Overexpression of poplar xylem sucrose synthase in tobacco leads to a thickened cell wall and increased height

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© 2015 Wei et al. Sucrose synthase (SuSy) is considered the first key enzyme for secondary growth because it is a highly regulated cytosolic enzyme that catalyzes the reversible conversion of sucrose and UDP into UDP-glucose and fructose. Although SuSy enzymes preferentially functions in the direction of sucrose cleavage at most cellular condition, they also catalyze the synthetic reaction. We isolated a gene that encodes a SuSy from Populus simoniixPopulus nigra and named it PsnSuSy2 because it shares high similarity to SuSy2 in Populus trichocarpa. RT-PCR revealed that PsnSuSy2 was highly expressed in xylem, but lowly expressed in young leaves. To characterize its functions in secondary growth, multiple tobacco overexpression transgenic lines of PnsSuSy2 were generated via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. The PsnSuSy2 expression levels and altered wood properties in stem segments from the different transgenic lines were carefully characterized. The results demonstrated that the levels of PsnSuSy2 enzyme activity, chlorophyll content, total soluble sugars, fructose and glucose increased significantly, while the sucrose level decreased significantly. Consequently, the cellulose content and fiber length increased, whereas the lignin content decreased, suggesting that PsnSuSy2 plays a significant role in cleaving sucrose into UDP-glucose and fructose to facilitate cellulose biosynthesis and that promotion of cellulose biosynthesis suppresses lignin biosynthesis. Additionally, the noticeable increase in the lodging resistance in transgenic tobacco stem suggested that the cell wall characteristics were altered by PsnSuSy2 overexpression. Scanning electron microscopy was performed to study the cell wall morphology of stem, and surprisingly, we found that the secondary cell wall was significantly thicker in transgenic tobacco. However, the thickened secondary cell wall did not negatively affect the height of the plants because the PsnSuSy2-overexpressing lines grew taller than the wildtype plants. This systematic analysis demonstrated that PsnSuSy2 plays an important role in cleaving sucrose coupled with cellulose biosynthesis in wood tissue.

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