When SWEETs Turn Tweens: Updates and Perspectives

Xueyi Xue, Jiang Wang, Diwakar Shukla, Lily S. Cheung, and Li-Qing Chen
Annual Review of Plant Biology, Vol. 73, Issue 1, 2022

Sugar translocation between cells and between subcellular compartments in plants requires either plasmodesmata or a diverse array of sugar transporters. Interactions between plants and associated microorganisms also depend on sugar transporters. The sugars will eventually be exported transporter (SWEET) family is made up of conserved and essential transporters involved in many critical biological processes. The functional significance and small size of these proteins have motivated crystallographers to successfully capture several structures of SWEETs and their bacterial homologs in different conformations. These studies together with molecular dynamics simulations have provided unprecedented insights into sugar transport mechanisms in general and into substrate recognition of glucose and sucrose in particular. This review summarizes our current understanding of the SWEET family, from the atomic to the whole-plant level. We cover methods used for their characterization, theories about their evolutionary origins, biochemical properties, physiological functions, and regulation. We also include perspectives on the future work needed to translate basic research into higher crop yields.

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