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Alterations in Leaf Carbohydrate Metabolism in Response to Nitrogen Stress 1

  • Thomas W. Rufty
  • Steven C. Huber
  • Richard J. Volk
Publication Date
Nov 01, 1988


A series of experiments was conducted to characterize alterations in carbohydrate utilization in leaves of nitrogen stressed plants. Two-week-old, nonnodulated soybean plants (Glycine max [L.] Merrill, `Ransom'), grown previously on complete nutrient solutions with 1.0 millimolar NO3−, were transferred to solutions without a nitrogen source at the beginning of a dark period. Daily changes in starch and sucrose levels of leaves were monitored over the following 5 to 8 days in three experiments. Starch accumulation increased relative to controls throughout the leaf canopy during the initial two light periods after plant exposure to N-free solutions, but not after that time as photosynthesis declined. The additional increments of carbon incorporated into starch appeared to be quantitatively similar to the amounts of carbon diverted from amino acid synthesis in the same tissues. Since additional accumulated starch was not degraded in darkness, starch levels at the beginning of light periods also were elevated. In contrast to the starch effects, leaf sucrose concentration was markedly higher than controls at the beginning of the first light period after the N-limitation was imposed. In the days which followed, diurnal turnover patterns were similar to controls. In source leaves, the activity of sucrose-P synthase did not decrease until after day 3 of the N-limitation treatment, whereas the concentration of fructose-2,6-bisphosphate was decreased on day 2. Restricted growth of sink leaves was evident with N-limited plants within 2 days, having been preceeded by a sharp decline in levels of fructose-2,6 bisphosphate on the first day of treatment. The results suggest that changes in photosynthate partitioning in source leaves of N-stressed plants resulted largely from a stable but limited capacity for sucrose formation, and that decreased sucrose utilization in sink leaves contributed to the whole-plant diversion of carbohydrate from the shoot to the root.

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