Effects of low temperature on the respiratory metabolism of carbohydrates by plants

Symp Soc Exp Biol. 1988;42:377-93.


The effects of lowering the temperature from 25 degrees C to 2-8 degrees C on carbohydrate metabolism by plant cells are considered. Particular emphasis is placed on the mechanism of cold-induced sweetening in tubers of potato (Solanum tuberosum). Temperatures between 0 and 10 degrees C were shown to cause a marked reduction in the rate of respiration of a wide range of plant tissues. At these temperatures the ability of suspension cultures of soybean (Glycine max), and callus cultures and tubers of potato to metabolize [14C]glucose was appreciably diminished. The detailed distribution of 14C showed that lowering the temperature decreased the proportion of the metabolized [14C]glucose that entered the respiratory pathways and increased the proportion converted to sucrose. Pulse and chase experiments, in which [14C]glucose was supplied to potato tubers at 2 and 25 degrees C, showed that lowering the temperature led to accumulation of label in hexose 6-phosphates, which were subsequently converted to sucrose. The patterns of 14CO2 production from specifically labelled [14C]glucose supplied to soybean suspension cultures and disks of potato tuber suggested that lowering the temperature reduced the activity of glycolysis more than that of the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway. It is argued that the above experiments demonstrate that lowering the temperature not only reduces the rate of carbohydrate metabolism but also alters the relative activities of the different pathways involved. A disproportionate reduction in glycolysis at the lower temperatures is suggested. Mature tubers of many varieties of potato accumulate sucrose and hexose when stored between 2 and 10 degrees C. Starch is the source of carbon for this synthesis of sugar. We could not detect cytosolic fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase in potato tubers and suggest that carbon for sugar synthesis in the cold leaves the amyloplast, not as triose phosphate, but probably as a six-carbon compound. Evidence is presented that phosphofructokinase (EC plays a major role in regulating the entry of hexose 6-phosphates into glycolysis in potato tubers. Phosphofructokinase was purified from potato tubers and shown to consist of four forms. Three of these forms were shown to have higher Q10 values over the range 2-6 degrees C than over the range 12-16 degrees C and are regarded as being cold-labile. No such cold-lability was detected for the key enzymes involved in sucrose synthesis and the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Glycolysis
  • Hexosephosphates / metabolism
  • Phosphofructokinase-1 / metabolism
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plants / enzymology
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Solanum tuberosum / metabolism
  • Soybeans / metabolism
  • Sucrose / biosynthesis


  • Hexosephosphates
  • Sucrose
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Phosphofructokinase-1