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Evidence against sink limitation by the sucrose-to-starch route in potato plants expressing fructosyltransferases




To investigate whether the route from sucrose to starch limits sink strength of potato tubers, we established an additional storage carbohydrate pool and analyzed allocation of imported assimilates to the different pools. Tuber specific expression of the fructan biosynthetic enzymes of globe artichoke resulted in accumulation of fructans to about 5% of the starch level, but did not increase tuber dry weight per plant. While partial repression of starch synthesis caused yield reduction in wild-type plants, it stimulated fructan accumulation, and yield losses were ameliorated in tubers expressing fructosyltransferases. However, a nearly complete block of the starch pathway by inhibition of sucrose synthase could not be compensated by the fructan pathway. Although fructan concentrations rose, yield reduction was even enhanced, probably because of a futile cycle of fructan synthesis and degradation by invertase, which is induced when sucrose synthase is knocked out. The data do not support a limitation of sink strength by enzyme activities of the starch pathway but point to an energy limitation of storage carbohydrate formation in potato tubers.