Transgenic silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) lines were produced in order to modify lignin biosynthesis. These lines carry COMT (caffeate/5-hydroxyferulate O-methyltransferase) gene from Populus tremuloides driven by constitutive promoter 35S CaMV (cauliflower mosaic virus) or UbB1 (ubiquitin promoter from sunflower). The decreased syringyl/guaiacyl (S/G) ratio was found in stem and leaf lignin of 35S CaMV-PtCOMT transgenic silver birch lines when compared to non-transformed control or UbB1-PtCOMT lines. In controlled feeding experiments the leaves of transgenic birch lines as well as controls were fed to insect herbivores common in boreal environment, i.e., larvae of Aethalura punctulata, Cleora cinctaria and Trichopteryx carpinata (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) as well as the adults of birch leaf-feeding beetles Agelastica alni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) and Phyllobius spp. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). The feeding preferences of these herbivores differed in some cases among the tested birch lines, but these differences could not be directly associated to lignin modification. They could as well be explained by other characteristics of leaves, either natural or caused by transgene site effects. Growth performance of lepidopteran larvae fed on transgenic or control leaves did not differ significantly.
In the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) seed, embryos grow and develop within the corrosion cavity of the megagametophyte, a maternally derived haploid tissue, which houses the majority of the storage reserves of the seed. In the present study, histochemical methods and quantification of the expression levels of the programmed cell death (PCD) and DNA repair processes related genes (MCA, TAT-D, RAD51, KU80, and LIG) were used to investigate the physiological events occurring in the megagametophyte tissue during embryo development. It was found that the megagametophyte was viable from the early phases of embryo development until the early germination of mature seeds. However, the megagametophyte cells in the narrow embryo surrounding region (ESR) were destroyed by cell death with morphologically necrotic features. Their cell wall, plasma membrane, and nuclear envelope broke down with the release of cell debris and nucleic acids into the corrosion cavity. The occurrence of necrotic-like cell death in gymnosperm embryogenesis provides a favourable model for the study of developmental cell death with necrotic-like morphology and suggests that the mechanism underlying necrotic cell death is evolutionary conserved.
Somatic embryogenesis (SE) is one of the methods with the highest potential for the vegetative propagation of commercially important coniferous species. However, many conifers, including Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.), are recalcitrant to SE and a better understanding of the mechanisms behind the SE process is needed. In Scots pine SE cultures, embryo production is commonly induced by the removal of auxin, addition of abscisic acid (ABA) and the desiccation of cell masses by polyethylene glycol (PEG). In the present study, we focus on the possible link between the induction of somatic embryo formation and cellular stress responses such as hydrogen peroxide protection, DNA repair, changes in polyamine (PA) metabolism and autophagy. Cellular PA contents and the expression of the PA metabolism genes arginine decarboxylase (ADC), spermidine synthase (SPDS), thermospermine synthase (ACL5) and diamine oxidase (DAO) were analyzed, as well as the expression of catalase (CAT), DNA repair genes (RAD51, KU80) and autophagy-related genes (ATG5, ATG8) throughout the induction of somatic embryo formation in Scots pine SE cultures. Among the embryo-producing SE lines, the expression of ADC, SPDS, ACL5, DAO, CAT, RAD51, KU80 and ATG8 showed consistent profiles. Furthermore, the overall low expression of the stress-related genes suggests that cells in those SE lines were not stressed but recognized the ABA+PEG treatment as a signal to trigger the embryogenic pathway. In those SE lines that were unable to produce embryos, cells seemed to experience the ABA+PEG treatment mostly as osmotic stress and activated a wide range of stress defense mechanisms. Altogether, our results suggest that the direction to the embryogenic pathway is connected with cellular stress responses in Scots pine SE cultures. Thus, the manipulation of stress response pathways may provide a way to enhance somatic embryo production in recalcitrant Scots pine SE lines.
In the last decades, many wood preservatives have been prohibited for their ecotoxicity. The present article is focusing on the conifer-derived condensed tannins as environment-friendly options for the substitution of artificial wood preservatives. Eight different tannin fractions were extracted from spruce cones, spruce barks, and pine cones. The parameters of tannin extraction, such as the methods of purification and concentration of active components in the extracts, have been investigated. The cone and bark extracts were tested for the growth inhibition of eight brown-rot fungi, three white-rot fungi, and four soft-rot fungi in liquid cultures. The cone tannins provided a more efficient fungal growth inhibition than bark tannins. Purification increased the antifungal properties of the extracts. The growth of brown-rot fungi was inhibited by the tannins already at low concentrations. However, the extracts were not effective against the white-rot or soft-rot fungi. More investigation is needed concerning the tannin source and the purification procedure of the extracts before tannins can be considered as an ecologically benign wood preservative.
For promoting the maturation of two embryogenic cell lines of Abies cephalonica Loud., the effect of two sucrose concentrations (87.6 and 175.2 mM) applied alone (Control) or in combination with activated charcoal (AC) (1 week) or with polyethylene glycol (PEG1 and PEG4) (1 or 4 weeks) was studied. The effect of each maturation medium was tested with four concentrations of abscisic acid (4, 8, 16 and 32 lM ABA). AC supplement significantly increased the percentage of embryogenic cell masses (ECMs) with cotyledonary embryos but did not affect the average number of embryos per 1 g of ECMs fresh weight. The highest percentages of ECMs (77.5%) with cotyledonary somatic embryos and the highest average number of somatic embryos (36.5 ± 13.4) were found on media with PEG for 4 weeks. The maturation media with 87.6 mM sucrose significantly increased the number of ECMs able to form cotyledonary embryos (66.8%) when PEG was included in the maturation medium, but did not affect the average number of somatic embryos. Overall correlation between proliferation diameter during maturation phase and the number of ECMs with somatic embryos (r = -0.40) as well as all significant correlations within individual experimental variants were consistently negative after 8 weeks of maturation, meaning that proliferation growth hampers the formation of somatic embryos. The highest germination percentages 21.6% and 18.2% were obtained when somatic embryos were maturated on media with or without AC supplement, respectively. Lowest germination percentages, 9.1% and 4.4%, were obtained on maturation media with PEG4 and PEG1.
To date, haemoglobins (Hbs) have been shown to exist in all kingdoms of life. The least studied and understood groups are plant non-symbiotic haemoglobins (nsHbs) and the recently found plant truncated Hbs (trHbs). From a biotechnological point of view, the best characterized and almost exclusively applied Hb is the bacterial Vitreoscilla haemoglobin (VHb). In this review, the present state of knowledge of structural features and ligand binding kinetics of plant nsHbs and trHbs and their proposed roles as oxygen carriers, oxygen sensors, and for oxygen storage, in nitric oxide (NO) detoxification, and in peroxidase activity are described. Furthermore, in order to predict the functioning of plant Hbs, their characteristics will be compared with those of the better known bacterial globins. In this context, the effects of heterologous applications of VHb on plants are reviewed. Finally, the challenging future of plant Hb research is discussed.
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