Plants deal with resource management during all their life. During the day they feed on photosynthetic carbon, sucrose, while storing a part into starch for night use. Careful control of carbon partitioning, starch degradation, and sucrose export rates is crucial to avoid carbon starvation, insuring optimal growth whatever the photoperiod. Efficient regulation of these key metabolic rates can give an evolutionary advantage to plants. Here we propose a model of adaptive starch metabolism in response to various photoperiods. We assume the three key metabolic rates to be circadian regulated in leaves and that their phases of oscillations are shifted in response to sucrose starvation. We performed gradient descents for various photoperiod conditions to find the corresponding optimal sets of phase shifts that minimize starvation. Results at convergence were all consistent with experimental data: (1) diurnal starch profile showed linear increase during the day and linear decrease at night; (2) shorter photoperiod tended to increase starch synthesis speed while decreasing its degradation speed during the longer night; (3) sudden early dusk showed slower starch degradation during the longer night. Profiles that best explained observations corresponded to circadian regulation of all rates. This theoretical study would establish a framework for future research on feedback between starch metabolism and circadian clock as well as plant productivity.
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