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Plant Cell. 1994 Nov;6(11):1665-79.

Sugar sensing in higher plants.

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Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114.


Sugar repression of photosynthetic genes is likely a central control mechanism mediating energy homeostasis in a wide range of algae and higher plants. It overrides light activation and is coupled to developmental and environmental regulations. How sugar signals are sensed and transduced to the nucleus remains unclear. To elucidate sugar-sensing mechanisms, we monitored the effects of a variety of sugars, glucose analogs, and metabolic intermediates on photosynthetic fusion genes in a sensitive and versatile maize protoplast transient expression system. The results show that sugars that are the substrates of hexokinase (HK) cause repression at a low concentration (1 to 10 mM), indicating a low degree of specificity and the irrelevance of osmotic change. Studies with various glucose analogs suggest that glucose transport across the plasma membrane is necessary but not sufficient to trigger repression, whereas subsequent phosphorylation by HK may be required. The effectiveness of 2-deoxyglucose, a nonmetabolizable glucose analog, and the ineffectiveness of various metabolic intermediates in eliciting repression eliminate the involvement of glycolysis and other metabolic pathways. Replenishing intracellular phosphate and ATP diminished by hexoses does not overcome repression. Because mannoheptulose, a specific HK inhibitor, blocks the severe repression triggered by 2-deoxyglucose and yet the phosphorylated products per se do not act as repression signals, we propose that HK may have dual functions and may act as a key sensor and signal transmitter of sugar repression in higher plants.

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