube element that forms from the maturity of plasmodesmata, the connection between sieve tubes and companion cells. You will find these plates in mature phloem tissues running vertically from one adjacent cell to the other.

2. What is the Prime Function of Sieve Tubes?

The prime function of the sieve tubes is to maintain support and aid the material transport system in phloem and to maintain the connection between the adjacent cells. They have lost their nuclei to provide more space for material transport.

3. What is the Basic Sieve Plate Function?

Sieve plates are the connection between the adjacent tissue cells of phloem. They help in passing food and other important organic materials to the sieve tubes to ensure proper growth and functioning. They form from matured plasmodesmata over time and also provide support to the phloem tissue.