In higher plants, soluble sugars are mainly present as sucrose, glucose, and fructose . Sugar allocation is based on both source-to-sink transport and intracellular transport between the different organelles [2,3] and depends on actual plant requirements . Under abiotic stress conditions, such as nitrogen limitation, carbohydrates accumulate in plant cells . Despite an increasing number of genetic studies [6, 7], the genetic architecture determining carbohydrate composition is poorly known. Using a quantitative genetics approach, we determined that the carrier protein SWEET17 is a major factor controlling fructose content in Arabidopsis leaves. We observed that when SWEET17 expression is reduced, either by induced or natural variation, fructose accumulates in leaves, suggesting an enhanced storage capacity. Subcellular localization of SWEET17-GFP to the tonoplast and functional expression in Xenopus oocytes showed that SWEET17 is the first vacuolar fructose transporter to be characterized in plants. Physiological studies in planta provide evidence that SWEET17 acts to export fructose out of the vacuole. Overall, our results suggest that natural variation in leaf fructose levels is controlled by the vacuolar fructose transporter SWEET17. SWEET17 is highly conserved across the plant kingdom; thus, these findings offer future possibilities to modify carbohydrate partitioning in crops.
2013. Vol. 23, no 8, 697-702 p.