Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Research Notes and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Short Report

Intraspecific sequence variation and differential expression in starch synthase genes of Arabidopsis thaliana

Sandra Schwarte1*, Henrike Brust2, Martin Steup2 and Ralph Tiedemann1

Author Affiliations

1 Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 24-25, Building 26, Potsdam, 14476, Germany

2 Plant Physiology, Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 24-25, Building 20, Potsdam, 14476, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:84  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-84

Published: 6 March 2013



Natural accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana are a well-known system to measure levels of intraspecific genetic variation. Leaf starch content correlates negatively with biomass. Starch is synthesized by the coordinated action of many (iso)enzymes. Quantitatively dominant is the repetitive transfer of glucosyl residues to the non-reducing ends of α-glucans as mediated by starch synthases. In the genome of A. thaliana, there are five classes of starch synthases, designated as soluble starch synthases (SSI, SSII, SSIII, and SSIV) and granule-bound synthase (GBSS). Each class is represented by a single gene. The five genes are homologous in functional domains due to their common origin, but have evolved individual features as well. Here, we analyze the extent of genetic variation in these fundamental protein classes as well as possible functional implications on transcript and protein levels.


Intraspecific sequence variation of the five starch synthases was determined by sequencing the entire loci including promoter regions from 30 worldwide distributed accessions of A. thaliana. In all genes, a considerable number of nucleotide polymorphisms was observed, both in non-coding and coding regions, and several amino acid substitutions were identified in functional domains. Furthermore, promoters possess numerous polymorphisms in potentially regulatory cis-acting regions. By realtime experiments performed with selected accessions, we demonstrate that DNA sequence divergence correlates with significant differences in transcript levels.


Except for AtSSII, all starch synthase classes clustered into two or three groups of haplotypes, respectively. Significant difference in transcript levels among haplotype clusters in AtSSIV provides evidence for cis-regulation. By contrast, no such correlation was found for AtSSI, AtSSII, AtSSIII, and AtGBSS, suggesting trans-regulation. The expression data presented here point to a regulation by common trans-regulatory transcription factors which ensures a coordinated action of the products of these four genes during starch granule biosynthesis. The apparent cis-regulation of AtSSIV might be related to its role in the initiation of de novo biosynthesis of granules.

Arabidopsis thaliana; Starch synthases; Genetic variation; Transcript level