Simultaneous silencing of asparagine synthetase (Ast)-1 and -2 limits asparagine (ASN) formation and, consequently, reduces the acrylamide-forming potential of tubers. The phenotype of silenced lines appears normal in the greenhouse, but field-grown tubers are small and cracked. Assessing the effects of silencing StAst1 and StAst2 individually, we found that yield drag was mainly linked to down-regulation of StAst2. Interestingly, tubers from untransformed scions grafted onto intragenic StAst1/2-silenced rootstock contained almost the same low ASN levels as those in the original silenced lines, indicating that ASN is mainly formed in tubers rather than being transported from leaves. This conclusion was further supported by the finding that overexpression of StAst2 caused ASN to accumulate in leaves but not tubers. Thus, ASN does not appear to be the main form of organic nitrogen transported from leaves to tubers. Because reduced ASN levels coincided with increased levels of glutamine, it appears likely that this alternative amide amino acid is mobilized to tubers, where it is converted into ASN by StAst1. Indeed, tuber-specific silencing of StAst1, but not of StAst2, was sufficient to substantially lower ASN formation in tubers. Extensive field studies demonstrated that the reduced acrylamide-forming potential achieved by tuber-specific StAst1 silencing did not affect the yield or quality of field-harvested tubers.
© 2012 The Authors. Plant Biotechnology Journal © 2012 Society for Experimental Biology, Association of Applied Biologists and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.