Sink filling, inulin metabolizing enzymes and carbohydrate status in field grown chicory (Cichorium intybus L.).

J. van Arkel, R. Vergauwen, R. Sévenier, J.C. Hakkert, A. van Laere, H.J. Bouwmeester, I.M. van der Meer

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34 Citations (Scopus)


Inulin is a fructose-based polymer that is isolated from chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) taproots. The degree of polymerization (DP) determines its application and hence the value of the crop. The DP is highly dependent on the field conditions and harvest time. Therefore, the present study was carried out with the objective to understand the regulation of inulin metabolism and the process that determines the chain length and inulin yield throughout the whole growing season. Metabolic aspects of inulin production and degradation in chicory were monitored in the field and under controlled conditions. The following characteristics were determined in taproots: concentrations of glucose, fructose and sucrose, the inulin mean polymer length (mDP), yield, gene expression and activity of enzymes involved in inulin metabolism. Inulin synthesis, catalyzed by sucrose:sucrose 1-fructosyltransferase (EC (1-SST) and fructan:fructan 1-fructosyltransferase (EC (1-FFT), started at the onset of taproot development. Inulin yield as a function of time followed a sigmoid curve reaching a maximum in November. Inulin reached a maximum mDP of about 15 in September, than gradually decreased. Based on the changes observed In the pattern of inulin accumulation, we defined three different phases in the growing season and analyzed product formation, enzyme activity and gene expression in these defined periods. The results were validated by performing experiments under controlled conditions in climate rooms. Our results show that the decrease in 1-SST that starts in June is not regulated by day length and temperature. From mid-September onwards, the mean degree of polymerization (mDP) decreased gradually although inulin yield still increased. The decrease in mDP combined with increased yield results from fructan exohydrolase activity, induced by low temperature, and the back transfer activity of 1-FFT. Overall, this study provides background information on how to improve inulin yield and quality in chicory. (C) 2012 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1520-1529
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Plant Physiology
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • sucrose 1-fructosyl transferase
  • helianthus-tuberosus colombia
  • fructan metabolism
  • jerusalem-artichoke
  • fructosyl transferase
  • transgenic potato
  • mass fingerprint
  • sugar-beet
  • roots
  • storage

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