Metabolic Contributors to Drought-enhanced Accumulation of Sugars and Acids in Oranges

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

The nature of sink strength in orange fruit and changes occurring during drought stress were investigated. Potted trees of `Hamlin' orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] grafted on Troyer citrange [Citrus sinensis × Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf.] were irrigated using a microsprinkler system creating either well-watered or water-stressed conditions, as determined by stem water potentials. Fruit were harvested every other week from trees of both well-watered and drought-stressed treatments during the final stage of fruit development when sugars accumulate rapidly. Fruit quality indices and activities of sucrose synthase (SuSy), invertase, sucrose-P synthase, sucrose-P phosphatase, V-ATPase, and V-PPase were measured. Acids and soluble sugar concentrations were elevated in drought-stressed fruit, whereas juice pH decreased in those same fruit. Results indicate that increased sink strength in fruit from stressed trees was accompanied by an increase in SuSy activity and lowered juice pH. The remaining enzymes examined in this experiment showed no changes in activity between control and treated fruit, as was the case for plasmalemma and tonoplast sucrose carriers. Based on the present data, we conclude that SuSy and vacuolar pH are the predominant factors controlling photoassimilate accumulation in orange fruit under enhanced sink conditions brought about by imposition of a mild drought stress.

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