Novel gene expression profiles define the metabolic and physiological processes characteristic of wood and its extractive formation in a hardwood tree species, Robinia pseudoacacia

Plant Mol Biol. 2003 Jul;52(5):935-56. doi: 10.1023/a:1025445427284.


Wood is of critical importance to humans as a primary feedstock for biofuel, fiber, solid wood products, and various natural compounds including pharmaceuticals. The trunk wood of most tree species has two distinctly different regions: sapwood and heartwood. In addition to the major constituents, wood contains extraneous chemicals that can be removed by extraction with various solvents. The composition and the content of the extractives vary depending on such factors as, species, growth conditions, and time of year when the tree is cut. Despite the great commercial and keen scientific interest, little is known about the tree-specific biology of the formation of heartwood and its extractives. In order to gain insight on the molecular regulations of heartwood and its extractive formation, we carried out global examination of gene expression profiles across the trunk wood of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) trees. Of the 2,915 expressed sequenced tags (ESTs) that were generated and analyzed in the current study, 55.3% showed no match to known sequences. Cluster analysis of the ESTs identified a total of 2278 unigene sets, which were used to construct cDNA microarrays. Microarray hybridization analyses were then performed to survey the changes in gene expression profiles of trunk wood. The gene expression profiles of wood formation differ according to the region of trunk wood sampled, with highly expressed genes defining the metabolic and physiological processes characteristic of each region. For example, the gene encoding sugar transport had the highest expression in the sapwood, while the structural genes for flavonoid biosynthesis were up-regulated in the sapwood-heartwood transition zone. This analysis also established the expression patterns of 341 previously unknown genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Complementary / chemistry
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Gene Library
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Plant Structures / genetics
  • Plant Structures / growth & development
  • Plant Structures / metabolism
  • Robinia / genetics*
  • Robinia / growth & development
  • Robinia / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Trees / genetics*
  • Trees / growth & development
  • Trees / metabolism
  • Wood


  • DNA, Complementary