Rising rates of starch degradation during daytime and trehalose 6-phosphate optimize carbon availability.
Many plants, including Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), accumulate starch in the light and remobilize it to support maintenance and growth at night. Starch synthesis and degradation are usually viewed as temporally separate processes. Recently, we reported that starch is also degraded in the light. Degradation rates are generally low early in the day but rise with time. Here, we show that the rate of degradation in the light depends on time relative to dawn rather than dusk. We also show that degradation in the light is inhibited by trehalose 6-phosphate, a signal for sucrose availability. The observed responses of degradation in the light can be simulated by a skeletal model in which the rate of degradation is a function of starch content divided by time remaining until dawn. The fit is improved by extension to include feedback inhibition of starch degradation by trehalose 6-phosphate. We also investigate possible functions of simultaneous starch synthesis and degradation in the light, using empirically parameterized models and experimental approaches. The idea that this cycle buffers growth against falling rates of photosynthesis at twilight is supported by data showing that rates of protein and cell wall synthesis remain high during a simulated dusk twilight. Degradation of starch in the light may also counter over-accumulation of starch in long photoperiods and stabilize signaling around dusk. We conclude that starch degradation in the light is regulated by mechanisms similar to those that operate at night and is important for stabilizing carbon availability and signaling, thus optimizing growth in natural light conditions.