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Expression analysis of LIM gene family in poplar, toward an updated phylogenetic classification

Dominique Arnaud1, Annabelle Déjardin1, Jean-Charles Leplé1, Marie-Claude Lesage-Descauses1, Nathalie Boizot1, Marc Villar1, Hélène Bénédetti2 and Gilles Pilate1*

Author Affiliations

1 INRA, UR0588 Amélioration, Génétique et Physiologie Forestières, CS 40001 Ardon, F-45075 Orléans Cedex 2, France

2 CNRS, UPR4301, Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, Equipe «Signalisation cellulaire et neurofibromatose», F-45000 Orléans, France

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:102  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-102

Published: 17 February 2012



Plant LIM domain proteins may act as transcriptional activators of lignin biosynthesis and/or as actin binding and bundling proteins. Plant LIM genes have evolved in phylogenetic subgroups differing in their expression profiles: in the whole plant or specifically in pollen. However, several poplar PtLIM genes belong to uncharacterized monophyletic subgroups and the expression patterns of the LIM gene family in a woody plant have not been studied.


In this work, the expression pattern of the twelve duplicated poplar PtLIM genes has been investigated by semi quantitative RT-PCR in different vegetative and reproductive tissues. As in other plant species, poplar PtLIM genes were widely expressed in the tree or in particular tissues. Especially, PtXLIM1a, PtXLIM1b and PtWLIM1b genes were preferentially expressed in the secondary xylem, suggesting a specific function in wood formation. Moreover, the expression of these genes and of the PtPLIM2a gene was increased in tension wood. Western-blot analysis confirmed the preferential expression of PtXLIM1a protein during xylem differentiation and tension wood formation. Genes classified within the pollen specific PLIM2 and PLIM2-like subgroups were all strongly expressed in pollen but also in cottony hairs. Interestingly, pairs of duplicated PtLIM genes exhibited different expression patterns indicating subfunctionalisations in specific tissues.


The strong expression of several LIM genes in cottony hairs and germinating pollen, as well as in xylem fibers suggests an involvement of plant LIM domain proteins in the control of cell expansion. Comparisons of expression profiles of poplar LIM genes with the published functions of closely related plant LIM genes suggest conserved functions in the areas of lignin biosynthesis, pollen tube growth and mechanical stress response. Based on these results, we propose a novel nomenclature of poplar LIM domain proteins.