Title page for ETD etd-07302008-142307

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Zhou, Honghai
URN etd-07302008-142307
Document Title Isolation and functional genetic analysis of Eucalyptus wood formation genes
Degree MSc
Department Genetics
Advisor Name Title
Prof D Berger Co-Supervisor
Prof A A Myburg Supervisor
  • lignin and cellulose biosynthesis
  • wood and fibre
  • Eucalyptus
Date 2006-04-24
Availability unrestricted
Eucalyptus trees are an important source of wood and fibre. The wood (secondary xylem) of this genus is widely used for pulp and papermaking. However, our understanding of the mechanisms which control the wood formation process (xylogenesis) in Eucalyptus and other woody species is far from complete. One reason is that xylogenesis is a very complex developmental process. The major components of wood are lignin and cellulose. Many genes involved in lignin and cellulose biosynthesis have been characterized. For example, Cinnamoyl CoA reductase (CCR) and cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD) are two important lignin biosynthesis genes. Plant cellulose is synthesized by cellulose synthase enzymes with the aid of some other proteins, such as sucrose synthase (SuSy) and sucrose phosphate synthase (SPS). Another factor which makes it difficult to analyze the function of Eucalyptus wood formation genes in vivo, is the long generation times of Eucalyptus trees and the difficulty to obtain transgenic Eucalyptus plants. Therefore, in this study, we investigated the use of Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system for functional analysis of wood formation genes.

We transformed a lignin and a cellulose biosynthesis gene isolated from Eucalyptus to wild-type and mutant genetic backgrounds of Arabidopsis in order to test our ability to modify the cell wall chemistry of Arabidopsis thaliana using tree genes. The Eucalyptus CCR (EUCCR) gene was transformed into wild-type Arabidopsis (Col-0) and irregular xylem 4 (irx4) mutant plants, in which the homolog of EUCCR is mutated. A Eucalyptus cellulose synthase gene (EgCesA1) was also transformed into irregular xylem 1 (irx1) mutant plants, in which the homolog of EgCesA1 is mutated. Transgenics were only obtained from wild-type Col-0 transformed with EUCCR and from irx1 transformed with EgCesA1. We studied the cell wall chemistry of wild-type Arabidopsis plants overexpressing the Eucalyptus CCR gene.

Chemical analysis of inflorescence stems revealed the modification of lignin and cellulose content in transgenic plants. Total lignin content was increased in T2 (5%) and T3 (12%) lines as revealed by micro-Klason lignin and thioglycolic acid quantification methods, respectively. High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) analysis revealed that cellulose content was significantly decreased (10%) in T2 transgenic plants. This suggested the reallocation of carbon from cellulose to lignin as a result of overexpression of EUCCR in transgenic plants. Interestingly, thioacidolysis analysis revealed that in T2 plants, monomethoxylated guaiacyl (G) monomer was increased (16%) and bimethoxylated syringyl (S) monomer was decreased (21%). Therefore, the S/G lignin monomer ratio was significant decreased (32%). This implied that EUCCR might be specific to G monomer biosynthesis. The results described above confirmed that Arabidopsis thaliana can be used to model the function of wood formation genes isolated from Eucalyptus.

Two novel full-length Eucalyptus sucrose synthase (SuSy) genes, EgSuSy1 and EgSuSy3, and one putative pseudogene, EgSuSy2, were also isolated in this study. Degenerate PCR was used to amplify Eucalyptus SuSy fragments from cDNA and genomic DNA. 3’RACE was used to amplify the 3’ ends of two Eucalyptus SuSy genes. Genome walking was performed to obtain the 5’ ends of EgSuSy1 and EgSuSy2 whereas 5’RACE technology was used to isolate the 5’ end of EgSuSy3. However, 3’RACE analysis failed when we tried to identify the 3’ end of EgSuSy2. Sequencing results from the genome walking product of EgSuSy2 further revealed that the start codon of this gene was missing, and we hypothesize that this is a psuedogene in the Eucalyptus genome. The EgSuSy1 cDNA was 2498 bp in length with an open reading frame of 2418 bp encoding 805 amino acids with a predicted molecular mass of 92.3 kDa. The 2528 bp full-length EgSuSy3 cDNA contained the same length of open reading frame as EgSuSy1, but encoded a polypeptide with a predicted molecular mass of 92.8 kDa. The results of quantitative real-time RT-PCR, phylogenetic analysis and gene structure of the two genes revealed that both genes might be involved in cellulose biosynthesis in primary and secondary cell walls of Eucalyptus. These two genes, EgSuSy1 and EgSuSy3, could therefore be useful targets for genetic engineering of wood properties in Eucalyptus.

© 2005, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Zhou, H 2005, Isolation and functional genetic analysis of Eucalyptus wood formation genes, MSc dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-07302008-142307/ >


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