Indexed on: 23 Mar '04Published on: 23 Mar '04Published in: Physiologia Plantarum
Genetic improvement of cell wall polymer synthesis in forest trees is one of the major goals of forest biotechnology that could possibly impact their end product utilization. Identification of genes involved in cell wall polymer biogenesis is essential for achieving this goal. Among various candidate cell wall-related genes, cellulose synthase-like D (CSLD) genes are intriguing due to their hitherto unknown functions in cell wall polymer synthesis but strong structural similarity with cellulose synthases (CesAs) involved in cellulose deposition. Little is known about CSLD genes from trees. In the present article PtrCSLD2, a first CSLD gene from an economically important tree, aspen (Populus tremuloides) is reported. PtrCSLD2 cDNA was isolated from an aspen xylem cDNA library and encodes a protein that shares 90% similarity with Arabidopsis AtCSLD3 protein involved in root hair tip growth. It is possible that xylem fibers that also grow by intrusive tip growth may need expression of PtrCSLD2 for controlling the length of xylem fibers, a wood quality trait of great economical importance. PtrCSLD2 protein has a N-terminal cysteine-rich putative zinc-binding domain; eight transmembrane domains; alternating conserved and hypervariable domains; and a processive glycosyltransferases signature, D, D, D, QXXRW; all similar to aspen CesA proteins. However, PtrCSLD2 shares only 43-48% overall identity with the known aspen CesAs suggesting its distinct functional role in cell wall polymer synthesis perhaps other than cellulose biosynthesis. Based on Southern analysis, the aspen CSLD gene family consists of at least three genes and this gene copy estimate is supported by phylogenetic analysis of available CSLDs from plants. Moreover, gene expression studies using RT-PCR and in situ mRNA hybridization showed that PtrCSLD2 is expressed at a low level in all aspen tissues examined with a slightly higher expression level in secondary cell wall-enriched aspen xylem as compared to primary cell wall enriched tissues. Together, these observations suggest that PtrCSLD2 gene may be involved in the synthesis of matrix polysaccharides that are dominant in secondary cell walls of poplar xylem. Future molecular genetic analyses will clarify the functional significance of CSLD genes in the development of woody trees.