Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Genomics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Transcriptome profiling of Pinus radiata juvenile wood with contrasting stiffness identifies putative candidate genes involved in microfibril orientation and cell wall mechanics

Xinguo Li1*, Harry X Wu12 and Simon G Southerton1

Author Affiliations

1 CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

2 Umeå Plant Science Centre, Dept. Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-901 83 Umeå, Sweden

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2011, 12:480  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-480

Published: 1 October 2011

Abstract

Background

The mechanical properties of wood are largely determined by the orientation of cellulose microfibrils in secondary cell walls. Several genes and their allelic variants have previously been found to affect microfibril angle (MFA) and wood stiffness; however, the molecular mechanisms controlling microfibril orientation and mechanical strength are largely uncharacterised. In the present study, cDNA microarrays were used to compare gene expression in developing xylem with contrasting stiffness and MFA in juvenile Pinus radiata trees in order to gain further insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying microfibril orientation and cell wall mechanics.

Results

Juvenile radiata pine trees with higher stiffness (HS) had lower MFA in the earlywood and latewood of each ring compared to low stiffness (LS) trees. Approximately 3.4 to 14.5% out of 3, 320 xylem unigenes on cDNA microarrays were differentially regulated in juvenile wood with contrasting stiffness and MFA. Greater variation in MFA and stiffness was observed in earlywood compared to latewood, suggesting earlywood contributes most to differences in stiffness; however, 3-4 times more genes were differentially regulated in latewood than in earlywood. A total of 108 xylem unigenes were differentially regulated in juvenile wood with HS and LS in at least two seasons, including 43 unigenes with unknown functions. Many genes involved in cytoskeleton development and secondary wall formation (cellulose and lignin biosynthesis) were preferentially transcribed in wood with HS and low MFA. In contrast, several genes involved in cell division and primary wall synthesis were more abundantly transcribed in LS wood with high MFA.

Conclusions

Microarray expression profiles in Pinus radiata juvenile wood with contrasting stiffness has shed more light on the transcriptional control of microfibril orientation and the mechanical properties of wood. The identified candidate genes provide an invaluable resource for further gene function and association genetics studies aimed at deepening our understanding of cell wall biomechanics with a view to improving the mechanical properties of wood.