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Keywords:

  • Solanum tuberosum;
  • Solanaceae;
  • potato;
  • antisense;
  • cold sweetening;
  • sucrose;
  • sucrose phosphate synthase

Transfer of potato tubers to low temperature leads after 2–4 d to a stimulation of sucrose synthesis, a decline of hexose-phosphates and a change in the kinetic properties, and the appearance of a new form of sucrose phosphate synthase (SPS). Antisense and co-suppression transformants with a 70–80% reduction in SPS expression have been used to analyse the contribution of SPS to the control of cold sweetening. The rate of sucrose synthesis in cold-stored tubers was investigated by measuring the accumulation of sugars, by injecting labelled glucose of high specific activity into intact tubers, and by providing 50 mol m–3 labelled glucose to fresh tuber slices from cold-stored tubers. A 70–80% decrease of SPS expression resulted in a reproducible but non-proportional (10–40%) decrease of soluble sugars in cold-stored tubers, and a non-proportional (about 25%) inhibition of label incorporation into sucrose, increased labelling of respiratory intermediates and carbon dioxide, and increased labelling of glucans. The maximum activity of SPS is 50-fold higher than the net rate of sugar accumulation in wild-type tubers, and decreased expression of SPS in the transformants was partly compensated for increased levels of hexose-phosphates. It is concluded that SPS expression per se does not control sugar synthesis. Rather, a comparison of the in vitro properties of SPS with the estimated in vivo concentrations of effectors shows that SPS is strongly substrate limited in vivo. Alterations in the kinetic properties of SPS, such as occur in response to low temperature, will provide a more effective way to stimulate sucrose synthesis than changes of SPS expression.