The fine structure of plastids and their starch deposits in differentiating sieve elements was studied in bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). Ultrastructural cytochemistry employing two carbohydrases specific for different linkages was then used to compare the chemical nature of "sieve tube starch" (the starch deposited in sieve elements) with that of the ordinary starch of other cell types. Hypocotyl tissue from seedlings was fixed in glutaraldehyde, postfixed in osmium tetroxide, and embedded in Epon-Araldite. Treatment of thin sections on uncoated copper grids with α-amylase or diastase at pH 6.8 to cleave α-(1 → 4) bonds resulted in digestion of ordinary starch grains but not sieve element grains, as determined by electron microscopy. Since α-(1 → 6) branch points in amylopectin-type starches make the adjacent α-(1 → 4) linkages somewhat resistant to hydrolysis by α-amylase, other sections mounted on bare copper or gold grids were treated with pullulanase (a bacterial α-[1 → 6] glucosidase) prior to digestion with diastase. Pullulanase did not digest sieve element starch, but rendered the starch digestible subsequently by α-amylase. Diastase followed by pullulanase did not result in digestion. The results provide evidence that sieve element starch is composed of highly branched molecules with numerous α-(1 → 6) linkages.

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