• α-amylase;
  • germination;
  • glucan, water dikinase;
  • nitrate;
  • phytochrome;
  • reserve starch;
  • starch degradation;
  • starch phosphorylation


Light induces both the germination of turions of the duckweed Spirodela polyrhiza and the degradation of the reserve starch stored in the turions. The germination photoresponse requires nitrate, and we show here that nitrate is also needed for the light-induced degradation of the turion starch. Ammonium cannot substitute for nitrate in this regard, and nitrate thus acts specifically as signal to promote starch degradation in the turions. Irradiation with continuous red light leads to starch degradation via auto-phosphorylation of starch-associated glucan, water dikinase (GWD), phosphorylation of the turion starch and enhanced binding of α-amylase to starch granules. The present study shows that all of these processes require the presence of nitrate, and that nitrate exerts its effect on starch degradation at a point between the absorption of light by phytochrome and the auto-phosphorylation of the GWD. Nitrate acts to coordinate carbon and nitrogen metabolism in germinating turions: starch will only be broken down when sufficient nitrogen is present to ensure appropriate utilization of the released carbohydrate. These data constitute the first report of control over the initiation of reserve starch degradation by nitrate.