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X-Ray CT Phenotyping Reveals Bi-Phasic Growth Phases of Potato Tubers Exposed to Combined Abiotic Stress

: Harsselaar, J.K. Van; Claußen, J.; Lübeck, J.; Wörlein, N.; Uhlmann, N.; Sonnewald, U.; Gerth, S.

Volltext ()

Frontiers in plant science : FPLS 12 (2021), Art. 613108, 15 S.
ISSN: 1664-462X
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer IIS ()

As a consequence of climate change, heat waves in combination with extended drought periods will be an increasing threat to crop yield. Therefore, breeding stress tolerant crop plants is an urgent need. Breeding for stress tolerance has benefited from large scale phenotyping, enabling non-invasive, continuous monitoring of plant growth. In case of potato, this is compromised by the fact that tubers grow belowground, making phenotyping of tuber development a challenging task. To determine the growth dynamics of tubers before, during and after stress treatment is nearly impossible with traditional destructive harvesting approaches. In contrast, X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) offers the opportunity to access belowground growth processes. In this study, potato tuber development from initiation until harvest was monitored by CT analysis for five different genotypes under stress conditions. Tuber growth was monitored three times per week via CT analysis. Stress treatment was started when all plants exhibited detectable tubers. Combined heat and drought stress was applied by increasing growth temperature for 2 weeks and simultaneously decreasing daily water supply. CT analysis revealed that tuber growth is inhibited under stress within a week and can resume after the stress has been terminated. After cessation of stress, tubers started growing again and were only slightly and insignificantly smaller than control tubers at the end of the experimental period. These growth characteristics were accompanied by corresponding changes in gene expression and activity of enzymes relevant for starch metabolism which is the driving force for tuber growth. Gene expression and activity of Sucrose Synthase (SuSy) reaffirmed the detrimental impact of the stress on starch biosynthesis. Perception of the stress treatment by the tubers was confirmed by gene expression analysis of potential stress marker genes whose applicability for potato tubers is further discussed. We established a semi-automatic imaging pipeline to analyze potato tuber delevopment in a medium thoughput (5 min per pot). The imaging pipeline presented here can be scaled up to be used in high-throughput phenotyping systems. However, the combination with automated data processing is the key to generate objective data accelerating breeding efforts to improve abiotic stress tolerance of potato genotypes.