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1.  Habituation of Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) Cell Cultures to Quinclorac and Analysis of the Subsequent Cell Wall Modifications 
Annals of Botany  2008;101(9):1329-1339.
Background and Aims
The herbicide quinclorac has been reported to inhibit incorporation of glucose both into cellulose and other cell wall polysaccharides. However, further work has failed to detect any apparent effect of this herbicide on the synthesis of the wall. In order to elucidate whether quinclorac elicits the inhibition of cellulose biosynthesis directly, in this study bean cell calli were habituated to grow on lethal concentrations of the herbicide and the modifications in cell wall composition due to the habituation process were analysed.
Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy associated with multivariate analysis, cell wall fractionation techniques, biochemical analyses and the immunolocation of different cell wall components with specific monoclonal antibodies were used to characterize the cell walls of quinclorac-habituated cells.
Key Results
Quinclorac-habituated cells were more irregularly shaped than non-habituated cells and they accumulated an extracellular material, which was more abundant as the level of habituation rose. Habituated cells did not show any decrease in cellulose content, but cell wall fractionation revealed that changes occurred in the distribution and post-depositional modifications of homogalacturonan and rhamnogalacturonan I during the habituation process. Therefore, since the action of quinclorac on the cell wall does not seem to be due to a direct inhibition of any cell wall component, it is suggested that the effect of quinclorac on the cell wall could be due to a side-effect of the herbicide.
Long-term modifications of the cell wall caused by the habituation of bean cell cultures to quinclorac did not resemble those of bean cells habituated to the well-known cellulose biosynthesis inhibitors dichlobenil or isoxaben. Quinclorac does not seem to act primarily as an inhibitor of cellulose biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC2710259  PMID: 18408242
Quinclorac; herbicide; Phaseolus vulgaris; cell culture habituation; primary cell wall; cellulose; FTIR spectroscopy
2.  Enhanced resistance to the cellulose biosynthetic inhibitors, thaxtomin A and isoxaben in Arabidopsis thaliana mutants, also provides specific co-resistance to the auxin transport inhibitor, 1-NPA 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:76.
Thaxtomin A (TA) is a phytotoxin produced by plant pathogenic Streptomyces spp. responsible for potato common scab. TA inhibits cellulose biosynthesis in expanding plant tissues and is essential for disease induction. Auxin treatment of various plant tissues has been repeatedly demonstrated to inhibit TA toxicity and to reduce common scab. This work utilises Arabidopsis thaliana mutants with resistance to cellulose biosynthesis inhibitors (CBIs) to investigate the interaction between TA, other CBIs and auxins.
Three CBI resistant A. thaliana mutants; txr1-1 (tolerance to TA), ixr1-1 (tolerance to isoxaben - IXB) and KOR1 (cellulose deficiency), showed no altered root growth response to treatment with natural or synthetic auxins, nor with the auxin efflux transport inhibitor 2,3,5-Triiodobenzoic acid (TIBA). However, all mutants had significantly enhanced tolerance to 1-napthylphthalamic acid (NPA), another auxin efflux transport inhibitor, which blocks polar auxin transport at a site distinct from TIBA. NPA tolerance of txr1-1 and ixr1-1 was further supported by electrophysiological analysis of net H+ fluxes in the mature, but not elongation zone of roots. All three mutants showed increased tolerance to IXB, but only txr1-1 showed tolerance to TA. No mutant showed enhanced tolerance to a third CBI, dichlobenil (DCB).
We have demonstrated that plant tolerance to TA and IXB, as well as cell wall synthesis modifications in roots, have resulted in specific co-resistance to NPA but not TIBA. This suggests that CBI resistance has an impact on polar auxin efflux transport processes associated with the NPA binding protein. We also show that NPA inhibitory response in roots occurs in the mature root zone but not the elongation zone. Responses of mutants to CBIs indicate a similar, but not identical mode of action of TA and IXB, in contrast to DCB.
PMCID: PMC3655924  PMID: 23638731
1-napthylphthalamic acid - NPA; 2,3,5-Triiodobenzoic acid - TIBA; Thaxtomin A; Isoxaben; Dichlobenil; Cellulose biosynthetic inhibitor; Common scab; Ion fluxes; Plasma membrane
3.  Thaxtomin A affects CESA-complex density, expression of cell wall genes, cell wall composition, and causes ectopic lignification in Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2009;60(3):955-965.
Thaxtomin A, a phytotoxin produced by Streptomyces eubacteria, is suspected to act as a natural cellulose synthesis inhibitor. This view is confirmed by the results obtained from new chemical, molecular, and microscopic analyses of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings treated with thaxtomin A. Cell wall analysis shows that thaxtomin A reduces crystalline cellulose, and increases pectins and hemicellulose in the cell wall. Treatment with thaxtomin A also changes the expression of genes involved in primary and secondary cellulose synthesis as well as genes associated with pectin metabolism and cell wall remodelling, in a manner nearly identical to isoxaben. In addition, it induces the expression of several defence-related genes and leads to callose deposition. Defects in cellulose synthesis cause ectopic lignification phenotypes in A. thaliana, and it is shown that lignification is also triggered by thaxtomin A, although in a pattern different from isoxaben. Spinning disc confocal microscopy further reveals that thaxtomin A depletes cellulose synthase complexes from the plasma membrane and results in the accumulation of these particles in a small microtubule-associated compartment. The results provide new and clear evidence for thaxtomin A having a strong impact on cellulose synthesis, thus suggesting that this is its primary mode of action.
PMCID: PMC2652064  PMID: 19269997
Arabidopsis thaliana; callose; cellulose; defence response; isoxaben; lignin; microtubule; phytotoxin; Streptomyces; thaxtomin
4.  Effect of lignin content on changes occurring in poplar cellulose ultrastructure during dilute acid pretreatment 
Obtaining a better understanding of the complex mechanisms occurring during lignocellulosic deconstruction is critical to the continued growth of renewable biofuel production. A key step in bioethanol production is thermochemical pretreatment to reduce plant cell wall recalcitrance for downstream processes. Previous studies of dilute acid pretreatment (DAP) have shown significant changes in cellulose ultrastructure that occur during pretreatment, but there is still a substantial knowledge gap with respect to the influence of lignin on these cellulose ultrastructural changes. This study was designed to assess how the presence of lignin influences DAP-induced changes in cellulose ultrastructure, which might ultimately have large implications with respect to enzymatic deconstruction efforts.
Native, untreated hybrid poplar (Populus trichocarpa x Populus deltoids) samples and a partially delignified poplar sample (facilitated by acidic sodium chlorite pulping) were separately pretreated with dilute sulfuric acid (0.10 M) at 160°C for 15 minutes and 35 minutes, respectively . Following extensive characterization, the partially delignified biomass displayed more significant changes in cellulose ultrastructure following DAP than the native untreated biomass. With respect to the native untreated poplar, delignified poplar after DAP (in which approximately 40% lignin removal occurred) experienced: increased cellulose accessibility indicated by increased Simons’ stain (orange dye) adsorption from 21.8 to 72.5 mg/g, decreased cellulose weight-average degree of polymerization (DPw) from 3087 to 294 units, and increased cellulose crystallite size from 2.9 to 4.2 nm. These changes following DAP ultimately increased enzymatic sugar yield from 10 to 80%.
Overall, the results indicate a strong influence of lignin content on cellulose ultrastructural changes occurring during DAP. With the reduction of lignin content during DAP, the enlargement of cellulose microfibril dimensions and crystallite size becomes more apparent. Further, this enlargement of cellulose microfibril dimensions is attributed to specific processes, including the co-crystallization of crystalline cellulose driven by irreversible inter-chain hydrogen bonding (similar to hornification) and/or cellulose annealing that converts amorphous cellulose to paracrystalline and crystalline cellulose. Essentially, lignin acts as a barrier to prevent cellulose crystallinity increase and cellulose fibril coalescence during DAP.
PMCID: PMC4205766  PMID: 25342973
Cellulose ultrastructure; Lignin content; Dilute acid pretreatment; Delignification; Enzymatic sugar release; Biomass recalcitrance
5.  Habituation and dehabituation to dichlobenil 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2009;4(11):1069-1071.
The habituation of cell cultures to cellulose biosynthesis inhibitors constitutes a valuable method for learning more about the plasticity of plant cell wall composition and structure. The subculture of habituated cells in the absence of an inhibitor (dehabituation) offers complementary information: some habituation-associated modifications revert, whereas others remain, even after longterm (3–5 years) dehabituation processes. However, is dehabituation simply the opposite to the process of habituation, in the same way that the cloth woven by Penélope during the day was unwoven during the night? Principal Component Analysis applied to Fourier Transformed Infrared (FTIR) spectra of cell walls from dichlobenil-habituated and dehabituated bean cell lines has shown that dehabituation follows a different pathway to that of habituation. Principal component loadings show that dehabituated cells have more pectins, but that these display a lower degree of methyl-esterification, than those of habituated ones. Further analysis of cell walls focusing on the first steps of habituation would serve to identify which specific modifications in pectins are responsible to the fine modulation of cell wall architecture observed during the habituation/dehabituation process.
PMCID: PMC2819516  PMID: 19829052
cell-wall; cellulose; dichlobenil; habituation-dehabituation; Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy; principal component analysis
6.  Genome Sequence of the Plant Growth Promoting Endophytic Bacterium Enterobacter sp. 638 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(5):e1000943.
Enterobacter sp. 638 is an endophytic plant growth promoting gamma-proteobacterium that was isolated from the stem of poplar (Populus trichocarpa×deltoides cv. H11-11), a potentially important biofuel feed stock plant. The Enterobacter sp. 638 genome sequence reveals the presence of a 4,518,712 bp chromosome and a 157,749 bp plasmid (pENT638-1). Genome annotation and comparative genomics allowed the identification of an extended set of genes specific to the plant niche adaptation of this bacterium. This includes genes that code for putative proteins involved in survival in the rhizosphere (to cope with oxidative stress or uptake of nutrients released by plant roots), root adhesion (pili, adhesion, hemagglutinin, cellulose biosynthesis), colonization/establishment inside the plant (chemiotaxis, flagella, cellobiose phosphorylase), plant protection against fungal and bacterial infections (siderophore production and synthesis of the antimicrobial compounds 4-hydroxybenzoate and 2-phenylethanol), and improved poplar growth and development through the production of the phytohormones indole acetic acid, acetoin, and 2,3-butanediol. Metabolite analysis confirmed by quantitative RT–PCR showed that, the production of acetoin and 2,3-butanediol is induced by the presence of sucrose in the growth medium. Interestingly, both the genetic determinants required for sucrose metabolism and the synthesis of acetoin and 2,3-butanediol are clustered on a genomic island. These findings point to a close interaction between Enterobacter sp. 638 and its poplar host, where the availability of sucrose, a major plant sugar, affects the synthesis of plant growth promoting phytohormones by the endophytic bacterium. The availability of the genome sequence, combined with metabolome and transcriptome analysis, will provide a better understanding of the synergistic interactions between poplar and its growth promoting endophyte Enterobacter sp. 638. This information can be further exploited to improve establishment and sustainable production of poplar as an energy feedstock on marginal, non-agricultural soils using endophytic bacteria as growth promoting agents.
Author Summary
Poplar is considered as the model tree species for the production of lignocellulosic biomass destined for biofuel production. The plant growth promoting endophytic bacterium Enterobacter sp. 638 can improve the growth of poplar on marginal soils by as much as 40%. This prompted us to sequence the genome of this strain and, via comparative genomics, identify functions essential for the successful colonization and endophytic association with its poplar host. Analysis of the genome sequence, combined with metabolite analysis and quantitative PCR, pointed to a remarkable interaction between Enterobacter sp. 638 and its poplar host with the endophyte responsible for the production of a phytohormone, and a precursor for another that poplar is unable to synthesize, and where the production of the plant growth promoting compounds depended on the presence of plant synthesized compounds, such as sucrose, in the growth medium. Our results provide the basis to better understanding the synergistic interactions between poplar and Enterobacter sp. 638. This information can be further exploited to improve establishment and sustainable production of poplar on marginal, non-agricultural soils using endophytic bacteria such as Enterobacter sp. 638 as growth promoting agents.
PMCID: PMC2869309  PMID: 20485560
7.  Analysis of 4,664 high-quality sequence-finished poplar full-length cDNA clones and their utility for the discovery of genes responding to insect feeding 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:57.
The genus Populus includes poplars, aspens and cottonwoods, which will be collectively referred to as poplars hereafter unless otherwise specified. Poplars are the dominant tree species in many forest ecosystems in the Northern Hemisphere and are of substantial economic value in plantation forestry. Poplar has been established as a model system for genomics studies of growth, development, and adaptation of woody perennial plants including secondary xylem formation, dormancy, adaptation to local environments, and biotic interactions.
As part of the poplar genome sequencing project and the development of genomic resources for poplar, we have generated a full-length (FL)-cDNA collection using the biotinylated CAP trapper method. We constructed four FLcDNA libraries using RNA from xylem, phloem and cambium, and green shoot tips and leaves from the P. trichocarpa Nisqually-1 genotype, as well as insect-attacked leaves of the P. trichocarpa × P. deltoides hybrid. Following careful selection of candidate cDNA clones, we used a combined strategy of paired end reads and primer walking to generate a set of 4,664 high-accuracy, sequence-verified FLcDNAs, which clustered into 3,990 putative unique genes. Mapping FLcDNAs to the poplar genome sequence combined with BLAST comparisons to previously predicted protein coding sequences in the poplar genome identified 39 FLcDNAs that likely localize to gaps in the current genome sequence assembly. Another 173 FLcDNAs mapped to the genome sequence but were not included among the previously predicted genes in the poplar genome. Comparative sequence analysis against Arabidopsis thaliana and other species in the non-redundant database of GenBank revealed that 11.5% of the poplar FLcDNAs display no significant sequence similarity to other plant proteins. By mapping the poplar FLcDNAs against transcriptome data previously obtained with a 15.5 K cDNA microarray, we identified 153 FLcDNA clones for genes that were differentially expressed in poplar leaves attacked by forest tent caterpillars.
This study has generated a high-quality FLcDNA resource for poplar and the third largest FLcDNA collection published to date for any plant species. We successfully used the FLcDNA sequences to reassess gene prediction in the poplar genome sequence, perform comparative sequence annotation, and identify differentially expressed transcripts associated with defense against insects. The FLcDNA sequences will be essential to the ongoing curation and annotation of the poplar genome, in particular for targeting gaps in the current genome assembly and further improvement of gene predictions. The physical FLcDNA clones will serve as useful reagents for functional genomics research in areas such as analysis of gene functions in defense against insects and perennial growth. Sequences from this study have been deposited in NCBI GenBank under the accession numbers EF144175 to EF148838.
PMCID: PMC2270264  PMID: 18230180
8.  Deepening into the proteome of maize cells habituated to the cellulose biosynthesis inhibitor dichlobenil 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2011;6(1):143-146.
Cellulose biosynthesis inhibitors, such as dichlobenil (DCB), have become a valuable tool for the analysis of structural and compositional plasticity of plant cell walls. By stepwise increasing the concentration of DCB in the culture medium, we obtained maize cells able to cope with DCB through the acquisition of a modified cell wall in which cellulose was partially replaced by a more extensive network of feruloylated arabinoxylans. Recently we demonstrated that the expression of several Cellulose Synthase and phenylpropanoid-related genes is altered in DCB-habituated cells. In addition, by using a proteomic approach we identified several proteins induced or repressed in DCB-habituated cells. After a more in-depth analysis, some new proteins induced (two inhibitors TAXI-IV, an α-1,4-glucan-protein synthase and a pectinesterase inhibitor) or repressed (a chaperonin 60, a fructokinase-1 and a spermidine synthase 1) were identified, and their possible role in the context of DCB-habituation is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3122029  PMID: 21248490
cell wall; DCB; dichlobenil; habituation; maize
9.  Nitrogen-driven stem elongation in poplar is linked with wood modification and gene clusters for stress, photosynthesis and cell wall formation 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:391.
Nitrogen is an important nutrient, often limiting plant productivity and yield. In poplars, woody crops used as feedstock for renewable resources and bioenergy, nitrogen fertilization accelerates growth of the young, expanding stem internodes. The underlying molecular mechanisms of nitrogen use for extension growth in poplars are not well understood. The aim of this study was to dissect the nitrogen-responsive transcriptional network in the elongation zone of Populus trichocarpa in relation to extension growth and cell wall properties.
Transcriptome analyses in the first two internodes of P. trichocarpa stems grown without or with nitrogen fertilization (5 mM NH4NO3) revealed 1037 more than 2-fold differentially expressed genes (DEGs). Co-expression analysis extracted a network containing about one-third of the DEGs with three main complexes of strongly clustered genes. These complexes represented three main processes that were responsive to N-driven growth: Complex 1 integrated growth processes and stress suggesting that genes with established functions in abiotic and biotic stress are also recruited to coordinate growth. Complex 2 was enriched in genes with decreased transcript abundance and functionally annotated as photosynthetic hub. Complex 3 was a hub for secondary cell wall formation connecting well-known transcription factors that control secondary cell walls with genes for the formation of cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin. Anatomical and biochemical analysis supported that N-driven growth resulted in early secondary cell wall formation in the elongation zone with thicker cell walls and increased lignin. These alterations contrasted the N influence on the secondary xylem, where thinner cell walls with lower lignin contents than in unfertilized trees were formed.
This study uncovered that nitrogen-responsive elongation growth of poplar internodes is linked with abiotic stress, suppression of photosynthetic genes and stimulation of genes for cell wall formation. Anatomical and biochemical analysis supported increased accumulation of cell walls and secondary metabolites in the elongation zone. The finding of a nitrogen-responsive cell wall hub may have wider implications for the improvement of tree nitrogen use efficiency and opens new perspectives on the enhancement of wood composition as a feedstock for biofuels.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0391-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302602  PMID: 25547614
Development; Metaxylem; Nitrogen use; Populus trichocarpa; Stress; Transcriptome; Wood; Xylem
10.  The Cellobiose Sensor CebR Is the Gatekeeper of Streptomyces scabies Pathogenicity 
mBio  2015;6(2):e02018-14.
A relatively small number of species in the large genus Streptomyces are pathogenic; the best characterized of these is Streptomyces scabies. The pathogenicity of S. scabies strains is dependent on the production of the nitrated diketopiperazine thaxtomin A, which is a potent plant cellulose synthesis inhibitor. Much is known about the genetic loci associated with plant virulence; however, the molecular mechanisms by which S. scabies triggers expression of thaxtomin biosynthetic genes, beyond the pathway-specific activator TxtR, are not well understood. In this study, we demonstrate that binding sites for the cellulose utilization repressor CebR occur and function within the thaxtomin biosynthetic cluster. This was an unexpected result, as CebR is devoted to primary metabolism and nutritive functions in nonpathogenic streptomycetes. In S. scabies, cellobiose and cellotriose inhibit the DNA-binding ability of CebR, leading to an increased expression of the thaxtomin biosynthetic and regulatory genes txtA, txtB, and txtR. Deletion of cebR results in constitutive thaxtomin A production and hypervirulence of S. scabies. The pathogenicity of S. scabies is thus under dual direct positive and negative transcriptional control where CebR is the cellobiose-sensing key that locks the expression of txtR, the key necessary to unlock the production of the phytotoxin. Interestingly, CebR-binding sites also lie upstream of and within the thaxtomin biosynthetic clusters in Streptomyces turgidiscabies and Streptomyces acidiscabies, suggesting that CebR is most likely an important regulator of virulence in these plant-pathogenic species as well.
What makes a microorganism pathogenic is not limited to the genes acquired for virulence. Using the main causative agent of scab lesions on root and tuber crops as an example, our work identified the subtle but essential genetic changes that generate the cis-acting elements necessary for proper timing of the expression of the cluster of genes responsible for the biosynthesis of thaxtomin A, the primary virulence factor in plant-pathogenic streptomycetes. These data illustrate a situation in which a regulator associated with primary metabolism in nonpathogens, CebR, has been coopted as a master regulator of virulence in pathogenic species. Furthermore, the manipulation of CebR-mediated control of thaxtomin production will facilitate overproduction of this natural and biodegradable herbicide for commercial purposes. Our work thus provides a concrete example of how a strictly theoretical and computational work was able to elucidate a regulatory mechanism associated with the virulence of a plant pathogen and to generate solutions to purely agro-industrial concerns.
PMCID: PMC4358012  PMID: 25714708
11.  Study of seed hair growth in Populus tomentosa, an important character of female floral bud development 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):475.
Poplar seed hair is an environmental annoyance in northern China due to its abundance and widespread airborne distribution after maturation. The morphogenesis and molecular mechanisms of its development are not well understood, and little attention has been focused on the dynamics of its development. To better understand the mechanism of poplar seed hair development, paraffin sections were used to examine the initiation and elongation of poplar seed hairs. RNA-seq technology was also employed to provide a comprehensive overview of transcriptional changes that occur during seed hair development.
The placenta at the base of ovary, was identified as the origin of seed hair development, which is in sharp contrast to cotton fibers that originate from epidermal cells of the seed coat. An enlarged cell nucleus in seed hair cells was also observed, which was supported by our gene ontology enrichment analysis. The significant enriched GO term of “endoreduplication” indicated that cycles of endoreduplication, bypassing normal mitosis, is the underlying mechanisms for the maintenance of the uni-cellular structure of seed hairs. By analyzing global changes in the transcriptome, many genes regulating cell cycle, cell elongation, cell well modification were identified. Additionally, in an analysis of differential expression, cellulose synthesis and cell wall biosynthesis-related biological processes were enriched, indicating that this component of fiber structure in poplar seed hairs is consistent with what is found in cotton fibers. Differentially expressed transcription factors exhibited a stage-specific up-regulation. A dramatic down-regulation was also revealed during the mid-to-late stage of poplar seed hair development, which may point to novel mechanisms regulating cell fate determination and cell elongation.
This study revealed the initiation site of poplar seed hairs and also provided a comprehensive overview of transcriptome dynamics during the process of seed hair development. The high level of resolution on dynamic changes in the transcriptome provided in this study may serve as a valuable resource for developing a more complete understanding of this important biological process.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-475) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4089023  PMID: 24929561
Seed hairs; Trichomes; Fiber; Poplar; Transcriptome
12.  Association Analysis Identifies Melampsora ×columbiana Poplar Leaf Rust Resistance SNPs 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78423.
Populus species are currently being domesticated through intensive time- and resource-dependent programs for utilization in phytoremediation, wood and paper products, and conversion to biofuels. Poplar leaf rust disease can greatly reduce wood volume. Genetic resistance is effective in reducing economic losses but major resistance loci have been race-specific and can be readily defeated by the pathogen. Developing durable disease resistance requires the identification of non-race-specific loci. In the presented study, area under the disease progress curve was calculated from natural infection of Melampsora ×columbiana in three consecutive years. Association analysis was performed using 412 P. trichocarpa clones genotyped with 29,355 SNPs covering 3,543 genes. We found 40 SNPs within 26 unique genes significantly associated (permutated P<0.05) with poplar rust severity. Moreover, two SNPs were repeated in all three years suggesting non-race-specificity and three additional SNPs were differentially expressed in other poplar rust interactions. These five SNPs were found in genes that have orthologs in Arabidopsis with functionality in pathogen induced transcriptome reprogramming, Ca2+/calmodulin and salicylic acid signaling, and tolerance to reactive oxygen species. The additive effect of non-R gene functional variants may constitute high levels of durable poplar leaf rust resistance. Therefore, these findings are of significance for speeding the genetic improvement of this long-lived, economically important organism.
PMCID: PMC3827267  PMID: 24236018
13.  Gene family structure, expression and functional analysis of HD-Zip III genes in angiosperm and gymnosperm forest trees 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:273.
Class III Homeodomain Leucine Zipper (HD-Zip III) proteins have been implicated in the regulation of cambium identity, as well as primary and secondary vascular differentiation and patterning in herbaceous plants. They have been proposed to regulate wood formation but relatively little evidence is available to validate such a role. We characterised and compared HD-Zip III gene family in an angiosperm tree, Populus spp. (poplar), and the gymnosperm Picea glauca (white spruce), representing two highly evolutionarily divergent groups.
Full-length cDNA sequences were isolated from poplar and white spruce. Phylogenetic reconstruction indicated that some of the gymnosperm sequences were derived from lineages that diverged earlier than angiosperm sequences, and seem to have been lost in angiosperm lineages. Transcript accumulation profiles were assessed by RT-qPCR on tissue panels from both species and in poplar trees in response to an inhibitor of polar auxin transport. The overall transcript profiles HD-Zip III complexes in white spruce and poplar exhibited substantial differences, reflecting their evolutionary history. Furthermore, two poplar sequences homologous to HD-Zip III genes involved in xylem development in Arabidopsis and Zinnia were over-expressed in poplar plants. PtaHB1 over-expression produced noticeable effects on petiole and primary shoot fibre development, suggesting that PtaHB1 is involved in primary xylem development. We also obtained evidence indicating that expression of PtaHB1 affected the transcriptome by altering the accumulation of 48 distinct transcripts, many of which are predicted to be involved in growth and cell wall synthesis. Most of them were down-regulated, as was the case for several of the poplar HD-Zip III sequences. No visible physiological effect of over-expression was observed on PtaHB7 transgenic trees, suggesting that PtaHB1 and PtaHB7 likely have distinct roles in tree development, which is in agreement with the functions that have been assigned to close homologs in herbaceous plants.
This study provides an overview of HD-zip III genes related to woody plant development and identifies sequences putatively involved in secondary vascular growth in angiosperms and in gymnosperms. These gene sequences are candidate regulators of wood formation and could be a source of molecular markers for tree breeding related to wood properties.
PMCID: PMC3017839  PMID: 21143995
14.  The poplar PtrWNDs are transcriptional activators of secondary cell wall biosynthesis 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(4):469-472.
Secondary cell walls, consisting of cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin, make up the bulk of wood biomass. It is therefore expected that dissection of the molecular mechanisms underlying secondary wall biosynthesis and its regulation will be instrumental to unravel the process of wood formation in tree species. Wood formation requires the coordinated activation of genes in the secondary wall biosynthetic program that is essential for the biosynthesis and assembly of wood components. It has recently been discovered that a group of poplar (Populus trichocarpa) wood-associated NAC domain transcription factors, PtrWNDs, which are functional orthologs of the Arabidopsis SND1, are capable of turning on the entire secondary wall biosynthetic program when expressed in Arabidopsis. In addition, two of the PtrWNDs were found to be able to activate the promoters of poplar wood biosynthetic genes and a number of other poplar wood-associated transcription factors. Further testing reveals that the promoters of these poplar wood-associated transcription factors are also activated by other PtrWNDs. It is therefore proposed that PtrWNDs are master transcriptional switches regulating a cascade of downstream transcription factors and thereby mediate the coordinated activation of wood biosynthetic genes during wood formation.
PMCID: PMC2958599  PMID: 20383071
NAC domain transcription factor; Populus trichocarpa; secondary wall biosynthesis; transcriptional regulation; wood formation
15.  Apoplast proteome reveals that extracellular matrix contributes to multistress response in poplar 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:674.
Riverine ecosystems, highly sensitive to climate change and human activities, are characterized by rapid environmental change to fluctuating water levels and siltation, causing stress on their biological components. We have little understanding of mechanisms by which riverine plant species have developed adaptive strategies to cope with stress in dynamic environments while maintaining growth and development.
We report that poplar (Populus spp.) has evolved a systems level "stress proteome" in the leaf-stem-root apoplast continuum to counter biotic and abiotic factors. To obtain apoplast proteins from P. deltoides, we developed pressure-chamber and water-displacement methods for leaves and stems, respectively. Analyses of 303 proteins and corresponding transcripts coupled with controlled experiments and bioinformatics demonstrate that poplar depends on constitutive and inducible factors to deal with water, pathogen, and oxidative stress. However, each apoplast possessed a unique set of proteins, indicating that response to stress is partly compartmentalized. Apoplast proteins that are involved in glycolysis, fermentation, and catabolism of sucrose and starch appear to enable poplar to grow normally under water stress. Pathogenesis-related proteins mediating water and pathogen stress in apoplast were particularly abundant and effective in suppressing growth of the most prevalent poplar pathogen Melampsora. Unexpectedly, we found diverse peroxidases that appear to be involved in stress-induced cell wall modification in apoplast, particularly during the growing season. Poplar developed a robust antioxidative system to buffer oxidation in stem apoplast.
These findings suggest that multistress response in the apoplast constitutes an important adaptive trait for poplar to inhabit dynamic environments and is also a potential mechanism in other riverine plant species.
PMCID: PMC3091788  PMID: 21114852
16.  Reduced Expression of the SHORT-ROOT Gene Increases the Rates of Growth and Development in Hybrid Poplar and Arabidopsis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28878.
SHORT-ROOT (SHR) is a well characterized regulator of cell division and cell fate determination in the Arabidopsis primary root. However, much less is known about the functions of SHR in the aerial parts of the plant. In this work, we cloned SHR gene from Populus trichocarpa (PtSHR1) as an AtSHR ortholog and down-regulated its expression in hybrid poplar (Populus tremula×P. tremuloides Michx-clone T89) in order to determine its physiological functions in shoot development. Sharing a 90% similarity to AtSHR at amino acid level, PtSHR1 was able to complement the Arabidopsis shr mutant. Down regulation of PtSHR1 led to a strong enhancement of primary (height) and secondary (girth) growth rates in the transgenic poplars. A similar approach in Arabidopsis showed a comparable accelerated growth and development phenotype. Our results suggest that the response to SHR could be dose-dependent and that a partial down-regulation of SHR could lead to enhanced meristem activity and a coordinated acceleration of plant growth in woody species. Therefore, SHR functions in plant growth and development as a regulator of cell division and meristem activity not only in the roots but also in the shoots. Reducing SHR expression in transgenic poplar was shown to lead to significant increases in primary and secondary growth rates. Given the current interest in bioenergy crops, SHR has a broader role as a key regulator of whole plant growth and development and SHR suppression has considerable potential for accelerating biomass accumulation in a variety of species.
PMCID: PMC3237562  PMID: 22194939
17.  Genome analysis of poplar LRR-RLP gene clusters reveals RISP, a defense-related gene coding a candidate endogenous peptide elicitor 
In plants, cell-surface receptors control immunity and development through the recognition of extracellular ligands. Leucine-rich repeat receptor-like proteins (LRR-RLPs) constitute a large multigene family of cell-surface receptors. Although this family has been intensively studied, a limited number of ligands has been identified so far, mostly because methods used for their identification and characterization are complex and fastidious. In this study, we combined genome and transcriptome analyses to describe the LRR-RLP gene family in the model tree poplar (Populus trichocarpa). In total, 82 LRR-RLP genes have been identified in P. trichocarpa genome, among which 66 are organized in clusters of up to seven members. In these clusters, LRR-RLP genes are interspersed by orphan, poplar-specific genes encoding small proteins of unknown function (SPUFs). In particular, the nine largest clusters of LRR-RLP genes (47 LRR-RLPs) include 71 SPUF genes that account for 59% of the non-LRR-RLP gene content within these clusters. Forty-four LRR-RLP and 55 SPUF genes are expressed in poplar leaves, mostly at low levels, except for members of some clusters that show higher and sometimes coordinated expression levels. Notably, wounding of poplar leaves strongly induced the expression of a defense SPUF gene named Rust-Induced Secreted protein (RISP) that has been previously reported as a marker of poplar defense responses. Interestingly, we show that the RISP-associated LRR-RLP gene is highly expressed in poplar leaves and slightly induced by wounding. Both gene promoters share a highly conserved region of ~300 nucleotides. This led us to hypothesize that the corresponding pair of proteins could be involved in poplar immunity, possibly as a ligand/receptor couple. In conclusion, we speculate that some poplar SPUFs, such as RISP, represent candidate endogenous peptide ligands of the associated LRR-RLPs and we discuss how to investigate further this hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC3975113  PMID: 24734035
gene clustering; immunity; ligands; receptors; poplar; wounding
18.  Overexpression of poplar wounding-inducible genes in Arabidopsis caused improved resistance against Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner) larvae 
Breeding Science  2012;62(3):288-291.
Four highly inducible genes of poplar trees, PtdKTI5, PtdWIN4, PtdPOP3 from hybrid poplar (Populus trichocarpa × P. deltoides) and PtKTI2 from trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) have been individually transformed into Arabidopsis thaliana for overexpression. High transcriptional level of each transgene in transgenic Arabidopsis lines was confirmed by RT-PCR analysis. The development, body weight and survivorship of cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) fed on four types of transgenic Arabidopis plants were evaluated in the laboratory. Our data indicated that these four Populus defense-related genes exhibited various degree of insectital activity on larval and postlarval development of cotton bollworm and may be utilized for herbivore resistance improvement in plant genetic engineering.
PMCID: PMC3501947  PMID: 23226090
wounding-inducible gene; Populus; transgenic Arabidopsis; Helicoverpa armigera; anti-herbivore
19.  The Populus Superoxide Dismutase Gene Family and Its Responses to Drought Stress in Transgenic Poplar Overexpressing a Pine Cytosolic Glutamine Synthetase (GS1a) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56421.
Glutamine synthetase (GS) plays a central role in plant nitrogen assimilation, a process intimately linked to soil water availability. We previously showed that hybrid poplar (Populus tremula X alba, INRA 717-1B4) expressing ectopically a pine cytosolic glutamine synthetase gene (GS1a) display enhanced tolerance to drought. Preliminary transcriptome profiling revealed that during drought, members of the superoxide dismutase (SOD) family were reciprocally regulated in GS poplar when compared with the wild-type control, in all tissues examined. SOD was the only gene family found to exhibit such patterns.
In silico analysis of the Populus genome identified 12 SOD genes and two genes encoding copper chaperones for SOD (CCSs). The poplar SODs form three phylogenetic clusters in accordance with their distinct metal co-factor requirements and gene structure. Nearly all poplar SODs and CCSs are present in duplicate derived from whole genome duplication, in sharp contrast to their predominantly single-copy Arabidopsis orthologs. Drought stress triggered plant-wide down-regulation of the plastidic copper SODs (CSDs), with concomitant up-regulation of plastidic iron SODs (FSDs) in GS poplar relative to the wild type; this was confirmed at the activity level. We also found evidence for coordinated down-regulation of other copper proteins, including plastidic CCSs and polyphenol oxidases, in GS poplar under drought conditions.
Both gene duplication and expression divergence have contributed to the expansion and transcriptional diversity of the Populus SOD/CCS families. Coordinated down-regulation of major copper proteins in drought-tolerant GS poplars supports the copper cofactor economy model where copper supply is preferentially allocated for plastocyanins to sustain photosynthesis during drought. Our results also extend previous findings on the compensatory regulation between chloroplastic CSDs and FSDs, and suggest that this copper-mediated mechanism represents a common response to oxidative stress and other genetic manipulations, as in GS poplars, that affect photosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3579828  PMID: 23451045
20.  Effect of poplar genotypes on mycorrhizal infection and secreted enzyme activities in mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal roots 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;62(1):249-260.
The impact of ectomycorrhiza formation on the secretion of exoenzymes by the host plant and the symbiont is unknown. Thirty-eight F1 individuals from an interspecific Populus deltoides (Bartr.)×Populus trichocarpa (Torr. & A. Gray) controlled cross were inoculated with the ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria bicolor. The colonization of poplar roots by L. bicolor dramatically modified their ability to secrete enzymes involved in organic matter breakdown or organic phosphorus mobilization, such as N-acetylglucosaminidase, β-glucuronidase, cellobiohydrolase, β-glucosidase, β-xylosidase, laccase, and acid phosphatase. The expression of genes coding for laccase, N-acetylglucosaminidase, and acid phosphatase was studied in mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal root tips. Depending on the genes, their expression was regulated upon symbiosis development. Moreover, it appears that poplar laccases or phosphatases contribute poorly to ectomycorrhiza metabolic activity. Enzymes secreted by poplar roots were added to or substituted by enzymes secreted by L. bicolor. The enzymatic activities expressed in mycorrhizal roots differed significantly between the two parents, while it did not differ in non-mycorrhizal roots. Significant differences were found between poplar genotypes for all enzymatic activities measured on ectomycorrhizas except for laccases activity. In contrast, no significant differences were found between poplar genotypes for enzymatic activities of non-mycorrhizal root tips except for acid phosphatase activity. The level of enzymes secreted by the ectomycorrhizal root tips is under the genetic control of the host. Moreover, poplar heterosis was expressed through the enzymatic activities of the fungal partner.
PMCID: PMC2993916  PMID: 20881013
Heterosis; heritability; host genetic control; Laccaria bicolor; poplar; secreted enzymes
21.  Genetic Variation of Stomatal Traits and Carbon Isotope Discrimination in Two Hybrid Poplar Families (Populus deltoides ‘S9-2’ × P. nigra ‘Ghoy’ and P. deltoides ‘S9-2’ × P. trichocarpa ‘V24’) 
Annals of Botany  2008;102(3):399-407.
Background and Aims
Stomata play an important role in both the CO2 assimilation and water relations of trees. Therefore, stomatal traits have been suggested as criteria for selection of clones or genotypes which are more productive and have larger water-use efficiency (WUE) than others. However, the relationships between plant growth, WUE and stomatal traits are still unclear depending on plant material (genus, species, families, genotypes) and, more precisely, on the strength of the relationships between the plants. In this study, the correlations between these three traits categories, i.e. plant growth, WUE and stomatal traits, were compared in two related poplar families.
Stomatal traits (stomatal density, length and ratio adaxial : abaxial stomatal densities) of a selection of F1 genotypes and the parents of two hybrid poplar families Populus deltoides ‘S9-2’ × P. nigra ‘Ghoy’ (D × N family, 50 F1) and P. deltoides ‘S9-2’ × P. trichocarpa ‘V24’ (D × T family, 50 F1) were measured, together with stem height and circumference. Carbon isotope discrimination (Δ) was determined and used as an indicator of leaf-level intrinsic WUE.
Key Results
Leaves of hybrids and parents were amphistomatous, except for the P. trichocarpa parent. Both families displayed high values of heritability for stomatal traits and Δ. In the progeny, the relationship between stem circumference and Δ was weak for the D × N family, while abaxial and total stomatal density were positively associated with stem dimensions for the D × T family only.
Genetic variation in stomatal traits and Δ was large within as well as between the different poplar species and their hybrids, but there were no direct relationships between stomatal traits and plant growth or Δ. As already noticed in various poplar hybrids, the absence of, or the weak, relationship between Δ and plant growth allows the possibility of selecting poplar genotypes combining high productivity and high WUE. In this study, stomatal traits are of limited value as criteria for selection of genotypes with good growth and large WUE.
PMCID: PMC2701808  PMID: 18587131
Adaxial and abaxial stomatal density; stomatal length; heritability; water-use efficiency (WUE); F1 hybrids; breeding; Populus deltoides; Populus nigra; Populus trichocarpa
22.  Antisense expression of the fasciclin-like arabinogalactan protein FLA6 gene in Populus inhibits expression of its homologous genes and alters stem biomechanics and cell wall composition in transgenic trees 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;66(5):1291-1302.
Fasciclin-like arabinogalactan proteins, a class of cell wall glycoprotein, function in maintaining stem biomechanics and cell wall composition in Populus.
Fasciclin-like arabinogalactan proteins (FLAs) play important roles in the growth and development of roots, stems, and seeds in Arabidopsis. However, their biological functions in woody plants are largely unknown. In this work, we investigated the possible function of PtFLA6 in poplar. Quantitative real-time PCR, PtFLA6–yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) fusion protein subcellular localization, Western blotting, and immunohistochemical analyses demonstrated that the PtFLA6 gene was expressed specifically in the xylem of mature stem, and PtFLA6 protein was distributed ubiquitous in plant cells and accumulated predominantly in stem xylem fibres. Antisense expression of PtFLA6 in the aspen hybrid clone Poplar davidiana×Poplar bolleana reduced the transcripts of PtFLA6 and its homologous genes. Transgenic plants that showed a significant reduction in the transcripts of PtFLAs accumulated fewer PtFLA6 and arabinogalactan proteins than did the non-transgenic plants, leading to reduced stem flexural strength and stiffness. Further studies revealed that the altered stem biomechanics of transgenic plants could be attributed to the decreased cellulose and lignin composition in the xylem. In addition expression of some xylem-specific genes involved in cell wall biosynthesis was downregulated in these transgenic plants. All these results suggest that engineering the expression of PtFLA6 and its homologues could modulate stem mechanical properties by affecting cell wall composition in trees.
PMCID: PMC4339592  PMID: 25428999
Biomechanics; cell wall; fasciclin-like arabinogalactan protein; Populus; transgenic plant; xylem.
23.  WUSCHEL-related Homeobox genes in Populus tomentosa: diversified expression patterns and a functional similarity in adventitious root formation 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:296.
WUSCHEL (WUS)-related homeobox (WOX) protein family members play important roles in the maintenance and proliferation of the stem cell niche in the shoot apical meristem (SAM), root apical meristem (RAM), and cambium (CAM). Although the roles of some WOXs in meristematic cell regulation have been well studied in annual plants such as Arabidopsis and rice, the expression and function of WOX members in woody plant poplars has not been systematically investigated. Here, we present the identification and comprehensive analysis of the expression and function of WOXs in Populus tomentosa.
A genome-wide survey identified 18 WOX encoding sequences in the sequenced genome of Populus trichocarpa (PtrWOXs). Phylogenetic and gene structure analysis revealed that these 18 PtrWOXs fall into modern/WUS, intermediate, and ancient clades, but that the WOX genes in P. trichocarpa may have expanded differently from the WOX genes in Arabidopsis. In the P. trichocarpa genome, no WOX members could be closely classified as AtWOX3, AtWOX6, AtWOX7, AtWOX10, and AtWOX14, but there were two copies of WOX genes that could be classified as PtrWUS, PtrWOX2, PtrWOX4, PtrWOX5, PtrWOX8/9, and PtrWOX11/12, and three copies of WOX genes that could be classified as PtrWOX1 and PtrWOX13. The use of primers specific for each PtrWOX gene allowed the identification and cloning of 18 WOX genes from P. tomentosa (PtoWOXs), a poplar species physiologically close to P. trichocarpa. It was found that PtoWOXs and PtrWOXs shared very high amino acid sequence identity, and that PtoWOXs could be classified identically to PtrWOXs. We revealed that the expression patterns of some PtoWOXs were different to their Arabidopsis counterparts. When PtoWOX5a and PtoWOX11/12a, as well as PtoWUSa and PtoWOX4a were ectopically expressed in transgenic hybrid poplars, the regeneration of adventitious root (AR) was promoted, indicating a functional similarity of these four WOXs in AR regeneration.
This is the first attempt towards a systematical analysis of the function of WOXs in P. tomentosa. A diversified expression, yet functional similarity of PtoWOXs in AR regeneration is revealed. Our findings provide useful information for further elucidation of the functions and mechanisms of WOXs in the development of poplars.
PMCID: PMC4023605  PMID: 24750781
Adventitious root; Expression; Homeobox; Populus; WOX; Wuschel-related
24.  Thaumatin-like proteins are differentially expressed and localized in phloem tissues of hybrid poplar 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:191.
Two thaumatin-like proteins (TLPs) were previously identified in phloem exudate of hybrid poplar (Populus trichocarpa × P. deltoides) using proteomics methods, and their sieve element localization confirmed by immunofluorescence. In the current study, we analyzed different tissues to further understand TLP expression and localization in poplar, and used immunogold labelling to determine intracellular localization.
Immunofluorescence using a TLP antiserum confirmed the presence of TLP in punctate, organelle-like structures within sieve elements. On western blots, the antiserum labeled two constitutively expressed proteins with distinct expression patterns. Immunogold labelling suggested that TLPs are associated with starch granules and starch-containing plastids in sieve elements and phloem parenchyma cells. In addition, the antiserum recognized TLPs in the inner cell wall and sieve plate region of sieve elements.
TLP localization in poplar cells and tissues is complex. TLP1 is expressed predominantly in tissues with a prominent vascular system such as midveins, petioles and stems, whereas the second TLP is primarily expressed in starch-storing plastids found in young leaves and the shoot apex.
PMCID: PMC2956541  PMID: 20796310
25.  Evolution of a domain conserved in microtubule-associated proteins of eukaryotes 
The microtubule network, the major organelle of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton, is involved in cell division and differentiation but also with many other cellular functions. In plants, microtubules seem to be involved in the ordered deposition of cellulose microfibrils by a so far unknown mechanism. Microtubule-associated proteins (MAP) typically contain various domains targeting or binding proteins with different functions to microtubules. Here we have investigated a proposed microtubule-targeting domain, TPX2, first identified in the Kinesin-like protein 2 in Xenopus. A TPX2 containing microtubule binding protein, PttMAP20, has been recently identified in poplar tissues undergoing xylogenesis. Furthermore, the herbicide 2,6-dichlorobenzonitrile (DCB), which is a known inhibitor of cellulose synthesis, was shown to bind specifically to PttMAP20. It is thus possible that PttMAP20 may have a role in coupling cellulose biosynthesis and the microtubular networks in poplar secondary cell walls. In order to get more insight into the occurrence, evolution and potential functions of TPX2-containing proteins we have carried out bioinformatic analysis for all genes so far found to encode TPX2 domains with special reference to poplar PttMAP20 and its putative orthologs in other plants.
PMCID: PMC3169935  PMID: 21918606
TPX2 domain; MAP20; evolution; microtubule; cellulose; bioinformatics

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