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1.  A TILLING Platform for Functional Genomics in Brachypodium distachyon 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65503.
The new model plant for temperate grasses, Brachypodium distachyon offers great potential as a tool for functional genomics. We have established a sodium azide-induced mutant collection and a TILLING platform, called “BRACHYTIL”, for the inbred line Bd21-3. The TILLING collection consists of DNA isolated from 5530 different families. Phenotypes were reported and organized in a phenotypic tree that is freely available online. The tilling platform was validated by the isolation of mutants for seven genes belonging to multigene families of the lignin biosynthesis pathway. In particular, a large allelic series for BdCOMT6, a caffeic acid O-methyl transferase was identified. Some mutants show lower lignin content when compared to wild-type plants as well as a typical decrease of syringyl units, a hallmark of COMT-deficient plants. The mutation rate was estimated at one mutation per 396 kb, or an average of 680 mutations per line. The collection was also used to assess the Genetically Effective Cell Number that was shown to be at least equal to 4 cells in Brachypodium distachyon. The mutant population and the TILLING platform should greatly facilitate functional genomics approaches in this model organism.
PMCID: PMC3686759  PMID: 23840336
2.  Elevated CO2 and/or ozone modify lignification in the wood of poplars (Populus tremula x alba) 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2012;63(11):4291-4301.
Trees will have to cope with increasing levels of CO2 and ozone in the atmosphere. The purpose of this work was to assess whether the lignification process could be altered in the wood of poplars under elevated CO2 and/or ozone. Young poplars were exposed either to charcoal-filtered air (control), to elevated CO2 (800 μl l−1), to ozone (200 nl l−1) or to a combination of elevated CO2 and ozone in controlled chambers. Lignification was analysed at different levels: biosynthesis pathway activities (enzyme and transcript), lignin content, and capacity to incorporate new assimilates by using 13C labelling. Elevated CO2 and ozone had opposite effects on many parameters (growth, biomass, cambial activity, wood cell wall thickness) except on lignin content which was increased by elevated CO2 and/or ozone. However, this increased lignification was due to different response mechanisms. Under elevated CO2, carbon supply to the stem and effective lignin synthesis were enhanced, leading to increased lignin content, although there was a reduction in the level of some enzyme and transcript involved in the lignin pathway. Ozone treatment induced a reduction in carbon supply and effective lignin synthesis as well as transcripts from all steps of the lignin pathway and some corresponding enzyme activities. However, lignin content was increased under ozone probably due to variations in other major components of the cell wall. Both mechanisms seemed to coexist under combined treatment and resulted in a high increase in lignin content.
PMCID: PMC3398455  PMID: 22553285
13C labelling; elevated CO2; lignin; ozone; poplar; wood
3.  Characterization of a cinnamoyl-CoA reductase 1 (CCR1) mutant in maize: effects on lignification, fibre development, and global gene expression 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;62(11):3837-3848.
Cinnamoyl-CoA reductase (CCR), which catalyses the first committed step of the lignin-specific branch of monolignol biosynthesis, has been extensively characterized in dicot species, but few data are available in monocots. By screening a Mu insertional mutant collection in maize, a mutant in the CCR1 gene was isolated named Zmccr1–. In this mutant, CCR1 gene expression is reduced to 31% of the residual wild-type level. Zmccr1– exhibited enhanced digestibility without compromising plant growth and development. Lignin analysis revealed a slight decrease in lignin content and significant changes in lignin structure. p-Hydroxyphenyl units were strongly decreased and the syringyl/guaiacyl ratio was slightly increased. At the cellular level, alterations in lignin deposition were mainly observed in the walls of the sclerenchymatic fibre cells surrounding the vascular bundles. These cell walls showed little to no staining with phloroglucinol. These histochemical changes were accompanied by an increase in sclerenchyma surface area and an alteration in cell shape. In keeping with this cell type-specific phenotype, transcriptomics performed at an early stage of plant development revealed the down-regulation of genes specifically associated with fibre wall formation. To the present authors’ knowledge, this is the first functional characterization of CCR1 in a grass species.
PMCID: PMC3134344  PMID: 21493812
Affymetrix array 18K; CCR; cell wall; digestibility; lignin; sclerenchyma; Zea mays
4.  Cellulose and lignin biosynthesis is altered by ozone in wood of hybrid poplar (Populus tremula×alba) 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;62(10):3575-3586.
Wood formation in trees is a dynamic process that is strongly affected by environmental factors. However, the impact of ozone on wood is poorly documented. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of ozone on wood formation by focusing on the two major wood components, cellulose and lignin, and analysing any anatomical modifications. Young hybrid poplars (Populus tremula×alba) were cultivated under different ozone concentrations (50, 100, 200, and 300 nl l−1). As upright poplars usually develop tension wood in a non-set pattern, the trees were bent in order to induce tension wood formation on the upper side of the stem and normal or opposite wood on the lower side. Biosynthesis of cellulose and lignin (enzymes and RNA levels), together with cambial growth, decreased in response to ozone exposure. The cellulose to lignin ratio was reduced, suggesting that cellulose biosynthesis was more affected than that of lignin. Tension wood was generally more altered than opposite wood, especially at the anatomical level. Tension wood may be more susceptible to reduced carbon allocation to the stems under ozone exposure. These results suggested a coordinated regulation of cellulose and lignin deposition to sustain mechanical strength under ozone. The modifications of the cellulose to lignin ratio and wood anatomy could allow the tree to maintain radial growth while minimizing carbon cost.
PMCID: PMC3130179  PMID: 21357770
Cellulose; lignin; ozone; poplar; tension wood
5.  Thigmomorphogenesis in Solanum lycopersicum 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(2):122-125.
The activation of the phenylpropanoid pathway in plants by environmental stimuli is one of the most universal biochemical stress responses known. In tomato plant, rubbing applied to a young internode inhibit elongation of the rubbed internode and his neighboring one. These morphological changes were correlated with an increase in lignification enzyme activities, phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL), cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD) and peroxidases (POD), 24 hours after rubbing of the forth internode. Furthermore, a decrease in indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) content was detected in the rubbed internode and the upper one. Taken together, our results suggest that decrease in rubbed internode length is a consequence of IAA oxidation, increases in enzyme activities (PAL, CAD and POD), and cell wall rigidification associated with induction of lignification process.
PMCID: PMC2884111  PMID: 20009518
Mechanical stimulation; PAL; CAD; POD; IAA
6.  Stiffness gradients in vascular bundles of the palm Washingtonia robusta 
Palms can grow at sites exposed to high winds experiencing large dynamic wind and gust loads. Their stems represent a system of stiff fibrous elements embedded in the soft parenchymatous tissue. The proper design of the interface of the stiffening elements and the parenchyma is crucial for the functioning of the stem. The strategy of the palm to compromise between stiff fibre caps and the soft parenchymatous tissue may serve as a model system for avoiding stress discontinuities in inhomogeneous and anisotropic fibre-reinforced composite materials. We investigated the mechanical, structural and biochemical properties of the fibre caps of the palm Washingtonia robusta at different levels of hierarchy with high spatial resolution. A gradual decrease in stiffness across the fibre cap towards the surrounding parenchymatous tissue was observed. Structural adaptations at the tissue level were found in terms of changes in cell cross sections and cell wall thickness. At the cell wall level, gradients across the fibre cap were found in the degree of orientation of the microfibrils and in the lignin level and composition. The impact of these structural variations in the local material stiffness distribution is discussed.
PMCID: PMC2603245  PMID: 18595839
palms; gradients; micromechanics; tensile stiffness; cell wall; lignin composition
7.  Characterization of Palo Podrido, a Natural Process of Delignification in Wood † 
Chemical and morphological changes of incipient to advanced stages of palo podrido, an extensively delignified wood, and other types of white rot decay found in the temperate forests of southern Chile were investigated. Palo podrido is a general term for white rot decay that is either selective or nonselective for the removal of lignin, whereas palo blanco describes the white decayed wood that has advanced stages of delignification. Selective delignification occurs mainly in trunks of Eucryphia cordifolia and Nothofagus dombeyi, which have the lowest lignin content and whose lignins have the largest amount of β-aryl ether bonds and the highest syringyl/guaiacyl ratio of all the native woods included in this study. A Ganoderma species was the main white rot fungus associated with the decay. The structural changes in lignin during the white rot degradation were examined by thioacidolysis, which revealed that the β-aryl ether-linked syringyl units were more specifically degraded than the guaiacyl ones, particularly in the case of selective delignification. Ultrastructural studies showed that the delignification process was diffuse throughout the cell wall. Lignin was first removed from the secondary wall nearest the lumen and then throughout the secondary wall toward the middle lamella. The middle lamella and cell corners were the last areas to be degraded. Black manganese deposits were found in some, but not all, selectively delignified samples. In advanced stages of delignification, almost pure cellulose could be found, although with a reduced degree of polymerization. Cellulolytic enzymes appeared to be responsible for depolymerization. A high brightness and an easy refining capacity were found in an unbleached pulp made from selectively delignified N. dombeyi wood. Its low viscosity, however, resulted in poor resistance properties of the pulp. The last stage of degradation (i.e., decomposition of cellulose-rich secondary wall layers) resulted in a gelatinlike substance. Ultrastructural and chemical analyses of this substance showed the matrix to have no microfibrillar structure characteristic of woody cell walls but to still be rich in glucan.
PMCID: PMC183251  PMID: 16348107
8.  p-Coumaroyl-CoA:monolignol transferase (PMT) acts specifically in the lignin biosynthetic pathway in Brachypodium distachyon 
The Plant Journal  2014;77(5):713-726.
Grass lignins contain substantial amounts of p-coumarate (pCA) that acylate the side-chains of the phenylpropanoid polymer backbone. An acyltransferase, named p-coumaroyl-CoA:monolignol transferase (OsPMT), that could acylate monolignols with pCA in vitro was recently identified from rice. In planta, such monolignol-pCA conjugates become incorporated into lignin via oxidative radical coupling, thereby generating the observed pCA appendages; however p-coumarates also acylate arabinoxylans in grasses. To test the authenticity of PMT as a lignin biosynthetic pathway enzyme, we examined Brachypodium distachyon plants with altered BdPMT gene function. Using newly developed cell wall analytical methods, we determined that the transferase was involved specifically in monolignol acylation. A sodium azide-generated Bdpmt-1 missense mutant had no (<0.5%) residual pCA on lignin, and BdPMT RNAi plants had levels as low as 10% of wild-type, whereas the amounts of pCA acylating arabinosyl units on arabinoxylans in these PMT mutant plants remained unchanged. pCA acylation of lignin from BdPMT-overexpressing plants was found to be more than three-fold higher than that of wild-type, but again the level on arabinosyl units remained unchanged. Taken together, these data are consistent with a defined role for grass PMT genes in encoding BAHD (BEAT, AHCT, HCBT, and DAT) acyltransferases that specifically acylate monolignols with pCA and produce monolignol p-coumarate conjugates that are used for lignification in planta.
PMCID: PMC4282527  PMID: 24372757
BAHD acyltransferase; biomass; Brachypodium distachyon; DFRC method; grass; lignin; lignin acylation; NMR; thioacidolysis

Results 1-8 (8)