, Volume 210, Issue 3, pp 391-399

Expression of a Petunia inflata pectin methyl esterase in Solanum tuberosum L. enhances stem elongation and modifies cation distribution

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Transgenic potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) plants were constructed with a Petunia inflata-derived cDNA encoding a pectin methyl esterase (PME; EC in sense orientation under the control of the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter. The PME activity was elevated in leaves and tubers of the transgenic lines but slightly reduced in apical segments of stems from mature plants. Stem segments from the base of juvenile PME-overexpressing plants did not differ in PME activity from the control, whereas in apical parts PME was less active than in the wild-type. During the early stages of development stems of these trangenic plants elongated more rapidly than those of the wild-type. Further evidence that overexpression of a plant-derived PME has an impact on plant development is based on modifications of tuber yield, which was reduced in the transgenic lines. Cell walls from transgenic tubers showed significant differences in their cation-binding properties in comparison with the wild-type. In particular, cell walls displayed increased affinity for sodium and calcium, while potassium binding was constant. Furthermore, the total ion content of transgenic potatoes was modified. Indications of PME-mediated differences in the distribution of ions in transgenic plants were also obtained by monitoring relaxations of the membrane potential of roots subsequent to changes in the ionic composition of the bathing solution. However, no effects on the chemical structure of pectin from tuber cell walls could be detected.

Received: 24 March 1999 / Accepted: 20 August 1999