Allocation of raffinose family oligosaccharides to transport and storage pools in Ajuga reptans: the roles of two distinct galactinol synthases


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Raffinose family oligosaccharides (RFOs) are important phloem transport and storage carbohydrates for many plants. Ajuga reptans, a frost-hardy evergreen labiate, ideally combines these two physiological roles and served as our model plant to study the regulation and importance of RFO metabolism. Galactinol is the galactosyl donor for the synthesis of raffinose (RFO-trisaccharide) and stachyose (RFO-tetrasaccharide), and its synthesis by galactinol synthase (GolS) is the first committed step of the RFO biosynthetic pathway. Two cDNAs encoding two distinct GolS were isolated from A. reptans source and sink leaves, designated GolS-1 and GolS-2, respectively. Warm- and cold-grown sink and source leaves were compared, revealing both isoforms to be cold-inducible and GolS-1 to be source leaf-specific; GolS-1 expression correlated positively with GolS activity. Conversely, GolS-2 expression was comparatively much lower and its contribution to the total extractable GolS activity is most probably only minor. These observations, together with results from phloem exudation and leaf shading experiments suggest that GolS-1 is mainly involved in the synthesis of storage RFOs and GolS-2 in the synthesis of transport RFOs. Furthermore, in situ hybridization studies showed GolS-1 to be primarily expressed in the mesophyll, the site of RFO storage, and GolS-2 in the phloem-associated intermediary cells known for their role in RFO phloem loading. A model depicting the spatial compartmentation of the two GolS isoforms is proposed.