Programmed Cell Death in Xylem Development

by Courtois-Moreau, Charleen

Abstract (Summary)
Concerns about climate changes and scarcity of fossil fuels are rising. Hence wood is becoming an attractive source of renewable energy and raw material and these new dimensions have prompted increasing interest in wood formation in trees, in both the scientific community and wider public. In this thesis, the focus is on a key process in wood development: programmed cell death (PCD) in the development of xylem elements. Since secondary cell wall formation is dependent, inter alia, upon the life time of xylem elements, the qualitative features of wood will be affected by PCD in xylem, about which there is little information.This thesis focuses on the anatomical, morphological and transcriptional features of PCD during xylem development in both the stem of hybrid aspen, Populus tremula (L.) x tremuloides (Michx.) and the hypocotyl of the herbaceous model system Arabidopsis thaliana (L. Heynh.). In Populus, the progressive removal of organelles from the cytoplasm before the time of death (vacuolar bursts) and the slowness of the cell death process, illustrated by DNA fragmentation assays (such as TUNEL and Comet assays), have been ascertained in the xylem fibres by microscopic analyses. Furthermore, candidate genes for the regulation of fibre cell death were identified either from a Populus EST library obtained from woody tissues undergoing fibre cell death or from microarray experiments in Populus stem, and further assessed in an in silico comparative transcriptomic analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana. These candidate genes were either putative novel regulators of fibre cell death or members of previously described families of cell death-related genes, such as autophagy-related genes. The induction of the latter and the previous microscopic observations suggest the importance of autophagy in the degradation of the cytoplasmic contents specifically in the xylem fibres. Vacuolar bursts in the vessels were the only previously described triggers of PCD in the xylem, which induce the very rapid degradation of the nuclei and surrounding cytoplasmic contents, therefore unravelling a unique previously unrecorded type of PCD in the xylem fibres, principally involving autophagy. Arabidopsis is an attractive alternative model plant for exploring some aspects of wood formation, such as the characterisation of negative regulators of PCD. Therefore, the anatomy of Arabidopsis hypocotyls was also investigated and the ACAULIS5 (ACL5) gene, encoding an enzyme involved in polyamine biosynthesis, was identified as a key regulator of xylem specification, specifically in the vessel elements, though its negative effect on the cell death process.Taken together, PCD in xylem development seems to be a highly specific process, involving unique cell death morphology and molecular machinery. In addition, the technical challenges posed by the complexity of the woody tissues examined highlighted the need for specific methods for assessing PCD and related phenomena in wood.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Umeå universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:NATURAL SCIENCES; Biology; Cell and molecular biology; PCD (Programmed Cell Death); Xylem; Apoptosis; Autophagy; Secondary Cell Walls; Microscopy; Microarrays; Comet Assay; TUNEL Assay


Date of Publication:01/01/2008

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.