A CAM- and starch-deficient mutant of the facultative CAM species Mesembryanthemum crystallinum reconciles sink demands by repartitioning carbon during acclimation to salinity

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In the halophytic species Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, the induction of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) by salinity requires a substantial investment of resources in storage carbohydrates to provide substrate for nocturnal CO2 uptake. Acclimation to salinity also requires the synthesis and accumulation of cyclitols as compatible solutes, maintenance of root respiration, and nitrate assimilation. This study assessed the hierarchy and coordination of sinks for carbohydrate in leaves and roots during acclimation to salinity in M. crystallinum. By comparing wild type and a CAM-/starch-deficient mutant of this species, it was sought to determine if other metabolic sinks could compensate for a curtailment in CAM and enable acclimation to salinity. Under salinity, CAM deficiency reduced 24 h photosynthetic carbon gain by >50%. Cyclitols were accumulated to comparable levels in leaves and roots of both the wild type and mutant, but represented only 5% of 24 h carbon balance. Dark respiration of leaves and roots was a stronger sink for carbohydrate in the mutant compared with the wild type and implied higher maintenance costs for the metabolic processes underpinning acclimation to salinity when CAM was curtailed. CAM required the nocturnal mobilization of >70% of primary carbohydrate in the wild type and >85% of carbohydrate in the mutant. The substantial allocation of carbohydrate to CAM limited the export of sugars to roots, and the root:shoot ratio declined under salinity. The data suggest a key role for the vacuole in regulating the supply and demand for carbohydrate over the day/night cycle in the starch-/CAM-deficient mutant.

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