, Volume 248, Issue 2, pp 477–488 | Cite as

Cell division and turgor mediate enhanced plant growth in Arabidopsis plants treated with the bacterial signalling molecule lumichrome

  • Motlalepula Pholo
  • Beatrix Coetzee
  • Hans J. Maree
  • Philip R. Young
  • James R. Lloyd
  • Jens Kossmann
  • Paul N. HillsEmail author
Original Article


Main conclusion

Transcriptomic analysis indicates that the bacterial signalling molecule lumichrome enhances plant growth through a combination of enhanced cell division and cell enlargement, and possibly enhances photosynthesis.

Lumichrome (7,8 dimethylalloxazine), a novel multitrophic signal molecule produced by Sinorhizobium meliloti bacteria, has previously been shown to elicit growth promotion in different plant species (Phillips et al. in Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96:12275–12280,, 1999). However, the molecular mechanisms that underlie this plant growth promotion remain obscure. Global transcript profiling using RNA-seq suggests that lumichrome enhances growth by inducing genes impacting on turgor driven growth and mitotic cell cycle that ensures the integration of cell division and expansion of developing leaves. The abundance of XTH9 and XPA4 transcripts was attributed to improved mediation of cell-wall loosening to allow turgor-driven cell enlargement. Mitotic CYCD3.3, CYCA1.1, SP1L3, RSW7 and PDF1 transcripts were increased in lumichrome-treated Arabidopsis thaliana plants, suggesting enhanced growth was underpinned by increased cell differentiation and expansion with a consequential increase in biomass. Synergistic ethylene–auxin cross-talk was also observed through reciprocal over-expression of ACO1 and SAUR54, in which ethylene activates the auxin signalling pathway and regulates Arabidopsis growth by both stimulating auxin biosynthesis and modulating the auxin transport machinery to the leaves. Decreased transcription of jasmonate biosynthesis and responsive-related transcripts (LOX2; LOX3; LOX6; JAL34; JR1) might contribute towards suppression of the negative effects of methyl jasmonate (MeJa) such as chlorophyll loss and decreases in RuBisCO and photosynthesis. This work contributes towards a deeper understanding of how lumichrome enhances plant growth and development.


Cell wall Cyclins Defence response Expansins Mitotic cell cycle Stress response Transcript profiling 





Gibberellic acid


Jasmonic acid


Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria



We are very grateful to Professor Martin Kidd for aid in the statistical analysis. Computations were performed using the University of Stellenbosch Central Analytical Facilities’ HPC2:


This research was funded by the National Research Foundation (SARChi Research Chair “Genetic tailoring of biopolymers”) of South Africa.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

425_2018_2916_MOESM1_ESM.doc (38 kb)
Supplementary Table S1 Statistics of clean reads in RNA sequencing. Supplementary Table S2 Primer pairs for the selected genes for RT-qPCR validation (DOC 37 kb)
425_2018_2916_MOESM2_ESM.ppt (218 kb)
Suppl. Fig. S1 RNA integrity denatured in 1% (w/v) agarose gel and cDNA transcribed from RNA for RT-qPCR (PPT 217 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Genetics, Institute for Plant BiotechnologyStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of GeneticsStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa
  3. 3.Agricultural Research Council, Infruitec-NietvoorbijInstitute for Deciduous Fruit, Vines and WineStellenboschSouth Africa
  4. 4.Institute for Wine BiotechnologyStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa

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