Overexpression of Arabidopsis hexokinase in tomato plants inhibits growth, reduces photosynthesis, and induces rapid senescence.
Sugars are key regulatory molecules that affect diverse processes in higher plants. Hexokinase is the first enzyme in hexose metabolism and may be a sugar sensor that mediates sugar regulation. We present evidence that hexokinase is involved in sensing endogenous levels of sugars in photosynthetic tissues and that it participates in the regulation of senescence, photosynthesis, and growth in seedlings as well as in mature plants. Transgenic tomato plants overexpressing the Arabidopsis hexokinase-encoding gene AtHXK1 were produced. Independent transgenic plants carrying single copies of AtHXK1 were characterized by growth inhibition, the degree of which was found to correlate directly to the expression and activity of AtHXK1. Reciprocal grafting experiments suggested that the inhibitory effect occurred when AtHXK1 was expressed in photosynthetic tissues. Accordingly, plants with increased AtHXK1 activity had reduced chlorophyll content in their leaves, reduced photosynthesis rates, and reduced photochemical quantum efficiency of photosystem II reaction centers compared with plants without increased AtHXK1 activity. In addition, the transgenic plants underwent rapid senescence, suggesting that hexokinase is also involved in senescence regulation. Fruit weight, starch content in young fruits, and total soluble solids in mature fruits were also reduced in the transgenic plants. The results indicate that endogenous hexokinase activity is not rate limiting for growth; rather, they support the role of hexokinase as a regulatory enzyme in photosynthetic tissues, in which it regulates photosynthesis, growth, and senescence.
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