Wheat seed storage proteins are deposited in protein bodies (PB) inside vacuoles, but their subcellular site of aggregation and their route to vacuoles are still controversial. In the present work, an ultra structural analysis of developing wheat endosperm at early to mid maturation was performed to address these issues. Golgi complexes were rarely detected, indicating that their role in wheat storage protein transport is limited. In contrast, a considerable amount of PB was detected in the cytoplasm. Many of these PB were surrounded by RER membranes and were enlarged by fusion of smaller PB. Small, electron lucent vesicles were detected around the surfaces of the PB in the cytoplasm, or attached to them, suggesting that such attachments and subsequent fusion of the vesicles with each other lead to the formation of small vacuoles containing PB inclusions. Immunogold labeling with serum raised against yeast-BiP, an ER-localized protein, demonstrated that the wheat BiP homolog was present within the PB in the cytoplasm as well as inside vacuoles. This confirmed that the PB were formed within the RER and that the Golgi complex was not involved in their transport to vacuoles. It is concluded that a considerable part of the wheat storage proteins aggregate into PB within the RER and are then transported as intact PB to the vacuoles by a novel route that does not utilize the Golgi complex.
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