, Volume 219, Issue 1, pp 32-40
Date: 28 Jan 2004

Inhibition of a ubiquitously expressed pectin methyl esterase in Solanum tuberosum L. affects plant growth, leaf growth polarity, and ion partitioning

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Abstract

Two pectin methyl esterases (PMEs; EC 3.1.1.11) from Solanum tuberosum were isolated and their expression characterised. One partial clone (pest1) was expressed in leaves and fruit tissue, while pest2 was a functional full-length clone and was expressed ubiquitously, with a preference for aerial organs. Potato plants were transformed with a chimeric antisense construct that was designed to simultaneously inhibit pest1 and pest2 transcript accumulation; however, reduction of mRNA levels was confined to pest2. The decrease in pest2 transcript was accompanied by up to 50% inhibition of total PME activity, which was probably due to the reduction of only one PME isoform. PME inhibition affected plant development as reflected by smaller stem elongation rates of selected transformants when compared with control plants, leading to a reduction in height throughout the entire course of development. Expansion rates of young developing leaves were measured simultaneously by two displacement transducers in the direction of the leaf tip (proximal–distal axis) and in the perpendicular direction (medial–lateral axis). Significant differences in leaf growth patterns were detected between wild-type and transgenic plants. We suggest that these visual phenotypes could be correlated with modifications of ion accumulation and partitioning within the transgenic plants. The ion-binding capacities of cell walls from PME-inhibited plants were specifically modified as they preferentially bound more sodium, but less potassium and calcium. X-ray microanalysis also indicated an increase in the concentration of several ions within the leaf apoplast of transgenic plants. Moreover, quantification of the total content of major cations revealed differences specific for a given element between the leaves of PME-inhibited and wild-type plants. Reduced growth rates might also be due to effects of PME inhibition on pectin metabolism, predominantly illustrated by an accumulation of galacturonic acid over other cell wall components.