Expression and manipulation of PHOSPHOENOLPYRUVATE CARBOXYKINASE 1 identifies a role for malate metabolism in stomatal closure


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Malate, along with potassium and chloride ions, is an important solute for maintaining turgor pressure during stomatal opening. Although malate is exported from guard cells during stomatal closure, there is controversy as to whether malate is also metabolised. We provide evidence that phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK), an enzyme involved in malate metabolism and gluconeogenesis, is necessary for full stomatal closure in the dark. Analysis of the Arabidopsis PCK1 gene promoter indicated that this PEPCK isoform is specifically expressed in guard cells and trichomes of the leaf. Spatially distinct promoter elements were found to be required for post-germinative, vascular expression and guard cell/trichome expression of PCK1. We show that pck1 mutant plants have reduced drought tolerance, and show increased stomatal conductance and wider stomatal apertures compared with the wild type. During light–dark transients the PEPCK mutant plants show both increased overall stomatal conductance and less responsiveness of the stomata to darkness than the wild type, indicating that stomata get ‘jammed’ in the open position. These results show that malate metabolism is important during dark-induced stomatal closure and that PEPCK is involved in this process.