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Plant Physiol. 1998 Aug;117(4):1281-91.

Induction of a carbon-starvation-related proteolysis in whole maize plants submitted to Light/Dark cycles and to extended darkness

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  • 1Station de Physiologie Vegetale (R.B., P.R.).


Three-week-old maize (Zea mays L.) plants were submitted to light/dark cycles and to prolonged darkness to investigate the occurrence of sugar-limitation effects in different parts of the whole plant. Soluble sugars fluctuated with light/dark cycles and dropped sharply during extended darkness. Significant decreases in protein level were observed after prolonged darkness in mature roots, root tips, and young leaves. Glutamine and asparagine (Asn) changed in opposite ways, with Asn increasing in the dark. After prolonged darkness the increase in Asn accounted for most of the nitrogen released by protein breakdown. Using polyclonal antibodies against a vacuolar root protease previously described (F. James, R. Brouquisse, C. Suire, A. Pradet, P. Raymond [1996] Biochem J 320: 283-292) or the 20S proteasome, we showed that the increase in proteolytic activities was related to an enrichment of roots in the vacuolar protease, with no change in the amount of 20S proteasome in either roots or leaves. Our results show that no significant net proteolysis is induced in any part of the plant during normal light/dark cycles, although changes in metabolism and growth appear soon after the beginning of the dark period, and starvation-related proteolysis probably appears in prolonged darkness earlier in sink than in mature tissues.

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