Plant Science Innovation, Center for


Date of this Version



The Plant Cell, Vol. 23: February 2011, pp.769–784.


Copyright 2011 American Society of Plant Biologists. Used by permission.


Zeins, the prolamin storage proteins found in maize (Zea mays), accumulate in accretions called protein bodies inside the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of starchy endosperm cells. We found that genes encoding zeins, a-globulin, and legumin-1 are transcribed not only in the starchy endosperm but also in aleurone cells. Unlike the starchy endosperm, aleurone cells accumulate these storage proteins inside protein storage vacuoles (PSVs) instead of the ER. Aleurone PSVs contain zeinrich protein inclusions, a matrix, and a large system of intravacuolar membranes. After being assembled in the ER, zeins are delivered to the aleurone PSVs in atypical prevacuolar compartments that seem to arise at least partially by autophagy and consist of multilayered membranes and engulfed cytoplasmic material. The zein-containing prevacuolar compartments are neither surrounded by a double membrane nor decorated by AUTOPHAGY RELATED8 protein, suggesting that they are not typical autophagosomes. The PSV matrix contains glycoproteins that are trafficked through a Golgi-multivesicular body (MVB) pathway. MVBs likely fuse with the multilayered, autophagic compartments before merging with the PSV. The presence of similar PSVs also containing prolamins and large systems of intravacuolar membranes in wheat (Triticum aestivum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) starchy endosperm suggests that this trafficking mechanism may be common among cereals.