Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) plantlets grown in vitro often grow slowly when transferred to the field possibly, due to a limited photosynthetic capacity of in vitro-cultured plantlets, apparently caused by the sucrose added to growth medium causing negative feedback for photosynthesis. In this paper, we tested the hypothesis that high exogenous sucrose will decrease ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase (Rubisco) activity and photosynthesis resulting in limited ex vitro growth. Plantlets grown with high exogenous sucrose (90 g l−1) had reduced photosynthetic activity that resulted in a poor photosynthetic response to high levels of light and CO2. These plantlets also had low amounts of Rubisco protein, low Rubisco activity, and reduced growth despite showing high survival when transferred to the field. Decreasing the medium's sucrose concentration from 90 to 22.5 g l−1 or 0 g l−1 resulted in increased photosynthetic response to light and CO2 along with increased Rubisco and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC) activities and proteins. However, plantlets grown in vitro without exogenous sucrose died when transferred ex vitro, whereas those grown with intermediate exogenous sucrose showed intermediate photosynthetic response, high survival, fast growth, and ex vitro photosynthesis. Thus, exogenous sucrose at moderate concentration decreased photosynthesis but increased survival, suggesting that both in vitro photosynthesis and exogenous sucrose reserves contribute to field establishment and growth of coconut plantlets cultured in vitro.
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Vol. 41 • No. 1