Apoplast Transport vs. Symplast Transport: What's the Difference?

Key Difference

The transport of minerals and water in the plants is an essential process, which is mainly carried by the Xylem tissues. As we know that roots soak the water and the other water from there is transported to all the parts of the plant. Root hairs are mainly held responsible for this absorption of water. The process of uptake of water from the roots of the plant is known as absorption.  From xylem tubes to cortical cells, pericycle, and passage cells, the absorbed water gets passed through these cells to reach the different parts of the plants. In 1949, a German scientist, Max Kramer proposed the two mechanisms of the water absorption, which he named active absorption and passive absorption. The passive absorption takes place through the apoplast of root or the available free spaces.  Apoplast comprises of the cell wall and intercellular spaces. Apoplast is the space outside the plasma membrane, and it doesn’t include the protoplasm. The process of water absorption and transportation taking place through the intercellular spaces and cell wall is called apoplast transport. On the other hand, the water transportation and absorption in which living protoplasm is involved and the water enters to the cell sap and later passes from one cell to another is called symplast transport.

Comparison Chart

Apoplast Transport Symplast Transport
Definition The process of water absorption and transportation taking place through the intercellular spaces and cell wall is called apoplast transport. The water transportation and absorption in which living protoplasm is involved and the water enters to the cell sap and later passes from one cell to another is called symplast transport.
Carriers The apoplast transport involves the cell wall and the intercellular spaces. Symplast transport depends upon the cytoplasm of the plant cells.
Time The transportation of water and ions is faster in apoplast transport. Slightly slower.
Metabolic State of the Root Apoplast transport doesn’t get affected by the metabolic state of the root. Symplast transport directly gets affected with the metabolic state of the root.
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What is Apoplast Transport?

Apoplast transport is the passive type of absorption done by the plants, the water from the roots moves upward through the apoplast of root and other available free spaces. The main carriers of this type of transport are cell wall and intercellular spaces. As the carriers are complexly permeable, the process of absorption is faster in apoplast transport as compared to the active transport (symplast transport). The apoplast transport is based on non-living parts of the cell, and it doesn’t get affected by the metabolic state of the root. The water can reach up to the endodermis using this type of transport, for passing through the endodermis process symplast transport is required. It should be kept mentioned here that apoplast is the space present outside the cell wall, it comprises of the cell wall and intercellular spaces. The transportation done in the plants using the carriers mentioned above is called the apoplast transport.

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What is Symplast Transport?

Symplast transport is the active type of absorption done by the plants, the water from the roots first enters to the cell sap and later get passes from one cell to another. The transport in the plants in which living protoplasm is involved is known as the symplast transport. The symplast transport does not involve the cell wall and the intercellular spaces; it heavily depends upon the cytoplasm of the plant cells, which are interconnected with the plasmodesmata. As it involves the living parts of the cell, it directly gets affected with the metabolic state of the root. As compared to the apoplast transport, symplast transport is slightly a slower process.

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Apoplast Transport vs. Symplast Transport

  • The process of water absorption and transportation taking place through the intercellular spaces and cell wall is called apoplast transport. On the other hand, the water transportation and absorption in which living protoplasm is involved and the water enters to the cell sap and later passes from one cell to another is called symplast transport.
  • The apoplast transport involves the cell wall and the intercellular spaces, whereas symplast transport depends upon the cytoplasm of the plant cells.
  • The transportation of water and ions is faster in apoplast transport as compared to the active transport (symplast transport).
  • Apoplast transport doesn’t get affected by the metabolic state of the root, on the other hand, symplast transport directly gets affected with the metabolic state of the root.

Explanatory Video

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