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Plant J. 2002 Jun;30(6):663-77.

Decreased Rubisco activity leads to dramatic changes of nitrate metabolism, amino acid metabolism and the levels of phenylpropanoids and nicotine in tobacco antisense RBCS transformants.

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Max Planck Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie, Golm, Germany.


Tobacco transformants that express an antisense RBCS construct were used to investigate the consequences of a lesion in photosynthetic carbon metabolism for nitrogen metabolism and secondary metabolism. The results show that an inhibition of photosynthesis and decrease in sugar levels leads to a general inhibition of nitrogen metabolism, and dramatic changes in the levels of secondary metabolites. The response was particularly clear in plants that received excess nitrogen. In these conditions, a decrease of Rubisco activity led to an inhibition of nitrate reductase activity, accumulation of nitrate, a decrease of amino acid levels that was larger than the decrease of sugars, and a large decrease of chlorogenic acid and of nicotine, which are the major carbon- and nitrogen-rich secondary metabolites in tobacco leaves, respectively. Similar changes were seen when nitrogen-replete wild-type tobacco was grown in low light. The inhibition of nitrogen metabolism was partly masked when wild-type plants and antisense RBCS transformants were compared in marginal or in limiting nitrogen, because the lower growth rate of the transformants alleviated the nitrogen deficiency, leading to an increase of amino acids. In these conditions, chlorogenic acid always decreased but the decrease of nicotine was ameliorated or reversed. When the changes in internal pools are compared across all the genotypes and growth conditions, two conclusions emerge. First, decreased levels of primary metabolites lead to a dramatic decrease in the levels of secondary metabolites. Second, changes of the amino acid : sugar ratio are accompanied by changes of the nicotine:chlorogenic acid ratio.

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