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Open Access Research article

Morphological and molecular characterization of a spontaneously tuberizing potato mutant: an insight into the regulatory mechanisms of tuber induction

Lukas Fischer1*, Helena Lipavska1, Jean-Francois Hausman2 and Zdenek Opatrny1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant Physiology, Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Science, Vinicna 5, CZ 128 44 Prague 2, Czech Republic

2 Department Environment and Agrobiotechnologies, Centre de Recherche Public – Gabriel Lippmann, 41, rue du Brill, L-4422 Belvaux, GD Luxembourg

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:117  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-117

Published: 21 November 2008



Tuberization in potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) represents a morphogenetic transition of stolon growth to tuber formation, which is under complex environmental and endogenous regulation. In the present work, we studied the regulatory mechanisms and the role of different morphogenetic factors in a newly isolated potato mutant, which exhibited spontaneous tuberization (ST). The ST mutant was characterized in detail at morphological, physiological and biochemical levels.


Tuberization of the ST mutant grown in the soil was photoperiod-insensitive; predominantly sessile tubers formed directly from axillary buds even under continuous light. Single-node cuttings of the ST mutant cultured in vitro frequently formed tubers or basal tuber-like swellings instead of normal shoots under conditions routinely used for shoot propagation. The tuberization response of ST cuttings under light was dependent on sucrose, the concentration of which had to exceed certain threshold that inversely correlated with irradiance. Gibberellic acid prevented tuberization of ST cuttings, but failed to restore normal shoot phenotype and caused severe malformations. Carbohydrate analysis showed increased levels of both soluble sugars and starch in ST plants, with altered carbohydrate partitioning and metabolism. Comparative proteomic analysis revealed only a few differences between ST- and wild-type plants, primary amongst which seemed to be the absence of an isoform of manganese-stabilizing protein, a key subunit of photosystem II.


ST mutant exhibits complex developmental and phenotypic modifications, with features that are typical for plants strongly induced to tuberize. These changes are likely to be related to altered regulation of photosynthesis and carbohydrate metabolism rather than impaired transduction of inhibitory gibberellin or photoperiod-based signals. The effect of gibberellins on tuberization of ST mutant suggests that gibberellins inhibit tuberization downstream of the inductive effects of sucrose and other positive factors.