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What is Symplast?

MVSAT 2024

All plants consist of symplast which is the interior of the plasma membrane where water and other low- molecular solutes like amino acids, sugars, and other ions between cells are freely disseminated. It is also called the protoplast in the plant. Simplast’ cells consist of more than one nucleus. It is the plasmodesmata that make sure that all the small molecules freely move and flow whereas the molecules larger in sizes such as plant viruses and transcription factors can be dispersed with acting structures. This ensures that there is a cytoplasm-to-cytoplasm transport of water and minerals which also include concentration gradients. Mainly it is used to bring all the nutrients from the soil through the root systems. It transports these solutes with the help of cortex from the epidermis cells inside the endodermis.

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When the transportation starts, the solutes extend to the endodermal cells by the way of apoplastic transport. Then these solutes are pushed into the Symplastic pathway because of the occupancy of the Casparian strip. When all the solutes are peaceably processed then they lastly reach the pericycle. From the pericycle, they are shifted to the xylem where the long-distance transport happens. Xylem transport is very much different from the apoplastic flow because it uses cell wall transport.

Explain Transportation in Plants: Xylem and Phloem Transport

The transportation in plants is carried out by two main tissues which carry out transport of food and minerals in plants. In this next section we will explain xylem and phloem.


The work of xylem transport is the transport of water and minerals from the roots upwards to the different parts of the plant. Xylem transport water to all the parts of the plant. On the other hand, all the amino acids and sucrose is transported using the phloem transport to the other parts of the plant. Mature xylem incorporates many elongated dead cells which are positioned from end to end to form a continuous vessel or tube. To transport water in plants various tubes are used.

Mature Xylem Tubes:

  • Accommodates no cytoplasm.

  • Are resistant to water.

  • Have strong walls which have lignin that is like a woody material.

Xylem transport in plants is very prominent since a single tree consists of many xylem tissues. This way you can define transportation in plants.


Now, as compared to xylem the phloem has living cells that are positioned end to end. Phloem consists of cytoplasm that moves from one cell to another through different holes. 

The phloem transports different amino acids and sucrose up and down in the plant. This process takes place between the sources and the sinks. It is like where the substances are produced and where they are utilized or deposited. This whole process is called translocation. The xylem transport and phloem transport is essential in the growth of the plant.

This means, for example,

  • The sucrose is transported from sources that are inside the root to the sinks which are inside the leaf. This usually happens during springtime

  • In summer, the sucrose is transported from the sources that are in the leaves to the sinks that are in the roots.

When chemicals are applied like the pesticides, they move inside the plant by translocation. Phloem is also used to transport water in plants.

Vascular Bundle

During the whole process of transportation in plants, Xylem and Phloem tissues are found in clusters also known as vascular bundles. The position of the vascular bundles is different in different plants. Xylem and phloem in leaf, for example, can usually be found closer to the lower part of the plant.

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The Apoplast, Symplast, and Transmembrane Route

Now, the transport of water and minerals in plants is done through the Xylem and Phloem vessels as we saw above, various pathways that are used to pass the water to the xylem vessels.

The right transportation of food in plants decides the growth of a plant. The root of every plant is made in such a way that it helps in the transport of water in plants along with other solutes. To transport minerals in plants along with water, two major compartments are involving – the apoplastic and symplastic pathways.

What is the Apoplast Pathway?

The apoplastic pathway allows the transport of materials in plants into the cell walls and extracellular spaces. Xylem transport plays its part in the transportation process. This is exactly what is meant by apoplast pathway.

What is the Symplast Pathway?

In the symplastic pathway, the solutes and water progress along the cytosol. When the transport of substances in plants reaches this pathway, the materials are required to traverse the plasma membrane when moving from one cell to the other. This process is done via the plasmodesmata.

What is the Transmembrane Route?

In the transmembrane route, the water and dissolved minerals disperse from one cell to another by going through the cell wall to move out of one cell and enter into another. Phloem transport plays its part in the transportation process.

These 3 pathways or routes are not totally exclusive from one another, the transport of minerals in plants may use more than one pathway if required.

Fun Fact

Though symplast and apoplast are mutually existing parts of the plants, the symplast is the living part of the plant whereas the apoplast is the nonliving part of the plant. 

And even though the apoplast has non-living parts, it's a faster pathway as compared to the apoplast. Also, Xylem and Phloem differ in various ways, still they both transport water in plants.

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FAQs on Symplast

1. What is the Difference Between Symplast and Apoplast?

The symplast consists of intercellular spaces along with the cell wall whereas the apoplast has protoplasm. When it comes to transportation in plants, the metabolic state of the two is different. In the apoplast, there is no result on the movement of water whereas in symplast the flow of water is interfered by the metabolic state in the symplastic pathway. The transportation of various components also differs such as water and ions are transported from the apoplastic pathway to the cortex whereas it is delivered through the symplastic pathway beyond the cortex. Therefore, play Symplast and Apoplast a vital role in the transport in plant biology.

2. How is Water Transported in Plants?

The food prepared by the process of photosynthesis is transported through phloem in the plants. For transportation in plants, the phloem tissue is responsible for this movement from the leaves to different areas of the plant. When the energy from the ATP is utilized the transportation of food in the phloem is successful. For example, by the usage of ATP energy, the material sucrose is moved into the phloem tissue. Xylem transport and Phloem transport are also used to transport water through their own unique ways. Xylem and Phloem are the 2 most important parts of the cell as they are directly responsible for the distribution of food throughout the plant.

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