Midrib Sucrose Accumulation and Sugar Transporter Gene Expression in YCS-Affected Sugarcane Leaves

  • Annelie MarquardtEmail author
  • Robert J. Henry
  • Frederik C. Botha


Sucrose accumulation and decreased photosynthesis are early symptoms of yellow canopy syndrome (YCS) in sugarcane (Saccharum spp.), and precede the visual yellowing of the leaves. To investigate broad-scale gene expression changes during YCS-onset, transcriptome analyses coupled to metabolome analyses were performed. Across leaf tissues, the greatest number of differentially expressed genes related to the chloroplast, and the metabolic processes relating to nitrogen and carbohydrates. Five genes represented 90% of the TPM (Transcripts Per Million) associated with the downregulation of transcription during YCS-onset, which included PSII D1 (PsbA). This differential expression was consistent with a feedback regulatory effect upon photosynthesis. Broad-scale gene expression analyses did not reveal a cause for leaf sugar accumulation during YCS-onset. Interestingly, the midrib showed the greatest accumulation of sugars, followed by symptomatic lamina. To investigate if phloem loading/reloading may be compromised on a gene expression level – to lead to leaf sucrose accumulation - sucrose transport-related proteins of SWEETs, Sucrose Transporters (SUTs), H+-ATPases and H+-pyrophosphatases (H+-PPases) were characterised from a sugarcane transcriptome and expression analysed. Two clusters of Type I H+-PPases, with one upregulated and the other downregulated, were evident. Although less pronounced, a similar pattern of change was observed for the H+-ATPases. The disaccharide transporting SWEETs were downregulated after visual symptoms were present, and a monosaccharide transporting SWEET upregulated preceding, as well as after, symptom development. SUT gene expression was the least responsive to YCS development. The results are consistent with a reduction of photoassimilate movement through the phloem leading to sucrose build-up in the leaf.


Sugarcane Saccharum spp. Yellow canopy syndrome (YCS) Sugar transport Leaf 



Amino Acid




Companion Cell


Differentially Expressed Gene


Early-Stage YCS-affected lamina


4-aminobutyric acid


Gene Ontology




Late-Stage YCS-affected lamina




Open-Reading Frame


Inorganic Phosphate


Proton Motive Force


Inorganic Pyrophosphate


Photosystem I


Photosystem II


Sugarcane Yellow Leaf Virus


Sugarcane yellow leaf phytoplasma


Sieve Element


Sucrose Synthase


Sucrose-H+ symporter sugar transporter


Sugar will eventually be exported transporter


Transcripts Per Million


Vascular Parenchyma


Yellow Canopy Syndrome



We are thankful for financial support from Sugar Research Australia and the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Sincere thanks to Gerard Scalia and Kate Wathen-Dunn for pivotal roles during sample collection and general support. We also thank Davey Olsen for assistance identifying sampling sites, and Ian Shepherdson of Home Hill, Queensland for access to sampled material. Further we acknowledge technical support from Rosa Shafiei and Dr. Rafael Tavares.


This work was funded by Sugar Research Australia Limited, and the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (State of Queensland, Australia).

Supplementary material

12042_2019_9221_MOESM1_ESM.docx (3.1 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 3218 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sugar Research Australia LimitedIndooroopillyAustralia
  2. 2.Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI)University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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