Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) is a specialized mode of photosynthesis that improves water use efficiency by shifting part or all of net atmospheric CO2 uptake to the night. Genetic dissection of regulatory and metabolic attributes of CAM has been limited by the difficulty of identifying a reliable phenotype for mutant screening. We developed a novel and simple colorimetric assay to measure leaf pH to screen fast neutron-mutagenized populations of common ice plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum), a facultative CAM species, to detect CAM-deficient mutants with limited nocturnal acidification. The isolated CAM-deficient mutants showed negligible net dark CO2 uptake compared with wild-type plants following the imposition of salinity stress. The mutants and wild-type plants accumulated nearly comparable levels of sodium in leaves, but the mutants grew more slowly than the wild-type plants. The mutants also had substantially reduced seed set and seed weight relative to wild type under salinity stress. Carbon-isotope ratios of seed collected from 4-month-old plants indicated that C3 photosynthesis made a greater contribution to seed production in mutants compared to wild type. The CAM-deficient mutants were deficient in leaf starch and lacked plastidic phosphoglucomutase, an enzyme critical for gluconeogenesis and starch formation, resulting in substrate limitation of nocturnal C4 acid formation. The restoration of nocturnal acidification by feeding detached leaves of salt-stressed mutants with glucose or sucrose supported this defect and served to illustrate the flexibility of CAM. The CAM-deficient mutants described here constitute important models for exploring regulatory features and metabolic consequences of CAM.
!!!All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes