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Spatial regulation of monolignol biosynthesis and laccase genes control developmental and stress-related lignin in flax

Le Roy, J., Blervacq, A.S., Créach, A. et al.

Background
Bast fibres are characterized by very thick secondary cell walls containing high amounts of cellulose and low lignin contents in contrast to the heavily lignified cell walls typically found in the xylem tissues. To improve the quality of the fiber-based products in the future, a thorough understanding of the main cell wall polymer biosynthetic pathways is required. In this study we have carried out a characterization of the genes involved in lignin biosynthesis in flax along with some of their regulation mechanisms.

Results
We have first identified the members of the phenylpropanoid gene families through a combination of in silico approaches. The more specific lignin genes were further characterized by high throughput transcriptomic approaches in different organs and physiological conditions and their cell/tissue expression was localized in the stems, roots and leaves. Laccases play an important role in the polymerization of monolignols. This multigenic family was determined and a miRNA was identified to play a role in the posttranscriptional regulation by cleaving the transcripts of some specific genes shown to be expressed in lignified tissues. In situ hybridization also showed that the miRNA precursor was expressed in the young xylem cells located near the vascular cambium. The results obtained in this work also allowed us to determine that most of the genes involved in lignin biosynthesis are included in a unique co-expression cluster and that MYB transcription factors are potentially good candidates for regulating these genes.

Conclusions
Target engineering of cell walls to improve plant product quality requires good knowledge of the genes responsible for the production of the main polymers. For bast fiber plants such as flax, it is important to target the correct genes from the beginning since the difficulty to produce transgenic material does not make possible to test a large number of genes. Our work determined which of these genes could be potentially modified and showed that it was possible to target different regulatory pathways to modify lignification.

Citation

Le Roy, J., Blervacq, A.S., Créach, A. et al. "Spatial regulation of monolignol biosynthesis and laccase genes control developmental and stress-related lignin in flax" BMC Plant Biology (2017): doi: 10.1186/s12870-017-1072-9