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1.  Large-scale screening of transcription factor–promoter interactions in spruce reveals a transcriptional network involved in vascular development 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;65(9):2319-2333.
This research aimed to investigate the role of diverse transcription factors (TFs) and to delineate gene regulatory networks directly in conifers at a relatively high-throughput level. The approach integrated sequence analyses, transcript profiling, and development of a conifer-specific activation assay. Transcript accumulation profiles of 102 TFs and potential target genes were clustered to identify groups of coordinately expressed genes. Several different patterns of transcript accumulation were observed by profiling in nine different organs and tissues: 27 genes were preferential to secondary xylem both in stems and roots, and other genes were preferential to phelloderm and periderm or were more ubiquitous. A robust system has been established as a screening approach to define which TFs have the ability to regulate a given promoter in planta. Trans-activation or repression effects were observed in 30% of TF–candidate gene promoter combinations. As a proof of concept, phylogenetic analysis and expression and trans-activation data were used to demonstrate that two spruce NAC-domain proteins most likely play key roles in secondary vascular growth as observed in other plant species. This study tested many TFs from diverse families in a conifer tree species, which broadens the knowledge of promoter–TF interactions in wood development and enables comparisons of gene regulatory networks found in angiosperms and gymnosperms.
PMCID: PMC4036505  PMID: 24713992
Conifer; expression pattern; Picea glauca; secondary cell wall; somatic embryogenesis; trans-activation assay; transcription factor; xylem.
2.  Opposite action of R2R3-MYBs from different subgroups on key genes of the shikimate and monolignol pathways in spruce 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;65(2):495-508.
Redundancy and competition between R2R3-MYB activators and repressors on common target genes has been proposed as a fine-tuning mechanism for the regulation of plant secondary metabolism. This hypothesis was tested in white spruce [Picea glauca (Moench) Voss] by investigating the effects of R2R3-MYBs from different subgroups on common targets from distinct metabolic pathways. Comparative analysis of transcript profiling data in spruces overexpressing R2R3-MYBs from loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.), PtMYB1, PtMYB8, and PtMYB14, defined a set of common genes that display opposite regulation effects. The relationship between the closest MYB homologues and 33 putative target genes was explored by quantitative PCR expression profiling in wild-type P. glauca plants during the diurnal cycle. Significant Spearman’s correlation estimates were consistent with the proposed opposite effect of different R2R3-MYBs on several putative target genes in a time-related and tissue-preferential manner. Expression of sequences coding for 4CL, DHS2, COMT1, SHM4, and a lipase thio/esterase positively correlated with that of PgMYB1 and PgMYB8, but negatively with that of PgMYB14 and PgMYB15. Complementary electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and transactivation assay provided experimental evidence that these different R2R3-MYBs are able to bind similar AC cis-elements in the promoter region of Pg4CL and PgDHS2 genes but have opposite effects on their expression. Competitive binding EMSA experiments showed that PgMYB8 competes more strongly than PgMYB15 for the AC-I MYB binding site in the Pg4CL promoter. Together, the results bring a new perspective to the action of R2R3-MYB proteins in the regulation of distinct but interconnecting metabolism pathways.
PMCID: PMC3904711  PMID: 24336492
Conifers; phenylpropanoid pathway; protein–DNA binding; R2R3-MYB evolution; transcriptional network.
4.  Habituation to thaxtomin A in hybrid poplar cell suspensions provides enhanced and durable resistance to inhibitors of cellulose synthesis 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:272.
Thaxtomin A (TA), a phytotoxin produced by the phytopathogen Streptomyces scabies, is essential for the development of potato common scab disease. TA inhibits cellulose synthesis but its actual mode of action is unknown. Addition of TA to hybrid poplar (Populus trichocarpa x Populus deltoides) cell suspensions can activate a cellular program leading to cell death. In contrast, it is possible to habituate hybrid poplar cell cultures to grow in the presence of TA levels that would normally induce cell death. The purpose of this study is to characterize TA-habituated cells and the mechanisms that may be involved in enhancing resistance to TA.
Habituation to TA was performed by adding increasing levels of TA to cell cultures at the time of subculture over a period of 12 months. TA-habituated cells were then cultured in the absence of TA for more than three years. These cells displayed a reduced size and growth compared to control cells and had fragmented vacuoles filled with electron-dense material. Habituation to TA was associated with changes in the cell wall composition, with a reduction in cellulose and an increase in pectin levels. Remarkably, high level of resistance to TA was maintained in TA-habituated cells even after being cultured in the absence of TA. Moreover, these cells exhibited enhanced resistance to two other inhibitors of cellulose biosynthesis, dichlobenil and isoxaben. Analysis of gene expression in TA-habituated cells using an Affymetrix GeneChip Poplar Genome Array revealed that durable resistance to TA is associated with a major and complex reprogramming of gene expression implicating processes such as cell wall synthesis and modification, lignin and flavonoid synthesis, as well as DNA and chromatin modifications.
We have shown that habituation to TA induced durable resistance to the bacterial toxin in poplar cells. TA-habituation also enhanced resistance to two other structurally different inhibitors of cellulose synthesis that were found to target different proteins. Enhanced resistance was associated with major changes in the expression of numerous genes, including some genes that are involved in DNA and chromatin modifications, suggesting that epigenetic changes might be involved in this process.
PMCID: PMC3016406  PMID: 21143977

Results 1-4 (4)