Journal Article

On the mechanisms of nectar secretion: revisited

A. E. Vassilyev

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 105, issue 3, pages 349-354
Published in print March 2010 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online January 2010 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
On the mechanisms of nectar secretion: revisited

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Scope

Models of nectar formation and exudation in multilayered nectaries with modified stomata or permeable cuticle are evaluated. In the current symplasmic model the pre-nectar moves from terminal phloem through the symplasm into the apoplasm (cell walls and intercellular spaces) with nectar formation by either granulocrine or eccrine secretion and its diffusion outwards. It is concluded, however, that no secretory granules are actually produced by the endoplasmic reticulum, and that secretory Golgi vesicles are not involved in the transport of nectar sugar. Therefore, the concept of granulocrine secretion of nectar should be discarded. The specific function of the endomembrane system in nectary cells remains unknown. According to the apoplasmic model, the pre-nectar moves from the terminal phloem in the apoplasm and, on the way, is transformed from phloem sap into nectar. However, viewed ultrastructurally, the unloading (terminal) phloem of nectaries appears to be less active than that of the leaf minor veins, and is therefore not actively involved in the secretion of pre-nectar components into the apoplasm. This invalidates the apoplasmic model. Neither model provides an explanation for the origin of the driving force for nectar discharge.


A new model is proposed in which nectar moves by a pressure-driven mass flow in the nectary apoplasm while pre-nectar sugars diffuse from the sieve tubes through the symplasm to the secretory cells, where nectar is formed and sugars cross the plasma membrane by active transport (‘eccrine secretion’). The pressure originates as the result of water influx in the apoplasm from the symplasm along the sugar concentration gradient. It follows from this model that there can be no combinations of apoplasmic and symplasmic pre-nectar movements. The mass-flow mechanism of nectar exudation appears to be universal and applicable to all nectaries irrespective of their type, morphology and anatomy, presence or absence of modified stomata, and their own vascular system.

Keywords: Apoplasm; nectar secretion mechanism; nectary; phloem unloading

Journal Article.  2716 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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