Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Journal of Experimental Botany, Vol. 65, No. 20, pp. 5959–5973, 2014; doi:10.1093/jxb/eru335


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License


Energy resources in plants are managed in continuously changing environments, such as changes occurring during the day/night cycle. Shading is an environmental disruption that decreases photosynthesis, compromises energy status, and impacts on crop productivity. The trehalose pathway plays a central but not well-defined role in maintaining energy balance. Here, we characterized the maize trehalose pathway genes and deciphered the impacts of the diurnal cycle and disruption of the day/night cycle on trehalose pathway gene expression and sugar metabolism. The maize genome encodes 14 trehalose-6-phosphate synthase (TPS) genes, 11 trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase (TPP) genes, and one trehalase gene. Transcript abundance of most of these genes was impacted by the day/night cycle and extended dark stress, as were sucrose, hexose sugars, starch, and trehalose-6-phosphate (T6P) levels. After extended darkness, T6P levels inversely followed class II TPS and sucrose non-fermenting-related protein kinase 1 (SnRK1) target gene expression. Most significantly, T6P no longer tracked sucrose levels after extended darkness. These results showed: (i) conservation of the trehalose pathway in maize; (ii) that sucrose, hexose, starch, T6P, and TPS/TPP transcripts respond to the diurnal cycle; and(iii) that extended darkness disrupts the correlation between T6P and sucrose/hexose pools and affects SnRK1 target gene expression. A model for the role of the trehalose pathway in sensing of sucrose and energy status in maize seedlings is proposed.