My lab investigates plant cell wall biosynthesis and carbohydrate metabolism in Arabidopsis, aspen and Norway spruce. We are interested in the molecular mechanisms responsible for sucrose transport to secondary cell wall forming cells, and the subsequent production of cell wall polymer precursors.
Totte Niittyla 1150

Transcriptional regulation plays an important role in these processes, and we are applying different genomics tools to identify transcription factors involved in woody biomass accumulation. We also work on carbohydrate active enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of arabinogalactan proteins (AGPs), which form a diverse group of cell surface- and wall-associated glycoproteins. We are interested in AGP’s role in cell wall biosynthesis, and the relationship between AGP glycosylation and AGP functionality.

A) Light microscopy picture of aspen wood fibers and vessels; B) Cross section of Arabidopsis stem. Lignified cell walls are shown in red and non-lignified in blue; C) Cross section of aspen stemA) Light microscopy picture of aspen wood fibers and vessels; B) Cross section of Arabidopsis stem. Lignified cell walls are shown in red and non-lignified in blue; C) Cross section of aspen stem; D) Siliques of wild type Arabidopsis and opnr-1 showing the seed abortion phenotype (left). Elongated zygotes of wild type and opnr-1 (middle). Confocal microscopy images showing the dual localisation of OPNR in nuclear envelope and mitochondria labelled with PHB3-mCherry (right).

In addition to wood biology we also explore novel fundamental cellular processes. One third of the genes in the model plant Arabidopsis remain of unknown function. Our ambition is to push new inroads to this unknown gene space. We are interested in identifying essential genes, which are indispensable for the function of a plant cell and constitute the minimum gene set required for cellular life.

Siliques of wild type Arabidopsis and opnr-1 showing the seed abortion phenotype (left). Elongated zygotes of wild type and opnr-1 (middle). Confocal microscopy images showing the dual localisation of OPNR in nuclear envelope and mitochondria labelled with PHB3-mCherry (right)Siliques of wild type Arabidopsis and opnr-1 showing the seed abortion phenotype (left). Elongated zygotes of wild type and opnr-1 (middle). Confocal microscopy images showing the dual localisation of OPNR in nuclear envelope and mitochondria labelled with PHB3-mCherry (right)

Our approach is to investigate evolutionarily-conserved single copy Arabidopsis genes of unknown function with predominant expression in meristematic cells. Evolutionarily-conserved single copy genes in flowering plants have been shown to be enriched in essential housekeeping functions. This exploratory project has led us to new areas of cell biology, and provide an adventure for those who do not fear the unknown.

Recently we identified an essential gene named OPENER (OPNR) in this project. opnr mutants show zygotic lethality and endosperm arrest, and intriguingly OPNR localizes to both nuclear envelope and mitochondria pointing to an uncharacterized essential process occurring in both nucleus and mitochondria in dividing plant cells.


sweden_greySvensk sammanfattning

Publication list

  1. A metabolite roadmap of the wood-forming tissue in Populus tremula
    New Phytol. 2020 Jul 10 [Epub ahead of print]
  2. CELLULOSE SYNTHASE INTERACTING 1 Is Required for Wood Mechanics and Leaf Morphology in Aspen
    Plant J 2020 Jun 11 Online ahead of print
  3. Golgi-localized exo-β1,3-galactosidases involved in cell expansion and root growth in Arabidopsis
    JBC 2020, 295(31): 10581-10592
  4. Sucrose synthase determines carbon allocation in developing wood and alters carbon flow at the whole tree level in aspen
    New Phytologist 2020, First published 03 June
  5. Two-step derivatization for determination of sugar phosphates in plants by combined reversed phase chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry
    Plant Methods 2019, 15(127)
  6. Isolation and characterization of cellulose nanofibers from aspen wood using derivatizing and non-derivatizing pretreatments
    Cellulose 2020, 27(1):185-203
  7. Genome-Wide Association Study identified novel candidate loci affecting wood formation in Norway spruce
    Plant J. 2019, 100(1):83-100
  8. OPENER Is a Nuclear Envelope and Mitochondria Localized Protein Required for Cell Cycle Progression in Arabidopsis
    Plant Cell 2019, 31(7):1446-1465
  9. High Spatial Resolution Profiling in Tree Species
    Annual Plant Reviews Online 2019
  10. Cellulose synthase stoichiometry in aspen differs from Arabidopsis and Norway spruce
    Plant Physiology 2018, 177 (3):1096-1107
  11. Sucrose transport and carbon fluxes during wood formation
    Physiologia Plantarum 2018, 164(1):67-81
  12. Two Complementary Mechanisms Underpin Cell Wall Patterning during Xylem Vessel Development
    Plant Cell. 2017, 29 (10):2433-2449
  13. AspWood: High-spatial-resolution transcriptome profiles reveal uncharacterized modularity of wood formation in Populus tremula
    Plant Cell. 2017, 29 (7):1585-1604
  14. Spatially resolved metabolic analysis reveals a central role for transcriptional control in carbon allocation to wood
    J Exp Bot 2017, 68 (13):3529-3539
  15. Laser Capture Microdissection Protocol for Xylem Tissues of Woody Plants
    Front. Plant Sci., 04 January 2017
  16. Cytosolic invertase contributes to the supply of substrate for cellulose biosynthesis in developing wood
    New Phytol. 2017, 214(2):796-807
  17. Carbon-13 tracking after 13CO2 supply revealed diurnal patterns of wood formation in aspen
    Plant Physiol. 2015; 168(2):478-489
  18. Deficient sucrose synthase activity in developing wood does not specifically affect cellulose biosynthesis, but causes an overall decrease in cell wall polymers
    New Phytol. 2014, 203(4):1220-1230
  19. Aspen SUCROSE TRANSPORTER 3 allocates carbon into wood fibers
    Plant Physiology 2013; 163(4):1729-1740
  20. The Norway spruce genome sequence and conifer genome evolution
    Nature 2013; 497(7451):579-584
  21. Xue W, Ruprecht C, Street N, Hematy K, Chang C, Frommer WB, Persson S, Niittylä T
    Paramutation-Like Interaction of T-DNA Loci in Arabidopsis
    PLoS ONE 2012 7(12): e51651
  22. Roach M, Gerber L, Sandquist D, Gorzsás A, Hedenström M, Kumar M, Steinhauser MC, Feil R, Daniel G, Stitt M, Sundberg B, Niittylä T
    Fructokinase is required for carbon partitioning to cellulose in aspen wood
    Plant Journal, 2012, 70(6):967 – 977
  23. Niittylä T, Chauduri B, Sauer U and Frommer WB
    Comparison of quantitative metabolite imaging tools and carbon-13 techniques for fluxomics
    Methods Mol Biol, 2009, 553:355-372
  24. Niittylä T, Fuglsang AT, Palmgren MG, Frommer WB, Schulze WX
    Temporal analysis of sucrose-induced phosphorylation changes in plasma membrane proteins of Arabidopsis
    Mol Cell Proteomics, 2007,6:1711-1726
  25. Chaudhuri B, Niittylä T, Hörmann F, Frommer WB
    Fluxomics with ratiometric metabolite dyes
    Plant Signal Behav. 2007, 2(2):120-2
  26. Niittylä T, Comparot-Moss S, Lue W-L, Messerli G, Trevisan M, Seymour MD, Gatehouse JA, Villadsen D, Smith SM, Chen J, Zeeman SC, Smith AM
    Similar protein phosphatases control starch metabolism in plants and glycogen metabolism in mammals
    J. Biol. Chem. 2006, 281:11815-11818
  27. Niittylä T, Messerli G, Trevisan M, Chen J, Smith AM, Zeeman SC
    A previously unknown maltose transporter essential for starch degradation in leaves
    Science 2004, 303:87-89
  28. Smith AM, Zeeman SC, Niittylä T, Kofler H, Thorneycroft D, Smith SM
    Starch degradation in leaves
    J. Appl. Glycosci. 2003, 50:173-176
  29. Zabela MD, Fernandez-Delmond I, Niittylä T, Sanchez P, Grant M
    Differential expression of genes encoding Arabidopsis phospholipases after challenge with virulent or avirulent Pseudomonas isolates
    Mol. Plant Microbe Interact. 2002, 15:808-816