Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Spring 4-28-2014


Environmental Studies Undergraduate Student Thesis, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 2015


Copyright © 2015 Allison C. Siekman


Plant metabolism’s most important skill is its ability to perform photosynthesis, converting light energy of particular wavelengths to stored biochemical energy1. Like many organisms, plants follow a circadian rhythm. This means that the plant’s energy cycles each day, depending on whether it is day or night. During the day, light energy strikes the plant and is used to make soluble sugars, amino acids, lipids, nucleic acid, and complex carbohydrates. Not all of these compounds are used for immediate growth; a major fraction is saved for storage2. During the night, the plant uses 95% of starch, the storage form of sugar, before dawn to continue metabolism and growth3. This process is tightly regulated by sugars like hexose, sucrose, and trehalose-6-phosphate (T6P), thus, making them key in maintaining energy balances and managing starch reserves during this light to dark transition. The regulation of metabolism is critical for plant production and yield. It enables the plant to be more efficient, which is key for raising grain yield. When converting sunlight to sugars, about 6% of solar energy in C4 plants and 4.6% in C3 plants is translocated grain and biomass4. An increase in solar efficiency would lead to an increase in grain yield. T6P, the precursor of trehalose, has drawn special attention because it regulates essential developmental processes ranging from embryo development to leaf senescence5. Thus, understanding the trehalose pathway and how it is involved in the sensing network during these times of transition will allow us to improve plant stress tolerance, solar efficiency, and plant growth and productivity.