To date, no genes have been reported to directly affect the de novo production of floral nectar. In an effort to identify genes involved in nectar production, the Affymetrix® ATH1 GeneChip was previously used to examine global gene expression profiles in Arabidopsis thaliana nectaries. One of the genes displaying highly enriched expression in nectaries was CELL WALL INVERTASE 4 (AtCWINV4, At2g36190), which encodes an enzyme that putatively catalyses the hydrolysis of sucrose into glucose and fructose. RT-PCR was used to confirm the nectary-enriched expression of AtCWINV4, as well as an orthologue from Brassica rapa. To probe biological function, two independent Arabidopsis cwinv4 T-DNA mutants were isolated. Unlike wild-type plants, cwinv4 lines did not produce nectar. While overall nectary morphology appeared to be normal, cwinv4 flowers accumulated higher than normal levels of starch in the receptacle, but not within the nectaries themselves. Conversely, wild-type, but not cwinv4, nectarial stomata stained intensely for starch. Cell wall extracts prepared from mutant flowers displayed greatly reduced invertase activity when compared with wild-type plants, and cwinv4 flowers also accumulated significantly lower levels of total soluble sugar. Cumulatively, these results implicate CWINV4 as an absolutely required factor for nectar production in the Brassicaceae, specifically by maintaining constant sink status within nectaries, thus allowing them to accumulate the sugars necessary for nectar production. In addition, CWINV4 is probably responsible for the hexose-rich composition observed for many Brassicaceae nectars.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank Mr Bryan Bandli, University of Minnesota Duluth Scanning Electron Microscope Laboratory, for assistance with scanning electron microscopy. This work was supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (2006-35301-16887 to CC) and the National Science Foundation (0820730 to CC).
- Arabidopsis thaliana
- Brassica rapa
- Cell wall invertase