An ontogenetic study of the sieve element protoplast of Nicotiana tabacum L. by light and electron microscopy has shown that the P-protein component (slime) arises as small groups of tubules in the cytoplasm. These subsequently enlarge to form comparatively large compact masses of 231 ± 2.5 (SE)A (n = 121) tubules, the P-protein bodies. During subsequent differentiation of the sieve element, the P-protein body disaggregates and the tubules become dispersed throughout the cell. This disaggregation occurs at about the same stage of differentiation of the sieve elements as the breakdown of the tonoplast and nucleus. Later, the tubules of P-protein are reorganized into smaller striated 149 ± 4.5 (SE)A (n = 43) fibrils which are characteristic of the mature sieve elements. The tubular P-protein component has been designated P1-protein and the striated fibrillar component P2-protein. In fixed material, the sieve-plate pores of mature sieve elements are filled with proteinaceous material which frays out into the cytoplasm as striated fibrils of P2-protein. Our observations are compatible with the view that the contents of contiguous mature sieve elements, including the P-protein, are continuous through the sieve-plate pores and that fixing solutions denature the proteins in the pores. They are converted into the electron-opaque material filling the pores.

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