Experiments were designed to compare the relationship between starch degradation and the use of carbon for maintenance and growth in Arabidopsis in source-limited and sink-limited conditions. It is known that starch degradation is regulated by the clock in source-limited plants, which degrade their starch in a linear manner such that it is almost but not completely exhausted at dawn. We asked whether this response is maintained under an extreme carbon deficit. Arabidopsis was subjected to a sudden combination of a day of low irradiance, to decrease starch at dusk, and a warm night. Starch was degraded in a linear manner through the night, even though the plants became acutely carbon starved. We conclude that starch degradation is not increased to meet demand in carbon-limited plants. This network property will allow stringent control of starch turnover in a fluctuating environment. In contrast, in sink-limited plants, which do not completely mobilize their starch during the night, starch degradation was accelerated in warm nights to meet the increased demand for maintenance and growth. Across all conditions, the rate of growth at night depends on the rate of starch degradation, whereas the rate of maintenance respiration decreases only when starch degradation is very slow.
Pilkington SM, Encke B, Krohn N, Höhne M, Stitt M, Pyl ET.