, Volume 224, Issue 4, pp 828-837
Date: 31 Mar 2006

Xylem-specific and tension stress-responsive coexpression of KORRIGAN endoglucanase and three secondary wall-associated cellulose synthase genes in aspen trees

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Abstract

In nature, angiosperm trees develop tension wood on the upper side of their leaning trunks and drooping branches. Development of tension wood is one of the straightening mechanisms by which trees counteract leaning or bending of stem and resume upward growth. Tension wood is characterized by the development of a highly crystalline cellulose-enriched gelatinous layer next to the lumen of the tension wood fibers. Thus experimental induction of tension wood provides a system to understand the process of cellulose biosynthesis in trees. Since KORRIGAN endoglucanases (KOR) appear to play an important role in cellulose biosynthesis in Arabidopsis, we cloned PtrKOR, a full-length KOR cDNA from aspen xylem. Using RT-PCR, in situ hybridization, and tissue-print assays, we show that PtrKOR gene expression is significantly elevated on the upper side of the bent aspen stem in response to tension stress while KOR expression is significantly suppressed on the opposite side experiencing compression stress. Moreover, three previously reported aspen cellulose synthase genes, namely, PtrCesA1, PtrCesA2, and PtrCesA3 that are closely associated with secondary cell wall development in the xylem cells exhibited similar tension stress-responsive behavior. Our results suggest that coexpression of these four proteins is important for the biosynthesis of highly crystalline cellulose typically present in tension wood fibers. Their simultaneous genetic manipulation may lead to industrially relevant improvement of cellulose in transgenic crops and trees.

Suchita Bhandari and Takeshi Fujino contributed equally to this research.