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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

SND2, a NAC transcription factor gene, regulates genes involved in secondary cell wall development in Arabidopsis fibres and increases fibre cell area in Eucalyptus

Steven G Hussey1, Eshchar Mizrachi1, Antanas V Spokevicius2, Gerd Bossinger2, Dave K Berger3 and Alexander A Myburg1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Genetics, Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa

2 Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 3363, Australia

3 Department of Plant Science, Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa

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Citation and License

BMC Plant Biology 2011, 11:173  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-11-173

Published: 1 December 2011

Abstract

Background

NAC domain transcription factors initiate secondary cell wall biosynthesis in Arabidopsis fibres and vessels by activating numerous transcriptional regulators and biosynthetic genes. NAC family member SND2 is an indirect target of a principal regulator of fibre secondary cell wall formation, SND1. A previous study showed that overexpression of SND2 produced a fibre cell-specific increase in secondary cell wall thickness in Arabidopsis stems, and that the protein was able to transactivate the cellulose synthase8 (CesA8) promoter. However, the full repertoire of genes regulated by SND2 is unknown, and the effect of its overexpression on cell wall chemistry remains unexplored.

Results

We overexpressed SND2 in Arabidopsis and analyzed homozygous lines with regards to stem chemistry, biomass and fibre secondary cell wall thickness. A line showing upregulation of CesA8 was selected for transcriptome-wide gene expression profiling. We found evidence for upregulation of biosynthetic genes associated with cellulose, xylan, mannan and lignin polymerization in this line, in agreement with significant co-expression of these genes with native SND2 transcripts according to public microarray repositories. Only minor alterations in cell wall chemistry were detected. Transcription factor MYB103, in addition to SND1, was upregulated in SND2-overexpressing plants, and we detected upregulation of genes encoding components of a signal transduction machinery recently proposed to initiate secondary cell wall formation. Several homozygous T4 and hemizygous T1 transgenic lines with pronounced SND2 overexpression levels revealed a negative impact on fibre wall deposition, which may be indirectly attributable to excessive overexpression rather than co-suppression. Conversely, overexpression of SND2 in Eucalyptus stems led to increased fibre cross-sectional cell area.

Conclusions

This study supports a function for SND2 in the regulation of cellulose and hemicellulose biosynthetic genes in addition of those involved in lignin polymerization and signalling. SND2 seems to occupy a subordinate but central tier in the secondary cell wall transcriptional network. Our results reveal phenotypic differences in the effect of SND2 overexpression between woody and herbaceous stems and emphasize the importance of expression thresholds in transcription factor studies.