Secondary walls are mainly composed of cellulose, hemicelluloses (xylan and glucomannan) and lignin, and are deposited in some specialized cells, such as tracheary elements, fibers and other sclerenchymatous cells. Secondary walls provide strength to these cells, which lend mechanical support and protection to the plant body and, in the case of tracheary elements, enable them to function as conduits for transporting water. Formation of secondary walls is a complex process that requires the co-ordinated expression of secondary wall biosynthetic genes, biosynthesis and targeted secretion of secondary wall components, and patterned deposition and assembly of secondary walls. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of genes involved in secondary wall biosynthesis and deposition. Most of the genes involved in the biosynthesis of secondary wall components, including cellulose, xylan, glucomannan and lignin, have been identified and their co-ordinated activation has been shown to be mediated by a transcriptional network encompassing the secondary wall NAC and MYB master switches and their downstream transcription factors. It has been demonstrated that cortical microtubules and microtubule-associated proteins play important roles in the targeted secretion of cellulose synthase complexes, the oriented deposition of cellulose microfibrils and the patterned deposition of secondary walls. Further investigation of many secondary wall-associated genes with unknown functions will provide new insights into the mechanisms controlling the formation of secondary walls that constitute the bulk of plant biomass.
One of the most prominent features of xylem conducting cells is the deposition of secondary walls. In Arabidopsis, secondary wall biosynthesis in the xylem conducting cells, vessels, has been shown to be regulated by two VASCULAR-RELATED NAC-DOMAIN (VND) genes, VND6 and VND7. In this report, we have investigated the roles of five additional Arabidopsis VND genes, VND1 to VND5, in regulating secondary wall biosynthesis in vessels. The VND1 to VND5 genes were shown to be specifically expressed in vessels but not in interfascicular fibers in stems. The expression of VND4 and VND5 was also seen specifically in vessels in the secondary xylem of the root-hypocotyl region. When overexpressed, VND1 to VND5 were able to activate the expression of secondary wall-associated transcription factors and genes involved in secondary wall biosynthesis and programmed cell death. As a result, many normally parenchymatous cells in leaves and stems acquired thickened secondary walls in the VND1 to VND5 overexpressors. In contrast, dominant repression of VND3 function resulted in reduced secondary wall thickening in vessels and a collapsed vessel phenotype. In addition, VND1 to VND5 were shown to be capable of rescuing the secondary wall defects in the fibers of the snd1 nst1 double mutant when expressed under the SND1 promoter. Furthermore, transactivation analysis revealed that VND1 to VND5 could activate expression of the GUS reporter gene driven by the secondary wall NAC binding element (SNBE). Together, these results demonstrate that VND1 to VND5 possess functions similar to that of the SND1 secondary wall NAC and are transcriptional regulators of secondary wall biosynthesis in vessels.
Xylan is the major hemicellulose present in both primary and secondary cell walls of rice vegetative tissues. Since xylan is one of the factors contributing to biomass recalcitrance, understanding how xylan is synthesized in rice will potentially provide tools to modify grass biomass composition better suited for biofuel production. Studies of xylan biosynthesis in Arabidopsis have revealed that family GT43 glycosyltransferases, which form 2 functionally nonredundant groups, IRX9/IRX9 homolog and IRX14/IRX14 homolog, are required for xylan backbone elongation. The rice genome harbors 10 genes encoding family GT43 members and it is currently unknown whether they are all involved in xylan biosynthesis. In this report, we performed biochemical analysis of xylan xylosyltransferase activity in rice stem microsomes and investigated the roles of 4 representative rice GT43 members, OsGT43A (LOC_Os05 g03174), OsGT43E (LOC_Os05 g48600), OsGT43H (LOC_Os04 g01280), and OsGT43J (LOC_Os06 g47340), in xylan biosynthesis. OsGT43 proteins were shown to be localized in the Golgi, where xylan biosynthesis occurs. Complementation analysis by expression of OsGT43s in Arabidopsis irx9 and irx14 mutants demonstrated that OsGT43A and OsGT43E but not OsGT43H and OsGT43J were able to rescue the mutant phenotypes conferred by the irx9 mutation, including defective stem mechanical strength, vessel morphology, xylan content, GlcA side chains, xylan chain length, and xylosyltransferase activity. On the other hand, OsGT43J but not OsGT43A, OsGT43E, and OsGT43H restored the defective xylan phenotype in the irx14 mutant. These results indicate that the rice GT43 family evolved to retain the involvement of 2 functionally nonredundant groups, OsGT43A and OsGT43E (IRX9 homologs) vs. OsGT43J (an IRX14 homolog), in xylan backbone biosynthesis.
Arabidopsis xylan consists of a linear chain of ?-1,4-linked D-xylosyl residues, about 10% of which are substituted with single residues of ?-D-glucuronic acid (GlcA) or 4-O-methyl-?-D-glucuronic acid (MeGlcA) at O-2. In addition, about 60% of xylosyl residues are acetylated at O-2 and/or O-3. Previous studies have identified a number of genes responsible for elongation of the xylan backbone, addition of the GlcA substituents, and methylation of the GlcA residues. Yuan et al. (2013) have recently reported that the 2-O- and 3-O-monoacetylation of xylosyl residues in Arabidopsis xylan requires a DUF231 domain-containing protein, ESKIMO1 (ESK1), and proposed that ESK1 and its homologs are putative acetyltransferases responsible for xylan acetylation. It was noticed that the (1)H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra of the acetylated xylan from the esk1 mutant and the wild-type Arabidopsis exhibited a prominent proton signal peak at 5.42 ppm in addition to resonances corresponding to known acetylated structural groups of xylan. Here, we performed detailed structural investigation of wild-type Arabidopsis acetylated xylan using 2-dimensional (1)H- (1)H and (1)H- (13)C NMR spectroscopy and found that the signal peak at 5.42 ppm in the (1)H NMR spectrum was attributed to GlcA residues substituted at O-2 with ?-D-galactose (Gal), indicating the presence of Gal-GlcA disaccharide side chains in Arabidopsis xylan. This finding was further supported by analysis of endoxylanase-digested xylan using matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Our study demonstrates that Arabidopsis xylan contains Gal-GlcA disaccharide side chains in addition to GlcA, MeGlcA, and acetyl substitutions.
Xylan is the second most abundant polysaccharide in secondary walls of dicot plants and one of its structural features is the high degree of acetylation of xylosyl residues. In Arabidopsis, about 60% of xylosyl residues in xylan are acetylated and the biochemical mechanisms controlling xylan acetylation are largely unknown. A recent report by Yuan et al. (2013) revealed the essential role of a DUF231 domain-containing protein, ESKIMO1 (ESK1), in xylan acetylation in Arabidopsis as the esk1 mutation caused specific reductions in the degree of xylan 2-O or 3-O-monoacetylation and in the activity of xylan acetyltransferase. Interestingly, the esk1 mutation also resulted in an elevation of glucuronic acid (GlcA) substitutions in xylan. Since GlcA substitutions in xylan occur at the O-2 position of xylosyl residues, it is plausible that the increase in GlcA substitutions in the esk1 mutant is attributed to the reduction in acetylation at O-2 of xylosyl residues, which renders more O-2 positions available for GlcA substitutions. Here, we investigated the effect of removal of GlcA substitutions on the degree of xylan acetylation. We found that a complete loss of GlcA substitutions in the xylan of the gux1/2/3 triple mutant led to a significant increase in the degree of xylan acetylation, indicating that xylan acetyltransferases and glucuronyltransferases compete with each other for xylosyl residues for their acetylation or GlcA substitutions in planta. In addition, detailed structure analysis of xylan from the rwa1/2/3/4 quadruple mutant revealed that it had a uniform reduction of acetyl substitutions at different positions of the xylosyl residues, which is consistent with the proposed role of RWAs as acetyl coenzyme A transporters. The significance of these findings is discussed.
Plant secondary walls are the major constituent of plant biomass targeted for second-generation biofuel production. Therefore, a thorough understanding of how secondary walls are constructed is critical for a better utilization of plant biomass for biofuel production. One of the major components in secondary walls is xylan, which is composed of a linear chain of ?-1,4-linked xylosyl residues. In Arabidopsis, about 10% of xylosyl residues in xylan are substituted with glucuronic acid (GlcA), of which 60% are methylated at O-4. By contrast, all of the GlcA substituents in Populus xylan are methylated at O-4. It is not known how the degree of GlcA methylation in xylan is controlled. In this report, we demonstrated that simultaneous T-DNA knockout mutations of the three glucuronoxylan methyltransferase (GXM) genes, GXM1, GXM2, and GXM3/GXMT1, which are specifically expressed in secondary wall-forming cells, led to a complete loss of GlcA methylation in xylan in Arabidopsis stems. Overexpression of GXM2 and GXM3 in wild-type Arabidopsis resulted in an up to 5-fold increase in glucuronoxylan methyltransferase activity and as a result, up to 90% of the GlcA side chains in xylan were methylated as opposed to 60% seen in the wild type. The increased degree of GlcA methylation in xylan had no discernable effects on cell wall sugar composition and lignin monomer composition. These results reveal that the activities of GXM1, GXM2 and GXM3 are responsible for all of the GlcA methylation in xylan in Arabidopsis stems and that the degree of GlcA methylation in xylan can be modified by altered expression of GXMs.
Wood is one of the promising bioenergy feedstocks for lignocellulosic biofuel production. Understanding how wood components are synthesized will help us design strategies for better utilization of wood for biofuel production. One of the major wood components is xylan, in which about 10% of xylosyl residues are substituted with glucuronic acid (GlcA) side chains. All the GlcA side chains of xylan in wood of Populus trichocarpa are methylated, which is different from Arabidopsis xylan in which about 60% of GlcA side chains are methylated. Genes responsible for methylation of GlcA side chains in Populus xylan have not been identified. Here, we report genetic and biochemical analyses of four DUF579 domain-containing proteins, PtrGXM1, PtrGXM2, PtrGXM3 and PtrGXM4, from Populus trichocarpa and their roles in GlcA methylation in xylan. The PtrGXM genes were found to be highly expressed in wood-forming cells and their encoded proteins were shown to be localized in the Golgi. When overexpressed in the Arabidopsis gxm1/2/3 triple mutant, PtrGXMs were able to partially complement the mutant phenotypes including defects in glucuronoxylan methyltransferase activity and GlcA methylation in xylan, indicating that PtrGXMs most likely function as glucuronoxylan methyltransferases. Direct evidence was provided by enzymatic analysis of recombinant PtrGXM proteins showing that they possessed a methyltransferase activity capable of transferring the methyl group onto GlcA-substituted xylooligomers. Kinetic analysis showed that PtrGXMs exhibited differential affinities toward the GlcA-substituted xylooligomer acceptor with PtrGXM3 and PtrGXM4 having 10 times higher K m values than PtrGXM1 and PtrGXM2. Together, these findings indicate that PtrGXMs are methyltransferases mediating GlcA methylation in Populus xylan during wood formation.
Xylan, a major polysaccharide in plant lignocellulosic biomass, is acetylated at O-2 and/or O-3 and its acetylation impedes the use of biomass for biofuel production. Currently, it is not known what genes encode acetyltransferases that are responsible for xylan O-acetylation. In this report, we demonstrate an essential role for the Arabidopsis gene ESKIMO1 (ESK1) in xylan O-acetylation during secondary wall biosynthesis. ESK1 expression was found to be regulated by the secondary wall master regulator SND1 (secondary wall-associated NAC domain protein1) and specifically associated with secondary wall biosynthesis. Its encoded protein was localized in the Golgi, the site of xylan biosynthesis. The esk1 mutation caused reductions in secondary wall thickening and stem mechanical strength. Chemical analyses of cell walls revealed that although the esk1 mutation did not cause apparent alterations in the xylan chain length and the abundance of the reducing end sequence, it resulted in a significant reduction in the degree of xylan acetylation. The reduced acetylation of esk1 xylan rendered it more accessible and digestible by endoxylanase, leading to generation of shorter xylooligomers compared with the wild type. Further structural analysis of xylan showed that the esk1 mutation caused a specific reduction in 2-O- and 3-O-monoacetylation of xylosyl residues but not in 2,3-di-O-acetylation or 3-O-acetylation of xylosyl residues substituted at O-2 with glucuronic acid. Consistent with ESK1s involvement in xylan O-acetylation, an activity assay revealed that the esk1 mutation led to a significant decrease in xylan acetyltransferase activity. Together, these results demonstrate that ESK1 is a putative xylan acetyltransferase required for 2-O- and 3-O-monoacetylation of xylosyl residues and indicate the complexity of the biochemical mechanism underlying xylan O-acetylation.
Wood is mainly composed of secondary walls, which constitute the most abundant stored carbon produced by vascular plants. Understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling secondary wall deposition during wood formation is not only an important issue in plant biology but also critical for providing molecular tools to custom-design wood composition suited for diverse end uses. Past molecular and genetic studies have revealed a transcriptional network encompassing a group of wood-associated NAC and MYB transcription factors that are involved in the regulation of the secondary wall biosynthetic program during wood formation in poplar trees. Here, we report the functional characterization of poplar orthologs of MYB46 and MYB83 that are known to be master switches of secondary wall biosynthesis in Arabidopsis. In addition to the two previously-described PtrMYB3 and PtrMYB20, two other MYBs, PtrMYB2 and PtrMYB21, were shown to be MYB46/MYB83 orthologs by complementation and overexpression studies in Arabidopsis. The functional roles of these PtrMYBs in regulating secondary wall biosynthesis were further demonstrated in transgenic poplar plants showing an ectopic deposition of secondary walls in PtrMYB overexpressors and a reduction of secondary wall thickening in their dominant repressors. Furthermore, PtrMYB2/3/20/21 together with two other tree MYBs, the Eucalyptus EgMYB2 and the pine PtMYB4, were shown to differentially bind to and activate the eight variants of the 7-bp SMRE consensus sequence, composed of ACC(A/T)A(A/C)(T/C). Together, our results indicate that the tree MYBs, PtrMYB2/3/20/21, EgMYB2 and PtMYB4, are master transcriptional switches that activate the SMRE sites in the promoters of target genes and thereby regulate secondary wall biosynthesis during wood formation.
MYB46 and MYB83 are two functionally redundant Arabidopsis thaliana MYB transcription factors that act as master switches regulating secondary wall biosynthesis. Here, we report the identification of the transcriptional responsive elements and global analysis of the direct targets of MYB46 and MYB83. Using the estrogen-inducible direct activation system, we found that a number of previously identified MYB46 downstream transcription factors, including MYB43, MYB52, MYB54, MYB58, MYB63 and KNAT7, are direct targets of MYB46. Promoter deletion coupled with transactivation analysis of the MYB63 promoter led to the identification of a 7 bp sequence that is sufficient to be responsive to MYB46 activation, and therefore this sequence is designated as the secondary wall MYB-responsive element (SMRE). Further single nucleotide mutation together with electrophoretic mobility shift assay mapped the SMRE consensus sequence as ACC(A/T)A(A/C)(T/C). Genome-wide analysis of direct targets of MYB46 demonstrated that it directly regulates the expression of not only a number of downstream transcription factors, but also a suite of secondary wall biosynthetic genes, some of which are also directly activated by secondary wall NAC (SWN) master switches or by MYB46 direct targets. Furthermore, MYB83 was found to bind to the same SMRE consensus sequence and activate the same set of direct targets as MYB46. Our study has revealed that the transcription program regulating secondary wall biosynthesis involves a multileveled feed-forward loop regulatory structure in which MYB46/MYB83 together with their regulators SWNs and their direct targets regulate an array of downstream genes thereby activating the secondary wall biosynthetic program.
Xylan is the second most abundant polysaccharide in plant biomass targeted for biofuel production. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the biochemical mechanism underlying xylan biosynthesis. Although previous genetic studies have identified several genes implicated in xylan biosynthesis, biochemical proof of any of their encoded proteins as a xylan xylosyltransferase (XylT) responsible for xylan backbone biosynthesis is still lacking. In this study, we investigated the enzymatic activities of two Arabidopsis thaliana GT43 members, IRX9 (Irregular Xylem9) and IRX14, which have been genetically shown to be non-redundantly involved in the elongation of the xylan backbone. IRX9 and IRX14, alone or simultaneously, were heterologously expressed in tobacco BY2 cells, and microsomes isolated from the transgenic BY2 cells were tested for XylT activity using xylotetraose (Xyl(4)) as an acceptor and UDP-[(14)C]xylose as a donor. It was found that although microsomes with expression of IRX9 or IRX14 alone exhibited little incorporation of radiolabeled xylose, a high level of incorporation of radiolabeled xylose onto Xyl(4) was conferred by microsomes with co-expression of IRX9 and IRX14. Further analysis using fluorescent anthranilic acid-labeled xylotetraose (Xyl(4)-AA) as an acceptor revealed that up to five ?-(1,4)-linked xylosyl residues were able to be transferred onto Xyl(4)-AA by microsomes with co-expression of IRX9 and IRX14. Furthermore, it was shown that xylooligomers ranging from Xyl(3)-AA to Xyl(6)-AA could all be used as acceptors for the xylosyl transfer by microsomes with co-expression of IRX9 and IRX14. Together, these findings provide the first biochemical evidence that IRX9 and IRX14 are xylosyltransferases that operate cooperatively in the elongation of the xylan backbone.
Wood biomass is mainly made of secondary cell walls; hence, elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying the transcriptional regulation of secondary wall biosynthesis during wood formation will be instrumental to design strategies for genetic improvement of wood biomass. Here, we provide direct evidence demonstrating that the poplar (Populus trichocarpa) wood-associated NAC domain transcription factors (PtrWNDs) are master switches activating a suite of downstream transcription factors, and together, they are involved in the coordinated regulation of secondary wall biosynthesis during wood formation. We show that transgenic poplar plants with dominant repression of PtrWNDs functions exhibit a drastic reduction in secondary wall thickening in woody cells, and those with PtrWND overexpression result in ectopic deposition of secondary walls. Analysis of PtrWND2B overexpressors revealed up-regulation of the expression of a number of wood-associated transcription factors, the promoters of which were also activated by PtrWND6B and the Eucalyptus EgWND1. Transactivation analysis and electrophoretic mobility shift assay demonstrated that PtrWNDs and EgWND1 activated gene expression through direct binding to the secondary wall NAC-binding elements, which are present in the promoters of several wood-associated transcription factors and a number of genes involved in secondary wall biosynthesis and modification. The WND-regulated transcription factors PtrNAC150, PtrNAC156, PtrNAC157, PtrMYB18, PtrMYB74, PtrMYB75, PtrMYB121, PtrMYB128, PtrZF1, and PtrGATA8 were able to activate the promoter activities of the biosynthetic genes for all three major wood components. Our study has uncovered that the WND master switches together with a battery of their downstream transcription factors form a transcriptional network controlling secondary wall biosynthesis during wood formation.
The bulk of grass biomass potentially useful for cellulose-based biofuel production is the remains of secondary wall-containing sclerenchymatous fibers. Hence, it is important to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of secondary wall thickening in grass species. So far, little is known about the transcriptional regulatory switches responsible for the activation of the secondary wall biosynthetic program in grass species. Here, we report the roles of a group of rice and maize NAC and MYB transcription factors in the regulation of secondary wall biosynthesis. The rice and maize secondary wall-associated NACs (namely OsSWNs and ZmSWNs) were able to complement the Arabidopsis snd1 nst1 double mutant defective in secondary wall thickening. When overexpressed in Arabidopsis, OsSWNs and ZmSWNs were sufficient to activate a number of secondary wall-associated transcription factors and secondary wall biosynthetic genes, and concomitantly result in the ectopic deposition of cellulose, xylan and lignin. It was also found that the rice and maize MYB transcription factors, OsMYB46 and ZmMYB46, are functional orthologs of Arabidopsis MYB46/MYB83 and, when overexpressed in Arabidopsis, they were able to activate the entire secondary wall biosynthetic program. Furthermore, the promoters of OsMYB46 and ZmMYB46 contain secondary wall NAC-binding elements (SNBEs), which can be bound and activated by OsSWNs and ZmSWNs. Together, our results indicate that the rice and maize SWNs and MYB46 are master transcriptional activators of the secondary wall biosynthetic program and that OsSWNs and ZmSWNs activate their direct target genes through binding to the SNBE sites.
The biosynthesis of secondary walls in vascular plants requires the coordinated regulation of a suite of biosynthetic genes, and this coordination has recently been shown to be executed by the secondary wall NAC (SWN)-mediated transcriptional network. In Arabidopsis, five SWNs, including SND1, NST1/2 and VND6/7, function as master transcriptional switches to activate their common targets and consequently the secondary wall biosynthetic program. A recent report by Zhong et al. revealed that SWNs bind to a common cis-acting element, namely secondary wall NAC binding element (SNBE), which is composed of an imperfect palindromic 19-bp consensus sequence, (T/A)NN(C/T)(T/C/G)TNNNNNNNA(A/C)GN(A/C/T) (A/T). Genome-wide analysis of direct targets of SWNs showed that SWNs directly activate the expression of not only many transcription factors but also a battery of genes involved in secondary wall biosynthesis, cell wall modification and programmed cell death, the promoters of which all contain multiple SNBE sites. The functional significance of the SNBE sites is further substantiated by our current in planta expression study demonstrating that representative SNBE sequences from several SWN direct target promoters are sufficient to drive the expression of the GUS reporter gene in secondary wall-forming cells. The identification of the SWN DNA binding element (SNBE) and the SWN direct targets marks an important step forward toward the dissection of the transcriptional network regulating the biosynthesis of secondary walls, the most abundant biomass produced by land plants.
Xylan is one of the major polysaccharides in cellulosic biomass, and understanding the mechanisms underlying xylan biosynthesis will potentially help us design strategies to produce cellulosic biomass better suited for biofuel production. Although a number of genes have been shown to be essential for xylan biosynthesis, genes involved in the acetylation of xylan have not yet been identified. Here, we report the comprehensive genetic and functional studies of four Arabidopsis REDUCED WALL ACETYLATION (RWA) genes and demonstrate their involvement in the acetylation of xylan during secondary wall biosynthesis. It was found that the RWA genes were expressed in cells undergoing secondary wall thickening and their expression was regulated by SND1, a transcriptional master switch of secondary wall biosynthesis. The RWA proteins were shown to be localized in the Golgi, where xylan biosynthesis occurs. Analyses of a suite of single, double, triple and quadruple rwa mutants revealed a significant reduction in the secondary wall thickening and the stem mechanical strength in the quadruple rwa1/2/3/4 mutant but not in other mutants. Further chemical and structural analyses of xylan demonstrated that the rwa1/2/3/4 mutations resulted in a reduction in the amount of acetyl groups on xylan. In addition, the ratio of non-methylated to methylated glucuronic acid side chains was altered in the rwa1/2/3/4 mutant. Together, our results demonstrate that the four Arabidopsis RWA genes function redundantly in the acetylation of xylan during secondary wall biosynthesis.
Xylan, being the second most abundant polysaccharide in dicot wood, is considered to be one of the factors contributing to wood biomass recalcitrance for biofuel production. To better utilize wood as biofuel feedstock, it is crucial to functionally characterize all the genes involved in xylan biosynthesis during wood formation. In this report, we investigated roles of poplar families GT43 and GT8 glycosyltransferases in xylan biosynthesis during wood formation. There exist seven GT43 genes in the genome of poplar (Populus trichocarpa), five of which, namely PtrGT43A, PtrGT43B, PtrGT43C, PtrGT43D, and PtrGT43E, were shown to be highly expressed in the developing wood and their encoded proteins were localized in the Golgi. Comprehensive genetic complementation coupled with chemical analyses demonstrated that overexpression of PtrGT43A/B/E but not PtrGT43C/D was able to rescue the xylan defects conferred by the Arabidopsis irx9 mutant, whereas overexpression of PtrGT43C/D but not PtrGT43A/B/E led to a complementation of the xylan defects in the Arabidopsis irx14 mutant. The essential roles of poplar GT43 members in xylan biosynthesis was further substantiated by RNAi down-regulation of GT43B in the hybrid poplar (Populus alba x tremula) leading to reductions in wall thickness and xylan content in wood, and an elevation in the abundance of the xylan reducing end sequence. Wood digestibility analysis revealed that cellulase digestion released more glucose from the wood of poplar GT43B RNAi lines than the control wood, indicating a decrease in wood biomass recalcitrance. Furthermore, RNAi down-regulation of another poplar wood-associated glycosyltransferase, PoGT8D, was shown to cause decreases in wall thickness and xylan content as well as in the abundance of the xylan reducing end sequence. Together, these findings demonstrate that the poplar GT43 members form two functionally non-redundant groups, namely PtrGT43A/B/E as functional orthologs of Arabidopsis IRX9 and PtrGT43C/D as functional orthologs of Arabidopsis IRX14, all of which are involved in the biosynthesis of xylan backbones, and that the poplar GT8D is essential for the biosynthesis of the xylan reducing end sequence.
We report the genome-wide analysis of direct target genes of SND1 and VND7, two Arabidopsis thaliana NAC domain transcription factors that are master regulators of secondary wall biosynthesis in fibers and vessels, respectively. Systematic mapping of the SND1 binding sequence using electrophoretic mobility shift assay and transactivation analysis demonstrated that SND1 together with other secondary wall NACs (SWNs), including VND6, VND7, NST1, and NST2, bind to an imperfect palindromic 19-bp consensus sequence designated as secondary wall NAC binding element (SNBE), (T/A)NN(C/T) (T/C/G)TNNNNNNNA(A/C)GN(A/C/T) (A/T), in the promoters of their direct targets. Genome-wide analysis of direct targets of SND1 and VND7 revealed that they directly activate the expression of not only downstream transcription factors, but also a number of non-transcription factor genes involved in secondary wall biosynthesis, cell wall modification, and programmed cell death, the promoters of which all contain multiple SNBE sites. SND1 and VND7 directly regulate the expression of a set of common targets but each of them also preferentially induces a distinct set of direct targets, which is likely attributed to their differential activation strength toward SNBE sites. Complementation study showed that the SWNs were able to rescue the secondary wall defect in the snd1 nst1 mutant, indicating that they are functionally interchangeable. Together, our results provide important insight into the complex transcriptional program and the evolutionary mechanism underlying secondary wall biosynthesis, cell wall modification, and programmed cell death in secondary wall-containing cell types.
The ability to make secondary cell walls was a pivotal step for vascular plants in their conquest of dry land. Here, we review recent molecular and genetic studies that reveal that a group of Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) secondary wall-associated NAC domain transcription factors are master switches regulating a cascade of downstream transcription factors, leading to activation of the secondary wall biosynthetic program. Close homologs of the Arabidopsis secondary wall NACs and their downstream transcription factors exist in diverse taxa of vascular plants and some are functional orthologs of their Arabidopsis counterparts. There is evidence to suggest that the secondary wall NAC-mediated transcriptional regulation of secondary wall biosynthesis is a conserved mechanism throughout vascular plants.
Dicot wood is mainly composed of cellulose, xylan and lignin, and its formation requires the coordinated regulation of their biosynthesis. In this report, we demonstrate that the poplar wood-associated MYB transcriptional activators, PtrMYB3 and PtrMYB20, activate the biosynthetic pathways of cellulose, xylan and lignin when overexpressed in Arabidopsis and they are also able to activate the promoter activities of poplar wood biosynthetic genes. We also show that PtrMYB3 and PtrMYB20 are functional orthologs of Arabidopsis MYB46 and MYB83, and their expression is directly activated by poplar PtrWND2, suggesting their involvement in the regulation of wood formation in poplar.
Secondary cell walls, consisting of cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin, make up the bulk of wood biomass. It is therefore expected that dissection of the molecular mechanisms underlying secondary wall biosynthesis and its regulation will be instrumental to unravel the process of wood formation in tree species. Wood formation requires the coordinated activation of genes in the secondary wall biosynthetic program that is essential for the biosynthesis and assembly of wood components. It has recently been discovered that a group of poplar (Populus trichocarpa) wood-associated NAC domain transcription factors, PtrWNDs, which are functional orthologs of the Arabidopsis SND1, are capable of turning on the entire secondary wall biosynthetic program when expressed in Arabidopsis. In addition, two of the PtrWNDs were found to be able to activate the promoters of poplar wood biosynthetic genes and a number of other poplar wood-associated transcription factors. Further testing reveals that the promoters of these poplar wood-associated transcription factors are also activated by other PtrWNDs. It is therefore proposed that PtrWNDs are master transcriptional switches regulating a cascade of downstream transcription factors and thereby mediate the coordinated activation of wood biosynthetic genes during wood formation.
There exist four members of family GT43 glycosyltransferases in the Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) genome, and mutations of two of them, IRX9 and IRX14, have previously been shown to cause a defect in glucuronoxylan (GX) biosynthesis. However, it is currently unknown whether IRX9 and IRX14 perform the same biochemical function and whether the other two GT43 members are also involved in GX biosynthesis. In this report, we performed comprehensive genetic analysis of the functional roles of the four Arabidopsis GT43 members in GX biosynthesis. The I9H (IRX9 homolog) and I14H (IRX14 homolog) genes were shown to be specifically expressed in cells undergoing secondary wall thickening, and their encoded proteins were targeted to the Golgi, where GX is synthesized. Overexpression of I9H but not IRX14 or I14H rescued the GX defects conferred by the irx9 mutation, whereas overexpression of I14H but not IRX9 or I9H complemented the GX defects caused by the irx14 mutation. Double mutant analyses revealed that I9H functioned redundantly with IRX9 and that I14H was redundant with IRX14 in their functions. In addition, double mutations of IRX9 and IRX14 were shown to cause a loss of secondary wall thickening in fibers and a much more severe reduction in GX amount than their single mutants. Together, these results provide genetic evidence demonstrating that all four Arabidopsis GT43 members are involved in GX biosynthesis and suggest that they form two functionally nonredundant groups essential for the normal elongation of GX backbone.
In atherosclerosis and Alzheimers disease, deposition of the altered self components oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and amyloid-beta triggers a protracted sterile inflammatory response. Although chronic stimulation of the innate immune system is believed to underlie the pathology of these diseases, the molecular mechanisms of activation remain unclear. Here we show that oxidized LDL and amyloid-beta trigger inflammatory signaling through a heterodimer of Toll-like receptors 4 and 6. Assembly of this newly identified heterodimer is regulated by signals from the scavenger receptor CD36, a common receptor for these disparate ligands. Our results identify CD36-TLR4-TLR6 activation as a common molecular mechanism by which atherogenic lipids and amyloid-beta stimulate sterile inflammation and suggest a new model of TLR heterodimerization triggered by coreceptor signaling events.
Wood is the most abundant biomass produced by land plants. Dissection of the molecular mechanisms underlying the transcriptional regulation of wood formation is a fundamental issue in plant biology and has important implications in tree biotechnology. Although a number of transcription factors in tree species have been shown to be associated with wood formation and some of them are implicated in lignin biosynthesis, none of them have been demonstrated to be key regulators of the biosynthesis of all three major components of wood. In this report, we have identified a group of NAC domain transcription factors, PtrWNDs, that are preferentially expressed in developing wood of poplar (Populus trichocarpa). Expression of PtrWNDs in the Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) snd1 nst1 double mutant effectively complemented the secondary wall defects in fibers, indicating that PtrWNDs are capable of activating the entire secondary wall biosynthetic program. Overexpression of PtrWND2B and PtrWND6B in Arabidopsis induced the expression of secondary wall-associated transcription factors and secondary wall biosynthetic genes and, concomitantly, the ectopic deposition of cellulose, xylan, and lignin. Furthermore, PtrWND2B and PtrWND6B were able to activate the promoter activities of a number of poplar wood-associated transcription factors and wood biosynthetic genes. Together, these results demonstrate that PtrWNDs are functional orthologs of SND1 and suggest that PtrWNDs together with their downstream transcription factors form a transcriptional network involved in the regulation of wood formation in poplar.
Lignin is the second most abundant plant biopolymer mainly present in the secondary walls of tracheary elements and fibers in wood. Understanding how lignin is biosynthesized has long been an interest to plant biologists and will have a significant impact on tree biotechnology. Lignin is polymerized from monolignols that are synthesized through the lignin biosynthetic pathway. To make lignin, all the genes in the lignin biosynthetic pathway need to be coordinately turned on. It has been shown that a common cis-element, namely the AC element, is present in the majority of the lignin biosynthetic genes and required for their expression in lignifying cells. Important progress has been made in the identification of transcription factors that bind to the AC elements and are potentially involved in the coordinated regulation of lignin biosynthesis. The Arabidopsis MYB58 and MYB63 as well as their poplar ortholog PtrMYB28 are transcriptional activators of the lignin biosynthetic pathway, whereas the eucalyptus EgMYB2 and pine PtMYB4 transcription factors are likely Arabidopsis MYB46 orthologs involved in the regulation of the entire secondary wall biosynthetic program. It was found that the transcriptional regulation of lignin biosynthesis is under the control of the same transcriptional network regulating the biosynthesis of other secondary wall components, including cellulose and xylan. The identification of transcription factors directly activating lignin biosynthetic genes provides unprecedented tools to potentially manipulate the amount of lignin in wood and other plant products based on our needs.
It has been proposed that the transcriptional regulation of secondary wall biosynthesis in Arabidopsis is controlled by a transcriptional network mediated by SND1 and its close homologs. Uncovering all the transcription factors and deciphering their interrelationships in the network are essential for our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the transcriptional regulation of biosynthesis of secondary walls, the major constituent of wood and fibers. Here, we present functional evidence that the MYB83 transcription factor is another molecular switch in the SND1-mediated transcriptional network regulating secondary wall biosynthesis. MYB83 is specifically expressed in fibers and vessels where secondary wall thickening occurs. Its expression is directly activated by SND1 and its close homologs, including NST1, NST2, VND6 and VND7, indicating that MYB83 is their direct target. MYB83 overexpression is able to activate a number of the biosynthetic genes of cellulose, xylan and lignin and concomitantly induce ectopic secondary wall deposition. In addition, its overexpression upregulates the expression of several transcription factors involved in regulation of secondary wall biosynthesis. Dominant repression of MYB83 functions or simultaneous RNAi inhibition of MYB83 and MYB46 results in a reduction in secondary wall thickening in fibers and vessels and a deformation of vessels. Furthermore, double T-DNA knockout mutations of MYB83 and MYB46 cause a lack of secondary walls in vessels and an arrest in plant growth. Together, these results demonstrate that MYB83 and MYB46, both of which are SND1 direct targets, function redundantly in the transcriptional regulatory cascade leading to secondary wall formation in fibers and vessels.
The poplar GT8E and GT8F glycosyltransferases have previously been shown to be associated with wood formation, but their roles in the biosynthesis of wood components are not known. Here, we show that PoGT8E and PoGT8F are expressed in vessels and fibers during wood formation and their encoded proteins are predominantly located in the endoplasmic reticulum. We demonstrate that expression of PoGT8E and PoGT8F in the Arabidopsis parvus mutant rescues the defects in the content and structure of glucuronoxylan conferred by the parvus mutation. These findings suggest that PoGT8E and PoGT8F are involved in glucuronoxylan biosynthesis during wood formation in poplar.
Xylan is the second most abundant polysaccharide in dicot wood. Unraveling the biosynthetic pathway of xylan is important not only for our understanding of the process of wood formation but also for our rational engineering of wood for biofuel production. Although several glycosyltransferases are implicated in glucuronoxylan (GX) biosynthesis in Arabidopsis, whether their close orthologs in woody tree species are essential for GX biosynthesis during wood formation has not been investigated. In fact, no studies have been reported to evaluate the effects of alterations in secondary wall-associated glycosyltransferases on wood formation in tree species. In this report, we demonstrate that PoGT47C, a poplar glycosyltransferase belonging to family GT47, is essential for the normal biosynthesis of GX and the normal secondary wall thickening in the wood of the hybrid poplar Populus alba x tremula. RNA interference (RNAi) inhibition of PoGT47C resulted in a drastic reduction in the thickness of secondary walls, a deformation of vessels and a decreased amount of GX in poplar wood. Structural analysis of GX using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy demonstrated that the reducing end of GX from poplar wood contains the tetrasaccharide sequence, beta-d-Xylp-(1-->3)-alpha-l-Rhap-(1-->2)-alpha-d-GalpA-(1-->4)-d-Xylp, and that its abundance was significantly decreased in the GX from the wood of the GT47C-RNAi lines. The transgenic wood was found to yield more glucose by cellulase digestion than the wild-type wood, indicating that the GX reduction in wood reduces the recalcitrance of wood to cellulase digestion. Together, these results provide direct evidence demonstrating that the PoGT47C glycosyltransferase is essential for normal GX biosynthesis in poplar wood and that GX modification could improve the digestibility of wood cellulose by cellulase.
The FRAGILE FIBER8 (FRA8) gene was previously shown to be required for the biosynthesis of the reducing end tetrasaccharide sequence of glucuronoxylan (GX) in Arabidopsis thaliana. Here, we demonstrate that F8H, a close homolog of FRA8, is a functional paralog of FRA8 involved in GX biosynthesis. The F8H gene is preferentially expressed in xylem cells, in which the secondary walls contain an abundant amount of GX, and the F8H protein is targeted to the Golgi where GX is synthesized. Overexpression of F8H in the fra8 mutant completely complemented the fra8 mutant phenotypes including the secondary wall thickness of fibers and vessels, vessel morphology, GX content and the abundance of the reducing end tetrasaccharide sequence of GX, indicating that F8H shares the same biochemical function as FRA8. Although the f8h mutant alone did not show any detectable cell wall defects, the f8h/fra8 double mutant exhibits an additional reduction in cell wall xylose level, a more severe deformation of vessels and an extreme retardation in plant growth compared with the fra8 mutant. Together, our findings suggest that F8H and FRA8 are functional paralogs and that they function redundantly in GX biosynthesis during secondary wall formation in the xylem.
It has previously been shown that SECONDARY WALL-ASSOCIATED NAC DOMAIN PROTEIN1 (SND1) is a key transcription factor regulating secondary cell wall formation, including the biosynthesis of cellulose, xylan, and lignin. In this study, we show that two closely related SND1-regulated MYB transcription factors, MYB58 and MYB63, are transcriptional regulators specifically activating lignin biosynthetic genes during secondary wall formation in Arabidopsis thaliana. MYB58 and MYB63 are phylogenetically distinct from previously characterized MYBs shown to be associated with secondary wall formation or phenylpropanoid metabolism. Expression studies showed that MYB58 and MYB63 are specifically expressed in fibers and vessels undergoing secondary wall thickening. Dominant repression of their functions led to a reduction in secondary wall thickening and lignin content. Overexpression of MYB58 and MYB63 resulted in specific activation of lignin biosynthetic genes and concomitant ectopic deposition of lignin in cells that are normally unlignified. MYB58 was able to activate directly the expression of lignin biosynthetic genes and a secondary wall-associated laccase (LAC4) gene. Furthermore, the expression of MYB58 and MYB63 was shown to be regulated by the SND1 close homologs NST1, NST2, VND6, and VND7 and their downstream target MYB46. Together, our results indicate that MYB58 and MYB63 are specific transcriptional activators of lignin biosynthesis in the SND1-mediated transcriptional network regulating secondary wall formation.
Xylan is made of a linear chain of ?-1,4-linked xylosyl residues, some of which are substituted with side chains, such as glucuronic acid (GlcA), methylglucuronic acid (MeGlcA) and arabinose, depending on the source of xylan. Although past studies have revealed a number of genes involved in the elongation of the xylan backbone and the addition of GlcA and arabinosyl side chains, no genes have been shown to be implicated in glucuronoxylan methylation. In this report, we investigated the roles of three Arabidopsis genes, namely GLUCURONOXYLAN METHYLTRANSFERASE1 (GXM1), GXM2 and GXM3, in xylan biosynthesis. The GXM1/2/3 genes were found to be expressed in secondary wall-forming cells and their expression was regulated by SND1, a secondary wall master transcriptional switch. Their encoded proteins were shown to be located in the Golgi, where xylan biosynthesis occurs. Chemical analysis of cell wall sugars from single and double mutants of these genes revealed that although no alterations in the amount of xylose were observed, a significant reduction in the level of MeGlcA was evident in the gxm3 single mutant and the gxm double mutants. Structural analysis of xylan demonstrated that the gxm mutations caused a specific defect in GlcA methylation on xylan without affecting the frequency of xylan substitution. Only about 10% of the GlcA residues on xylan were methylated in the gxm2/3 double mutant, whereas in the wild type 60% of the GlcA residues were methylated. Furthermore, an activity assay demonstrated that recombinant GXM proteins exhibited a methyltransferase activity capable of transferring the methyl group from S-adenosylmethionine onto GlcA-substituted xylooligomers and simultaneous mutations of GXM2/3 genes caused a loss of such a methyltransferase activity. Taken together, our results provide the first line of genetic and biochemical evidence that the three DUF579 domain-containing proteins, GXM1, GXM2 and GXM3, are methyltransferases catalyzing 4-O-methylation of GlcA side chains on xylan.
In this work, we present a synthesis approach for nitrogen-doped graphene-sheet-like nanostructures via the graphitization of a heteroatom polymer, in particular, polyaniline, under the catalysis of a cobalt species using multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) as a supporting template. The graphene-rich composite catalysts (Co-N-MWNTs) exhibit substantially improved activity for oxygen reduction in nonaqueous lithium-ion electrolyte as compared to those of currently used carbon blacks and Pt/carbon catalysts, evidenced by both rotating disk electrode and Li-O(2) battery experiments. The synthesis-structure-activity correlations for the graphene nanostructures were explored by tuning their synthetic chemistry (support, nitrogen precursor, heating temperature, and transition metal type and content) to investigate how the resulting morphology and nitrogen-doping functionalities (e.g., pyridinic, pyrrolic, and quaternary) influence the catalyst activity. In particular, an optimal temperature for heat treatment during synthesis is critical to creating a high-surface-area catalyst with favorable nitrogen doping. The sole Co phase, Co(9)S(8), was present in the catalyst but plays a negligible role in ORR. Nevertheless, the addition of Co species in the synthesis is indispensable for achieving high activity, due to its effects on the final catalyst morphology and structure, including surface area, nitrogen doping, and graphene formation. This new route for the preparation of a nitrogen-doped graphene nanocomposite with carbon nanotube offers synthetic control of morphology and nitrogen functionality and shows promise for applications in nonaqueous oxygen reduction electrocatalysis for Li-O(2) battery cathodes.
Xylan, the second most abundant cell wall polysaccharide, is composed of a linear backbone of ?-(1,4)-linked xylosyl residues that are often substituted with sugar side chains, such as glucuronic acid (GlcA) and methylglucuronic acid (MeGlcA). It has recently been shown that mutations of two Arabidopsis family GT8 genes, GUX1 and GUX2, affect the addition of GlcA and MeGlcA to xylan, but it is not known whether they encode glucuronyltransferases (GlcATs) or indirectly regulate the GlcAT activity. In this study, we performed biochemical and genetic analyses of three Arabidopsis GUX genes to determine their roles in the GlcA substitution of xylan and secondary wall deposition. The GUX1/2/3 genes were found to be expressed in interfascicular fibers and xylem cells, the two major types of secondary wall-containing cells that have abundant xylan. When expressed in tobacco BY2 cells, the GUX1/2/3 proteins exhibited an activity capable of transferring GlcA residues from the UDP-GlcA donor onto xylooligomer acceptors, demonstrating that these GUX proteins possess xylan GlcAT activity. Analyses of the single, double and triple gux mutants revealed that simultaneous mutations of all three GUX genes led to a complete loss of GlcA and MeGlcA side chains on xylan, indicating that all three GUX proteins are involved in the GlcA substitution of xylan. Furthermore, a complete loss of GlcA and MeGlcA side chains in the gux1/2/3 triple mutant resulted in reduced secondary wall thickening, collapsed vessel morphology and reduced plant growth. Together, our results provide biochemical and genetic evidence that GUX1/2/3 are GlcATs responsible for the GlcA substitution of xylan, which is essential for normal secondary wall deposition and plant development.
The major polysaccharides in dicot wood biomass are cellulose and xylan. Although wood-associated cellulose synthase genes responsible for cellulose biosynthesis have been characterized, wood-associated xylan synthase genes have not been biochemically identified. A recent report by Lee et al. (2012) provides the first biochemical evidence that two functionally non-redundant Arabidopsis GT43 members are xylosyltransferases (XylTs) that function cooperatively in the elongation of the xylan backbone. We further extend this finding in the current report demonstrating that two poplar (Populus trichocarpa) GT43 glycosyltransferases, PtrGT43B and PtrGT43C, are xylan XylTs involved in wood formation. We show that microsomes from transgenic tobacco BY2 cells coexpressing PtrGT43B and PtrGT43C exhibited a high XylT activity capable of generating ?-(1,4)-linked xylooligosaccharides, whereas little XylT activity was detected in microsomes with expression of PtrGT43B or PtrGT43C alone. These findings indicate that poplar GT43 members are XylTs that act cooperatively in catalyzing the successive transfer of xylosyl residues during xylan backbone biosynthesis, which provides further support of the hypothesis that the biochemical functions of GT43 members in vascular plants are evolutionarily conserved.
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