Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2009


The objective of this study was to manipulate the intracellular pools of sucrose, and investigate its role in regulating plant growth, phenology (leaf senescence and bud break) and fibre development. This objective was achieved by differentially expressing an Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana L. Heynh.) sucrose phosphate synthase (SPS) gene in hybrid poplar (Populus alba · Populus grandidentata Michx.), a model system for tree biology with substantial industrial relevance in the context of short rotation forestry and a target bioenergy crop. Phenotypic differences were evident in the transgenic trees, as both the timing of bud flush and leaf senescence were altered compared to wild-type (WT) trees. Tree height and stem diameter were similar in WT and in the AtSPS transgenic trees, however, there were differences in the length of xylem fibres. Elevated concentrations of intracellular sucrose in both leaf and stem tissue of the transgenic trees are associated with a prolonged onset of senescence and an advancement in bud flush in the following spring. The association among sucrose content, tree phenology and elevated SPS gene expression implicates both enzyme and product in regulating poplar developmental processes.