Starch is the major non-structural carbohydrate in plants. It serves as an important store of carbon that fuels plant metabolism and growth when they are unable to photosynthesise. This storage can be in leaves and other green tissues, where it is degraded during the night, or in heterotrophic tissues such as roots, seeds and tubers, where it is stored over longer time periods. Arabidopsis accumulates starch in many of its tissues, but mostly in its leaves during the day. It has proven to be a powerful genetic system for discovering how starch is synthesised and degraded, and new proteins and processes have been discovered. Such work has major significance for our starch crops, whose yield and quality could be improved by the application of this knowledge. Research into Arabidopsis starch metabolism has begun to reveal how its daily turnover is integrated into the rest of metabolism and adapted to the environmental conditions. Furthermore, Arabidopsis mutant lines deficient in starch metabolism have been employed as tools to study other biological processes ranging from sugar sensing to gravitropism and flowering time control. This review gives a detailed account of the use of Arabidopsis to study starch metabolism. It describes the major discoveries made and presents an overview of our understanding today, together with some as-yet unresolved questions.
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