Seasonal below-ground metabolism in switchgrass

Nathan A. Palmer, Aaron J. Saathoff, Erin D. Scully, Christian M. Tobias, Paul Twigg, Soundararajan Madhavan, Marty Schmer, Rebecca Cahoon, Scott E. Sattler, Serge J. Edmé, Robert B. Mitchell, Gautam Sarath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a perennial, polyploid, C4 warm-season grass is among the foremost herbaceous species being advanced as a source of biomass for biofuel end uses. At the end of every growing season, the aerial tissues senesce, and the below-ground rhizomes become dormant. Future growth is dependent on the successful over-wintering of the rhizomes. Although the importance of rhizome health to overall year-upon-year plant productivity has been long recognized, there is limited information on seasonal changes occurring during dormancy at both the transcriptome and metabolite levels. Here, global changes in transcriptomes and metabolites were investigated over two growing seasons in rhizomes harvested from field-grown plants. The objectives were: (a) synthesize information on cellular processes that lead to dormancy; and (b) provide models that could account for major metabolic pathways present in dormant switchgrass rhizomes. Overall, metabolism during dormancy appeared to involve discrete but interrelated events. One was a response to abscisic acid that resulted in dehydration, increases in osmolytes and upregulation of autophagic processes, likely through the target of rapamycin complex and sucrose non-fermentative-related kinase-based signaling cascades. Another was a recalibration of energy transduction through apparent reductions in mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation, increases in substrate level generation of ATP and reducing equivalents, and recycling of N and possibly CO2 through refixation. Lastly, transcript abundances indicated that cold-related signaling was also occurring. Altogether, these data provide a detailed overview of rhizome metabolism, especially during dormancy, which can be exploited in the future to improve winter survival in switchgrass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1059-1075
Number of pages17
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Accession numbers: SRX1601466
  • Panicum virgatum
  • abscisic acid
  • autophagy
  • dormancy
  • metabolites
  • rhizomes
  • switchgrass
  • target of rapamycin kinase
  • transcriptomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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