Journal of Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 164–179 | Cite as

Relationship Between Carbon Mobilization and Root Growth Measured by Carbon-11 Tracer in Arabidopsis Starch Mutants

  • Lihui Song
  • Beverly Agtuca
  • Michael J. Schueller
  • Silvia S. Jurisson
  • Gary Stacey
  • Richard A. FerrieriEmail author


Experiments designed to quantify the physiological and metabolic status of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings across their photoperiod used wild-type (Col-0) and genotypes deficient in starch biosynthesis (adg1-1, pgm-1) and in starch degradation (sex1-1) in combination with radioactive 11CO2 tracer. Measurements of root allocation and root exudation of 11C-photosynthates were conducted at 1 and 8 h into a 10-h photoperiod. Additionally, bioassays conducted on leaflets provided a measure of ‘new’ carbon partitioning (as 11C) into structural and non-structural carbohydrates. As expected, starch biosynthesis increased across the photoperiod for Col-0 controls. This increase was correlated with systematic decreases in soluble sugar synthesis and sink allocation across the photoperiod. We showed that this was a causal effect, which could be eliminated in the adg1-1 and pgm-1 mutants that were deficient in starch biosynthesis. Furthermore, these genotypes exhibited systematically higher levels of soluble sugars and sink allocation relative to Col-0 and sex1-1, which resulted in very different root growth traits including (i) increased root area balanced by shorter primary roots; (ii) increased number of lateral roots; and (iii) decreased root gravitropism. These differences in growth traits were correlated with higher observed levels of root auxin in these genotypes and to lower starch levels in their root tips. In a broader context, we find that carbon storage in the aboveground tissues can strongly influence root growth and root architecture belowground.


Arabidopsis Carbon partitioning Starch Source–sink relations Root Auxin 



This article has been authored under contracts DE-SC0012704 in support of the Radiochemistry Program with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which supported R. Ferrieri and M. Schueller in this effort. A DOE training grant through the University of Missouri (Grant No. DE-SC0002040) supported L. Song, and the DOE SULI Program supported B. Agtuca on this project. We also would like to acknowledge the MU Molecular Cytology Research Core Facility for helping with the microscopic images of root tip starch granules.

Author Contributions

LS and BA conducted the laboratory tracer studies. MJS produced the isotope and assisted with the design of plant tracer boxes. SSJ and GS helped with data interpretation and with manuscript editing. RAF designed the tracer studies, managed the workflow, interpreted the data, and wrote the manuscript.

Supplementary material

344_2018_9824_MOESM1_ESM.tif (978 kb)
Supplemental Figure S1. Panel a: Petri dish showing growth template for A. thaliana seedlings in Gelzan™ media. Panel b: experimental setup for administering 11CO2 tracer to Petri dish grown A. thaliana seedlings. Panel c: rack setup for assembling Eppendorf tube grown A. thaliana seedlings – note placement of plant less control tubes. Panel d: transparent cover is affixed to the rack enabling uniform introduction of 11CO2 tracer. (TIF 978 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lihui Song
    • 1
  • Beverly Agtuca
    • 2
  • Michael J. Schueller
    • 1
    • 3
  • Silvia S. Jurisson
    • 1
  • Gary Stacey
    • 4
  • Richard A. Ferrieri
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Plant Sciences, Bond Life Sciences CenterUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Missouri Research Reactor CenterUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.Division of Plant Sciences and Biochemistry, Bond Life Sciences CenterUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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