Open Access Open Badges Research article

Soil water stress affects both cuticular wax content and cuticle-related gene expression in young saplings of maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Ait)

Grégoire Le Provost12*, Frédéric Domergue34, Céline Lalanne12, Patricio Ramos Campos5, Antoine Grosbois12, Didier Bert12, Céline Meredieu12, Frédéric Danjon12, Christophe Plomion12 and Jean-Marc Gion126

Author Affiliations

1 INRA, UMR 1202, BIOGECO, F-33610, Cestas, France

2 Univ. Bordeaux, BIOGECO, UMR 1202, F-33400, Talence, France

3 Univ. Bordeaux, Laboratoire de Biogenèse Membranaire, UMR5200, F-33000, Bordeaux, France

4 CNRS, Laboratoire de Biogenèse Membranaire, UMR5200, F-33000, Bordeaux, France

5 Instituto Biología Vegetal y Biotecnología, Universidad de Talca, 2 Norte 685, Talca, Chile

6 CIRAD, UMR AGAP, Campus de Baillarguet TA 10C, F-34398, Montpellier Cedex 5, France

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BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:95  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-95

Published: 1 July 2013



The cuticle is a hydrophobic barrier located at the aerial surface of all terrestrial plants. Recent studies performed on model plants, such as Arabidopsis thaliana, have suggested that the cuticle may be involved in drought stress adaptation, preventing non-stomatal water loss. Although forest trees will face more intense drought stresses (in duration and intensity) with global warming, very few studies on the role of the cuticle in drought stress adaptation in these long-lived organisms have been so far reported.


This aspect was investigated in a conifer, maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Ait.), in a factorial design with two genetic units (two half-sib families with different growth rates) and two treatments (irrigated vs non-irrigated), in field conditions. Saplings were grown in an open-sided greenhouse and half were irrigated three times per week for two growing seasons. Needles were sampled three times per year for cuticular wax (composition and content) and transcriptome (of 11 genes involved in cuticle biosynthesis) analysis. Non-irrigated saplings (i) had a higher cuticular wax content than irrigated saplings and (ii) overexpressed most of the genes studied. Both these trends were more marked in the faster growing family.


The higher cuticular wax content observed in the non-irrigated treatment associated with strong modifications in products from the decarbonylation pathway suggest that cuticular wax may be involved in drought stress adaptation in maritime pine. This study provides also a set of promising candidate genes for future forward genetic studies in conifers.

Cuticle biosynthesis; Drought; Edaphic stress; Field experiment; Gene expression; Maritime pine