Plant Endoplasmic Reticulum


The plant endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is responsible for the synthesis and often storage of a large group of proteins and lipids that enter the secretory pathway. This multifunctional organelle, which also represents one of the calcium storage compartments in plant cells, has currently received considerable attention from the research community because of features unique to plants that make it particularly interesting for biotechnology. Here, the principles behind ER dynamics in plants, and the molecular factors that control the rapid remodelling and network configuration of the organelle are discussed. Correlations between ER morphology and function indicate the potential to enhance protein storage by merely increasing the capacity of the organelle through altering its shape.

Key Concepts:

  • The endoplasmic reticulum in plants rapidly changes ‘shape’.

  • The ER is composed of a polygonal network of tubules and cisternae that readily interconvert.

  • The ER membrane shaping proteins, reticulons, affect ER curvature whereas root hair defective 3 (RHD3) may affect tubule fusion.

  • ER network movement is driven by actin and myosin in plants.

  • The ER is physically connected to Golgi bodies in plant cells.

Keywords: endoplasmic reticulum; Golgi bodies; network remodelling; movement; reticulons; RHD3

Figure 1.

ER and Golgi bodies in an Arabidopsis leaf epidermal cell. Numerous Golgi bodies (red) appear to associate with the ER (green). ER tubules (arrowhead) and cisternae (arrow) are highlighted. Scale bar 2 μm.

Figure 2.

Electron micrograph showing dilated ER due to overproduction of a heterologous protein tagged with an HDEL ER retention motif. The arrowhead highlights the surface of the ER and ribosomes that are attached. The heterologous protein is detected with specific antibodies and secondary antibodies conjugated to 10 nm colloidal gold. ER, endoplasmic reticulum; V, vacuole; CW, cell wall.

Figure 3.

Cortical ER network dynamics in tobacco leaf epidermal cells. A single image of a luminal ER marker (GFP‐HDEL) is shown (a). Two additional consecutive images of the same area of the cell were taken 10 s apart and pseudo (i.e. false) coloured blue and magenta. These images were then superimposed onto one another to indicate how much the ER remodels over a 20 s time frame (b). Note: regions in white reflect areas of the network that are present in all images and are therefore relatively static over the 20 s time frame. Scale bar 5 μm.

Figure 4.

Overexpression of RTNLB3‐eYFP with GFP‐calnexin in tobacco leaf epidermal cells. RTNLB3‐eYFP (a) locates to the ER tubules (arrow) and cisternal rims (arrowhead). GFP‐calnexin (b) is present in the ER cisternae (arrowhead), with reduced protein levels in the tubules (arrowhead; compare (b) and (d) where the signal in (d) has been increased through image processing). The merged image clearly shows RTNLB3 on the cisternal rims. Scale bar 2 μm.



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Further Reading

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Hepler PK (1982) Endoplasmic reticulum in the formation of cell plate and plasmodesmata. Protoplasma 111: 121–133.

Sparkes I, Hawes C and Frigerio L (2011) FrontiERs:movers and shapers of the higher plant cortical endoplasmic reticulum. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 14: 658–665.

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Sparkes, Imogen A(Nov 2013) Plant Endoplasmic Reticulum. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001673.pub2]