Stronger sink demand for metabolites supports dominance of the apical bud in etiolated growth

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The potato tuber is a swollen underground stem that can sprout under dark conditions. Sprouting initiates in the tuber apical bud (AP), while lateral buds (LTs) are repressed by apical dominance (AD). Under conditions of lost AD, removal of tuber LTs showed that they partially inhibit AP growth only at the AD stage. Detached buds were inhibited by exogenous application of naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA), whereas 6-benzyladenine (6-BA) and gibberellic acid (GA3) induced bud burst and elongation, respectively. NAA, applied after 6-BA or GA3, nullified the latters’ growth-stimulating effect in both the AP and LTs. GA3 applied to the fifth-position LT was transported mainly to the tuber’s AP. GA3 treatment also resulted in increased indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) concentration and cis-zeatin O-glucoside in the AP. In a tuber tissue strip that included two or three buds connected by the peripheral vascular system, treatment of a LT with GA3 affected only the AP side of the strip, suggesting that the AP is the strongest sink for GA3, which induces its etiolated elongation. Dipping etiolated sprouts in labeled GA3 showed specific accumulation of the signal in the AP. Transcriptome analysis of GA3’s effect showed that genes related to the cell cycle, cell proliferation, and hormone transport are up-regulated in the AP as compared to the LT. Sink demand for metabolites is suggested to support AD in etiolated stem growth by inducing differential gene expression in the AP.

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