Water stress stimulates sucrose synthesis and inhibits starch synthesis in wild-type tubers. Antisense and co-suppression potato transformants with decreased expression of sucrose-phosphate synthase (SPS) have been used to analyse the importance of SPS for the regulation of this water-stress induced change in partitioning. (i) In the absence of water stress, a 70-80% decrease in SPS activity led to a 30-50% inhibition of sucrose synthesis and a slight (10-20%) increase of starch synthesis in tuber discs in short-term labelling experiments with low concentrations of labelled glucose. Similar changes were seen in short-term labelling experiments with intact tubers attached to well-watered plants. Provided plants were grown with ample light and water, transformant tubers had a slightly lower water and sucrose content and a similar or even marginally higher starch content than wild-type tubers. (ii) When wild-type tuber slices were incubated with labelled glucose in the presence of mannitol to generate a moderate water deficit (between -0.12 and -0.72 MPa), there was a marked stimulation of sucrose synthesis and inhibition of starch synthesis. A similar stimulation was seen in labelling experiments with wild-type tubers that were attached to water-stressed wild-type plants. These changes were almost completely suppressed in transformants with a 70-80% reduction of SPS activity. (iii) Decreased irrigation led to an increase in the fraction of the dry-matter allocated to tubers in wild-type plants. This shift in allocation was prevented in transformants with reduced expression of SPS. (iv) The results show that operation of SPS and the sucrose cycle in growing potato tubers may lead to a marginal decrease in starch accumulation in non-stressed plants. However, SPS becomes a crucial factor in water-stressed plants because it is required for adaptive changes in tuber metabolism and whole plant allocation.