Changes in carbohydrate metabolism and assimilate export in starch-excess mutants of Arabidopsis


Correspondence 1(current address) : Samuel C.Zeeman John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norfolk NR4 7UH, UK. Tel.: (01603) 452571; fax: (01603) 456844; e-mail:


The aim of this work was to investigate the effects on carbohydrate metabolism of a reduction in the capacity to degrade leaf starch in Arabidopsis. The major roles of leaf starch are to provide carbon for sucrose synthesis, respiration and, in developing leaves, for biosynthesis and growth. Wild-type plants were compared with plants of a starch-excess mutant line (sex4) deficient in a chloroplastic isoform of endoamylase. This mutant has a reduced capacity for starch degradation, leading to an imbalance between starch synthesis and degradation and the gradual accretion of starch as the leaves age. During the night the conversion of starch into sucrose in the mutant is impaired; the leaves of the mutant contained less sucrose than those of the wild type and there was less movement of 14C-label from starch to sucrose in radio-labelling experiments. Furthermore, the rate of assimilate export to the roots during the night was reduced in the mutant compared with the wild type. During the day however, photosynthetic partitioning was altered in the mutant, with less photosynthate partitioned into starch and more into sugars. Although the sucrose content of the leaves of the mutant was similar to the wild type during the day, the rate of export of sucrose to the roots was increased more than two-fold. The changes in carbohydrate metabolism in the mutant leaves during the day compensate partly for its reduced capacity to synthesize sucrose from starch during the night.