Original Article


, Volume 220, Issue 2, pp 331-343

First online:

Activities of fructan- and sucrose-metabolizing enzymes in wheat stems subjected to water stress during grain filling

  • Jianchang YangAffiliated withCollege of Agriculture, Yangzhou University Email author 
  • , Jianhua ZhangAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Hong Kong Baptist University
  • , Zhiqing WangAffiliated withCollege of Agriculture, Yangzhou University
  • , Qingsen ZhuAffiliated withCollege of Agriculture, Yangzhou University
  • , Lijun LiuAffiliated withCollege of Agriculture, Yangzhou University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This study investigated if a controlled water deficit during grain filling of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) could accelerate grain filling by facilitating the remobilization of carbon reserves in the stem through regulating the enzymes involved in fructan and sucrose metabolism. Two high lodging-resistant wheat cultivars were grown in pots and treated with either a normal (NN) or high amount of nitrogen (HN) at heading time. Plants were either well-watered (WW) or water-stressed (WS) from 9 days post anthesis until maturity. Leaf water potentials markedly decreased at midday as a result of water stress but completely recovered by early morning. Photosynthetic rate and zeatin + zeatin riboside concentrations in the flag leaves declined faster in WS plants than in WW plants, and they decreased more slowly with HN than with NN when soil water potential was the same, indicating that the water deficit enhanced, whereas HN delayed, senescence. Water stress, both at NN and HN, facilitated the reduction in concentration of total nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) and fructans in the stems but increased the sucrose level there, promoted the re-allocation of pre-fixed 14C from the stems to grains, shortened the grain-filling period, and accelerated the grain-filling rate. Grain weight and grain yield were increased under the controlled water deficit when HN was applied. Fructan exohydrolase (FEH; EC and sucrose phosphate synthase (SPS; EC activities were substantially enhanced by water stress and positively correlated with the total NSC and fructan remobilization from the stems. Acid invertase (EC activity was also enhanced by the water stress and associated with the change in fructan concentration, but not correlated with the total NSC remobilization and 14C increase in the grains. Sucrose:sucrose fructosyltransferase (EC activity was inhibited by the water stress and negatively correlated with the remobilization of carbon reserves. Sucrose synthase (EC activity in the stems decreased sharply during grain filling and showed no significant difference between WW and WS treatments. Abscisic acid (ABA) concentration in the stem was remarkably enhanced by water stress and significantly correlated with SPS and FEH activities. Application of ABA to WW plants yielded similar results to those for WS plants. The results suggest that the increased remobilization of carbon reserves by water stress is attributable to the enhanced FEH and SPS activities in wheat stems, and that ABA plays a vital role in the regulation of the key enzymes involved in fructan and sucrose metabolism.


Abscisic acid Carbon remobilization Fructan exohydrolase Sucrose-phosphate synthase Triticum (wheat) Water stress