Source–sink imbalance increases with growth temperature in the spring geophyte Erythronium americanum


Spring geophytes produce larger storage organs and present delayed leaf senescence under lower growth temperature. Bulb and leaf carbon metabolism were investigated in Erythronium americanum to identify some of the mechanisms that permit this improved growth at low temperature. Plants were grown under three day/night temperature regimes: 18/14 °C, 12/8 °C, and 8/6 °C. Starch accumulated more slowly in the bulb at lower temperatures probably due to the combination of lower net photosynthetic rate and activation of a ‘futile cycle’ of sucrose synthesis and degradation. Furthermore, bulb cell maturation was delayed at lower temperatures, potentially due to the delayed activation of sucrose synthase leading to a greater sink capacity. Faster starch accumulation and the smaller sink capacity that developed at higher temperatures led to early starch saturation of the bulb. Thereafter, soluble sugars started to accumulate in both leaf and bulb, most probably inducing decreases in fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase activity, triose-phosphate utilization in the leaf, and the induction of leaf senescence. Longer leaf life span and larger bulbs at lower temperature appear to be due to an improved equilibrium between carbon fixation capacity and sink strength, thereby allowing the plant to sustain growth for a longer period of time before feedback inhibition induces leaf senescence

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This paper was published in PubMed Central.

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