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Reprogramming of gene expression during compression wood formation in pine: Coordinated modulation of S-adenosylmethionine, lignin and lignan related genes

David P Villalobos12, Sara M Díaz-Moreno13, El-Sayed S Said1, Rafael A Cañas1, Daniel Osuna14, Sonia H E Van Kerckhoven1, Rocío Bautista1, Manuel Gonzalo Claros1, Francisco M Cánovas1 and Francisco R Cantón1*

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Biología Molecular y Bioquímica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Málaga, Campus Universitario de Teatinos, 29071, Málaga, Spain

2 Department of Plant Molecular Biology, University of Lausanne, CH-1015, Lausanne, Switzerland

3 Division of Glycoscience, School of Biotechnology, Royal Institute of Technology, AlbaNova University Centre, SE-10691, Stockholm, Sweden

4 Departamento de Fisiología Vegetal, Centro Hispano-Luso de Investigaciones Agrarias, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Salamanca, C/Río Duero 12, 37185, Salamanca, Spain

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BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:100  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-100

Published: 29 June 2012



Transcript profiling of differentiating secondary xylem has allowed us to draw a general picture of the genes involved in wood formation. However, our knowledge is still limited about the regulatory mechanisms that coordinate and modulate the different pathways providing substrates during xylogenesis. The development of compression wood in conifers constitutes an exceptional model for these studies. Although differential expression of a few genes in differentiating compression wood compared to normal or opposite wood has been reported, the broad range of features that distinguish this reaction wood suggest that the expression of a larger set of genes would be modified.


By combining the construction of different cDNA libraries with microarray analyses we have identified a total of 496 genes in maritime pine (Pinus pinaster, Ait.) that change in expression during differentiation of compression wood (331 up-regulated and 165 down-regulated compared to opposite wood). Samples from different provenances collected in different years and geographic locations were integrated into the analyses to mitigate the effects of multiple sources of variability. This strategy allowed us to define a group of genes that are consistently associated with compression wood formation. Correlating with the deposition of a thicker secondary cell wall that characterizes compression wood development, the expression of a number of genes involved in synthesis of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin and lignans was up-regulated. Further analysis of a set of these genes involved in S-adenosylmethionine metabolism, ammonium recycling, and lignin and lignans biosynthesis showed changes in expression levels in parallel to the levels of lignin accumulation in cells undergoing xylogenesis in vivo and in vitro.


The comparative transcriptomic analysis reported here have revealed a broad spectrum of coordinated transcriptional modulation of genes involved in biosynthesis of different cell wall polymers associated with within-tree variations in pine wood structure and composition. In particular, we demonstrate the coordinated modulation at transcriptional level of a gene set involved in S-adenosylmethionine synthesis and ammonium assimilation with increased demand for coniferyl alcohol for lignin and lignan synthesis, enabling a better understanding of the metabolic requirements in cells undergoing lignification.