, Volume 250, Issue 5, pp 1743–1755 | Cite as

Distinct nodule and leaf functions of two different sucrose phosphate synthases in alfalfa

  • Shanta Padhi
  • Martha M. Grimes
  • Fabiola Muro-Villanueva
  • Jose Luis Ortega
  • Champa Sengupta-GopalanEmail author
Original Article


Main conclusion

In alfalfa, the B form of Sucrose phosphate synthase synthesizes sucrose in the leaves while the A form participates in regulatory cycles of synthesis/breakdown of sucrose/starch in the root nodules.


Sucrose (Suc) is the major stable product of photosynthesis that is transported to all heterotrophic organs as a source of energy and carbon. The enzyme sucrose phosphate synthase (SPS) catalyzes the synthesis of Suc. Besides the leaves, SPS is also found in heterotrophic organs. There are two isoforms of SPS in alfalfa (Medicago sativa): SPSA and SPSB. While SPSA is expressed in the vasculature of all the organs and in the N2-fixing zone in the nodules, SPSB is exclusively expressed in the photosynthetic cells. Two classes of alfalfa transformants were produced, one with a gene construct consisting of the alfalfa SPSA promoter and the other with the SPSB promoter—both driving the maize SPS coding region—referred to as SPSA-ZmSPS and SPSB-ZmSPS, respectively. Both classes of transformants showed increased growth compared to control plants. The SPSB-ZmSPS transformants showed increased SPS protein levels and activity along with a significant increase in the Suc levels in the leaves. The SPSA-ZmSPS transformants showed an increase in the SPS protein level and enzyme activity both in the leaves and the nodules with no increase in Suc content in the leaves but a substantial increase in the nodules. Both SPSA and SPSB have unique roles in the nodules (sink) and leaves (source). SPSB is responsible for the synthesis of Suc in the photosynthetic cells and SPSA participates in a regulatory cycle in which Suc is simultaneously degraded and re-synthesized; both these functions contribute to plant growth in rhizobia nodulated alfalfa plants.


Antisense In situ GUS localization Alfalfa transformation SPS promoters Root nodules 



Alfalfa sucrose phosphate synthase A gene


Alfalfa sucrose phosphate synthase B gene


SPSA promoter driving Zea mays SPS cDNA


SPSB promoter driving Zea mays SPS cDNA


SPSA promoter driving alfalfa SPSA coding region in antisense orientation


SPSA promoter driving β-glucuronidase






Fructose 6-phosphate


Uridine diphosphate glucose


Sucrose synthase



This work was supported by the Agricultural Experiment Station at New Mexico State University and by the National Institutes of Health (Research Initiative for Scientific Research Enhancement program). The support from LIFTED, LED grow lights (Rio Rancho, NM) is greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant and Environmental SciencesNew Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pharmaceutical SciencesUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biochemistry, College of AgriculturePurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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