News Release

Savoring the sweetness: Unraveling pineapple's SWEET10 as a glucose transporter

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nanjing Agricultural University The Academy of Science


image: Three-dimensional structures of SWEET proteins. In the figure, the numbers i, ii, iii and iv represent AtSWEET8, AcSWEET6, AcSWEET8, and AcSWEET10 proteins, respectively. view more 

Credit: Horticulture Research

In a groundbreaking research study, Professor Yuan Qin’s group has harnessed the cutting-edge AlphaFold technology to unveil the hidden secrets of sugar transporter proteins, known as SWEET (Sugars Will Eventually be Exported Transporters). While previous studies mainly relied on linear protein sequences to understand the conservation of these transporters across various organisms, this innovative research plunged into the three-dimensional structures and substrate binding capacities of these vital proteins. They used AlphaFold in a groundbreaking approach to understand the functionality of transporter proteins. By examining the 3D structures and functional capacities of these proteins, the group unlocked a new dimension of knowledge that was previously inaccessible through traditional methods.

The study focused on expanding our understanding of sugar transporters, with a particular emphasis on their roles in economically vital fruit crop pineapple, which have not been extensively studied. Using AlphaFold they noticed that Arabidopsis SWEET8, a glucose transporter, shares a remarkable structural similarity with pineapple SWEET10. To put this newfound knowledge to the test, a heterologous transport assay was conducted, revealing that both Arabidopsis SWEET8 and pineapple SWEET10 possess similar glucose transport capabilities. In contrast, structurally dissimilar pineapple transporters, SWEET6 and SWEET8, were found to be incapable of transporting glucose. Moreover, Arabidopsis sweet8 mutant has pollen growth defects, which is not complemented by structurally dissimilar pineapple SWEET6 and SWEET8 transporters. However, the breakthrough moment arrived when the researchers attempted to restore the Arabidopsis sweet8 mutant phenotype with structurally similar pineapple SWEET10. BINGO!!! pineapple SWEET10 not only complemented the pollen phenotype of Atsweet8, but also the viable seed number phenotype.

This study paves the way for a deeper understanding of sugar transporters, offering the potential for improved crop breeding and agricultural practices. The utilization of AlphaFold in structural-based functional studies opens new avenues for research in the field of protein biology.  The revelation of structural similarities and functional differences among these proteins has profound implications for plant biology and agriculture. This study not only showcases the power of AlphaFold but also underscores the importance of 3D structural analysis in unraveling the mysteries of essential biological processes. It is a leap forward in our quest to comprehend the inner workings of the natural world. Overall, these findings have important implications for understanding plant physiology and metabolism and developing strategies to improve crop yield and quality.

The article “Pineapple SWEET10 is a glucose transporter” has been published in Horticulture Research. 




Beenish Fakher1,2 , M. Arif Ashraf 3 , Lulu Wang1,2 , Xiaomei Wang4 , Ping Zheng2,5 , Mohammad Aslam2,5,* and Yuan Qin1,2,*


1. State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Subtropical Agro-Bioresources, Guangxi Key Lab of Sugarcane Biology, College of Agriculture, Guangxi, University, Nanning 530004, Guangxi, China

2. College of Life Sciences, Key Laboratory of Genetics, Breeding and Multiple Utilization of Crops, Ministry of Education, Fujian Provincial Key Laboratory of Haixia Applied Plant Systems Biology, College of Agriculture, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fuzhou, Fujian 350002, China

3. Department of Biology, Howard University, Washington DC 20059, USA

4. Horticulture Research Institute, Guangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Nanning Investigation Station of South Subtropical Fruit Trees, Ministry of Agriculture, Nanning 530004, China

5. Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Saint Louis, MO 63132, USA

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