Open Access Research article

Constitutive expression of a grapevine polygalacturonase-inhibiting protein affects gene expression and cell wall properties in uninfected tobacco

Erik Alexandersson14, John VW Becker15, Dan Jacobson1, Eric Nguema-Ona1, Cobus Steyn1, Katherine J Denby23 and Melané A Vivier1*

  • * Corresponding author: Melané A Vivier

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Wine Biotechnology, Department of Viticulture and Oenology, Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

2 Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa

3 School of Life Sciences and Warwick Systems Biology Centre, University of Warwick, Wellesbourne Campus CV35 9EF, UK

4 Department of Plant Protection Biology, Swedish Agricultural University, P.O. Box 102, SE-230 53 Alnarp, Sweden

5 African Centre for Gene Technologies, Experimental Farm, University of Pretoria, Lynnwood Ridge, Pretoria, South Africa

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:493  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-493

Published: 13 November 2011



Polygalacturonase-inhibiting proteins (PGIPs) directly limit the effective ingress of fungal pathogens by inhibiting cell wall-degrading endopolygalacturonases (ePGs). Transgenic tobacco plants over-expressing grapevine (Vitis vinifera) Vvpgip1 have previously been shown to be resistant to Botrytis infection. In this study we characterized two of these PGIP over-expressing lines with known resistance phenotypes by gene expression and hormone profiling in the absence of pathogen infection.


Global gene expression was performed by a cross-species microarray approach using a potato cDNA microarray. The degree of potential cross-hybridization between probes was modeled by a novel computational workflow designed in-house. Probe annotations were updated by predicting probe-to-transcript hybridizations and combining information derived from other plant species. Comparing uninfected Vvpgip1-overexpressing lines to wild-type (WT), 318 probes showed significant change in expression. Functional groups of genes involved in metabolism and associated to the cell wall were identified and consequent cell wall analysis revealed increased lignin-levels in the transgenic lines, but no major differences in cell wall-derived polysaccharides. GO enrichment analysis also identified genes responsive to auxin, which was supported by elevated indole-acetic acid (IAA) levels in the transgenic lines. Finally, a down-regulation of xyloglucan endotransglycosylase/hydrolases (XTHs), which are important in cell wall remodeling, was linked to a decrease in total XTH activity.


This evaluation of PGIP over-expressing plants performed under pathogen-free conditions to exclude the classical PGIP-ePG inhibition interaction indicates additional roles for PGIPs beyond the inhibition of ePGs.