Identification, characterization of an AP2/ERF transcription factor that promotes adventitious, lateral root formation in Populus

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Using activation tagging in Populus, we have identified five mutant lines showing changes in their adventitious rooting. Among the affected lines, three showed increased and two decreased adventitious rooting. We have positioned the tag in the mutant lines via recovering genomic sequences flanking the left-hand border of the activation tagging vector and validated the transcriptional activation of the proximal genes. We further characterized one line in which the cause of the observed rooting phenotype was up-regulation of a gene encoding a transcription factor of the AP2/ERF family of unknown function (PtaERF003). We show, through retransformation, that this gene has a positive effect on both adventitious and lateral root proliferation. Comparative expression analyses show that the phenotype does not result from ectopic expression but rather up-regulation of the native expression pattern of the gene. PtaERF003 function is linked to auxin signal transduction pathway, as suggested by the rapid induction and accentuated phenotypes of the transgenic plants in presence of the hormone. Upregulation of PtaERF003 led to most significant metabolic changes in the shoot suggesting of a broader regulatory role of the gene that is not restricted to root growth and development. Our study shows that dominant tagging approaches in poplar can successfully identify novel molecular factors controlling adventitious and lateral root formation in woody plants. Such discoveries can lead to technologies that can increase root proliferation and, thus, have significant economic and environmental benefits.

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