The roots of alternate-bearing citrus (Murcott, a Citrus reticulata hybrid) trees undergo extreme fluctuations of carbohydrate abundance and starvation. Using this system, we investigated the effect of root carbohydrate (total soluble sugar, sucrose and starch) depletion on carbohydrate-related gene expression. A series of genes, including those coding for starch phosphorylase (STPH-L and STPH-H), ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase, small subunit (Agps), R1, plastidic ADP/ATP transporter (AATP), phosphoglucomutase (PGM-P and PGM-C), sucrose synthase (CitSuS1 and CitSuSA), sucrose transporter (SUT1 and SUT2), hexokinase (HK) and alpha-amylase (α-AMY), have been isolated and their expression analyzed. The genes were found to respond differentially to carbohydrate depletion. STPH-L, STPH-H, Agps, R1, AATP, PGM-P, PGM-C, CitSuS1 and HK were down-regulated while SUT1 and α-AMY were up-regulated during carbohydrate depletion. Two other genes, CitSuSA and SUT2, did not respond to carbohydrate depletion. Fruit removal, which interrupted the carbohydrate depletion induced by heavy fruiting, reversed these gene expression patterns. Trunk girdling and whole-plant darkening treatments, which brought about root carbohydrate depletion, induced the same changes in gene expression obtained in the alternate-bearing system. The possible roles of the up- and down-regulated genes in the metabolism of carbohydrate-depleted citrus roots are discussed. Although the specific signals involved have not been determined, the results support the feast/famine hypothesis of carbohydrate regulation proposed by Koch [K.E. Koch (1996) Annu Rev Plant Physiol Plant Mol Biol 47:509-540].
- Root starvation