Journal Article

Down-regulation of glycosyltransferase 8D genes in <i>Populus trichocarpa</i> caused reduced mechanical strength and xylan content in wood

Quanzi Li, Douyong Min, Jack Peng-Yu Wang, Ilona Peszlen, Laszlo Horvath, Balazs Horvath, Yufuko Nishimura, Hasan Jameel, Hou-Min Chang and Vincent L. Chiang

Edited by Chunyang Li

in Tree Physiology

Volume 31, issue 2, pages 226-236
Published in print February 2011 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online February 2011 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/treephys/tpr008
Down-regulation of glycosyltransferase 8D genes in Populus trichocarpa caused reduced mechanical strength and xylan content in wood

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Members of glycosyltransferase protein families GT8, GT43 and GT47 are implicated in the biosynthesis of xylan in the secondary cell walls of Arabidopsis. The Arabidopsis mutant irx8 has a 60% reduction in xylan. However, over-expression of an ortholog of Arabidopsis IRX8, poplar PoGT8D, in Arabidopsis irx8 mutant could not restore xylan synthesis. The functions of tree GT8D genes remain unclear. We identified two GT8 gene homologs, PtrGT8D1 and PtrGT8D2, in Populus trichocarpa. They are the only two GT8D members and are abundantly and specifically expressed in the differentiating xylem of P. trichocarpa. PtrGT8D1 transcript abundance was >7 times that of PtrGT8D2. To elucidate the genetic function of GT8D in P. trichocarpa, the expression of PtrGT8D1 and PtrGT8D2 was simultaneously knocked down through RNAi. Four transgenic lines had 85–94% reduction in transcripts of PtrGT8D1 and PtrGT8D2, resulting in 29–36% reduction in stem wood xylan content. Xylan reduction had essentially no effect on cellulose quantity but caused an 11–25% increase in lignin. These transgenics exhibit a brittle wood phenotype, accompanied by increased vessel diameter and thinner fiber cell walls in stem xylem. Stem modulus of elasticity and modulus of rupture were reduced by 17–29% and 16–23%, respectively, and were positively correlated with xylan content but negatively correlated with lignin quantity. These results suggest that PtrGT8Ds play key roles in xylan biosynthesis in wood. Xylan may be a more important factor than lignin affecting the stiffness and fracture strength of wood.

Keywords: glycosyltransferase; Populus trichocarpa; wood formation; xylan

Journal Article.  6849 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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