Spatially resolved metabolic analysis reveals a central role for transcriptional control in carbon allocation to wood
J Exp Bot 2017, 68 (13):3529-3539

Roach M, Arrivault S, Mahboubi A, Krohn N, Sulpice R, Stitt M, Niittylä T

The contribution of transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation to modifying carbon allocation to developing wood of trees is not well defined. To clarify the role of transcriptional regulation, the enzyme activity patterns of eight central primary metabolism enzymes across phloem, cambium, and developing wood of aspen (Populus tremula L.) were compared with transcript levels obtained by RNA sequencing of sequential stem sections from the same trees. Enzymes were selected on the basis of their importance in sugar metabolism and in linking primary metabolism to lignin biosynthesis. Existing enzyme assays were adapted to allow measurements from ~1 mm3 sections of dissected stem tissue. These experiments provided high spatial resolution of enzyme activity changes across different stages of wood development, and identified the gene transcripts probably responsible for these changes. In most cases, there was a clear positive relationship between transcripts and enzyme activity. During secondary cell wall formation, the increases in transcript levels and enzyme activities also matched with increased levels of glucose, fructose, hexose phosphates, and UDP-glucose, emphasizing an important role for transcriptional regulation in carbon allocation to developing aspen wood. These observations corroborate the efforts to increase carbon allocation to wood by engineering gene regulatory networks.

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