Evidence of the crucial role of sucrose synthase for sink strength using transgenic potato plants (Solanum tuberosum L.)


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Sink strength of growing potato tubers is believed to be limited by sucrose metabolism and/or starch synthesis. Sucrose synthase (Susy) is most likely responsible for the entire sucrose cleavage in sink tubers, rather than invertases. To investigate the unique role of sucrose synthase with respect to sucrose metabolism and sink strength in growing potato tubers, transgenic potato plants were created expressing Susy antisense RNA corresponding to the T-type sucrose synthase isoform. Although the constitutive 35S CaMV promotor was used to drive the expression of the antisense RNA the inhibition of Susy activity was tuber-specific, indicating that independent Susy isoforms are responsible for Susy activity in different potato organs. The inhibition of Susy leads to no change in sucrose content, a strong accumulation of reducing sugars and an inhibition of starch accumulation in developing potato tubers. The increase in hexoses is paralleled by a 40-fold increase in invertase activities but no considerable changes in hexokinase activities. The reduction in starch accumulation is not due to an inhibition of the major starch biosynthetic enzymes. The changes in carbohydrate accumulation are accompanied by a decrease in total tuber dry weight and a reduction of soluble tuber proteins. The reduced protein accumulation is mainly due to a decrease in the major storage proteins patatin, the 22 kDa proteins and the proteinase inhibitors. The lowered accumulation of storage proteins is not a consequence of the availability of the free amino acid pool in potato tubers. Altogether these data are in agreement with the assumption that sucrose synthase is the major determinant of potato tuber sink strength. Contradictory to the hypothesis that the sink strength of growing potato tubers is inversely correlated with the tuber number per plant, no increase in tuber number per plant was found in Susy antisense plants.