Overexpression of polygalacturonase in transgenic apple trees leads to a range of novel phenotypes involving changes in cell adhesion

Plant Physiol. 2002 May;129(1):122-33. doi: 10.1104/pp.010986.


Polygalacturonases (PGs) cleave runs of unesterified GalUA that form homogalacturonan regions along the backbone of pectin. Homogalacturonan-rich pectin is commonly found in the middle lamella region of the wall where two adjacent cells abut and its integrity is important for cell adhesion. Transgenic apple (Malus domestica Borkh. cv Royal Gala) trees were produced that contained additional copies of a fruit-specific apple PG gene under a constitutive promoter. In contrast to previous studies in transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) where PG overexpression had no effect on the plant (K.W. Osteryoung, K. Toenjes, B. Hall, V. Winkler, A.B. Bennett [1990] Plant Cell 2: 1239-1248), PG overexpression in transgenic apple led to a range of novel phenotypes. These phenotypes included silvery colored leaves and premature leaf shedding due to reduced cell adhesion in leaf abscission zones. Mature leaves had malformed and malfunctioning stomata that perturbed water relations and contributed to a brittle leaf phenotype. Chemical and ultrastructural analyses were used to relate the phenotypic changes to pectin changes in the leaf cell walls. The modification of apple trees by a single PG gene has offered a new and unexpected perspective on the role of pectin and cell wall adhesion in leaf morphology and stomatal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Adhesion / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Fruit / enzymology
  • Fruit / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Malus / enzymology
  • Malus / genetics*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Pectins / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Plant Leaves / enzymology
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / ultrastructure
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / enzymology
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics*
  • Polygalacturonase / biosynthesis
  • Polygalacturonase / genetics*
  • Polygalacturonase / isolation & purification
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Species Specificity
  • Water / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Water
  • Pectins
  • Polygalacturonase