Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How the sugar gets into the beet

08.01.2015

Why do sugar beets contain sugar in the first place? This mystery has finally been solved: Research teams from Germany have identified the responsible sugar transporter. This discovery is a strong impetus to breed enhanced crops.

Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) provides around one third of the sugar consumed worldwide. The bulbous plants also serve as a significant source of bioenergy in the form of ethanol.


Green leaves produce the sugar sucrose from sunlight energy, carbon dioxide and water. The sugar beet plant stores sucrose in its taproot.

(Drawing: Irina Yurchenko)

"The sugar beet was originally used as a leafy vegetable," says Professor Rainer Hedrich, a plant scientist of the University of Würzburg. Due to breeding efforts in Europe since the late 18th century, the plants have become real sugar factories: "Our high-performance sugar beets contain as much as 2.3 kilogrammes of sugar in ten kilogrammes of beet." But the principle of sugar storage in the plants was unknown until recently.

Specific transporter identified

Hedrich's group has now solved this question in collaboration with scientists from the universities of Erlangen, Kaiserslautern and Cologne: Most of the sugar is concentrated in the taproot as sucrose where it accumulates in the vacuoles. A transport protein called BvTST2.1 acts as a vacuolar sucrose importer.

The researchers have now discovered this transporter and characterised its molecular structure. They believe that the new findings could help to increase sugar yields in sugar beet, sugar cane or other sugar-storing crops by modifying the plants to boost the amount of transporters they contain. The research results are presented in the renowned science magazine "Nature Plants". The project was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Experiments led the way to success

How did the research team obtain its findings? First, they determined the developmental stage during which the beet accumulates sugar. Next, the scientists identified which proteins were increasingly produced during the accumulation phase. Using genome databases, they then determined the genes eligible as potential sugar transporters.

This shifted the focus on one "prime suspect", namely the transport protein BvTST2.1. But how to find out whether this transporter is actually capable of importing sucrose into the vacuole? At this point, the biophysical expertise of Hedrich's team came into play: "We benefited from the fact that the leaf cells do not produce the transport protein of the sugar beet vacuole. So we inserted the beet transporter gene bvtst2.1 into the leaf cells, isolated their vacuoles and measured whether and how the beet protein transports sugar," the professor explains.

Using the patch-clamp method, the scientists demonstrated that the beet transporter selectively imports sucrose into the vacuole and exports protons from the vacuole in turn. This coupled mechanism ultimately results in sugar accumulating in the beet vacuoles where it can reach peak concentrations of 23 percent.

Potential benefits of the new findings

In order to further improve sugar beet crops in terms of sugar storage, the BvTST2.1 transporter has to be tackled inside the sugar beet in a next step: For this purpose, sugar beets containing different amounts of the transporter need to be produced in the lab. Subsequently, the researchers have to observe which impact the transporter dosage has on the beet's sugar content.

"If these tests back our assumptions, it will be possible to breed beets with higher transporter content," Hedrich predicts. Ultimately, this could yield a new generation of beet crops which store more sugar or which start to store sugar earlier in the year.

"Identification of transporter responsible for sucrose accumulation in sugar beet taproots", Benjamin Jung, Frank Ludewig, Alexander Schulz, Garvin Meißner, Nicole Wöstefeld, Ulf-Ingo Flügge, Benjamin Pommerrenig, Petra Wirsching, Norbert Sauer, Wolfgang Koch, Frederik Sommer, Timo Mühlhaus, Michael Schroda, Tracey Ann Cuin, Dorothea Graus, Irene Marten, Rainer Hedrich, and H. Ekkehard Neuhaus, Nature Plants, 2015, January 8, DOI: 10.1038/nplants.2014.1

Contact

Prof. Dr. Rainer Hedrich, Department of Botany I of the University of Würzburg, Phone: +49 931 31-86100, hedrich@botanik.uni-wuerzburg.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.bot1.biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de/ Professor Hedrich’s Homepage

Robert Emmerich | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

nachricht Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>