Starch provides plants with carbon and energy during stressful periods; however, relatively few regulators of starch metabolism under stress-induced carbon starvation have been discovered. We studied a protein kinase Ser/Thr/Tyr (STY) 46, identified by gene co-expression network analysis as a potential regulator of the starch starvation response in Arabidopsis thaliana
. We showed that STY46 was induced by (1) abscisic acid and prolonged darkness, (2) by abiotic stressors, including salinity and osmotic stress, and (3) by conditions associated with carbon starvation. Characterization of STY46 T-DNA knockout mutants indicated that there was functional redundancy among the STY gene family, as these genotypes did not show strong phenotypes. However, Arabidopsis with high levels of STY46 transcripts (OE-25) grew faster at the early seedling stage, had higher photosynthetic rates, and more carbon was stored as protein in the seeds under control conditions. Further, OE-25 source leaf accumulated more sugars under 100 mM NaCl stress, and salinity also accelerated root growth, which is consistent with an adaptive response. Salt-stressed OE-25 partitioned 14
C towards sugars and amino acids, and away from starch and protein in source leaves. Together, these findings suggested that STY46 may be part of the salinity stress response pathway that utilizes starch during early plant growth.
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