Reassessment of effects on lignification and vascular development in the irx4 Arabidopsis mutant

Phytochemistry. 2005 Sep;66(17):2092-107. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2004.12.016.


The Arabidopsis thaliana irregular xylem4 (irx4) cinnamoyl-CoA reductase 1 (CCR1) mutant was reassessed for its purported exclusive rate-limiting or key effects on lignification. Analyses of gross growth characteristics and stem cross-section anatomy, from seedling emergence to senescence, revealed that stunted irx4 mutant lines were developmentally delayed, which in turn indirectly but predictably led to modest reductions (ca. 10-15%) in overall lignin amounts. Such developmental changes are not generally observed in suppression of other monolignol pathway forming enzymes (e.g., 4-coumarate CoA ligase) even when accompanied by significant reductions in lignin amounts. With the greatly arrested development of the irx4 mutant, formation of the lignin-derived syringyl moieties was also predictably delayed (by about 1-2 weeks), although at maturation the final guaiacyl:syringyl ratios were essentially identical to wild-type. No evidence was obtained for so-called abnormal lignin precursors being incorporated into the lignin, as shown by solid-state 13C NMR spectroscopic analysis in contrast to a claim to the contrary [Jones, L., Ennos, A.R., Turner, S.R., 2001. Cloning and characterization of irregular xylem4 (irx4): a severely lignin-deficient mutant of Arabidopsis. Plant J. 26, 205-216]. A previous claim of an "abnormal" lignin present in stunted CCR downregulated tobacco was also not substantiated, with only trace differences being noted in the presumed cell-wall constituent levels. More importantly, a linear correlation between total lignin amounts and lignin-derived fragmentation products was observed at all stages of Arabidopsis growth/development in both wild-type and irx4 mutant lines, regardless of lignin content, i.e., in harmony with an exquisitely controlled and predictable macromolecular assembly process. Recombinant CCR1 displayed fairly broad substrate versatility for all phenylpropanoid CoA substrates, with both feruloyl and 5-hydroxyferuloyl CoA being the best substrates. Taken together, these data indicate that other CCR isoforms are apparently capable of generating monolignol-derived lignified elements in irx4 when CCR1 is impaired, i.e., indicative of a functionally redundant CCR metabolic network operative in Arabidopsis. Other dwarfed phenotypes have also been observed following downregulation/disruption of unrelated metabolic processes but which also involve CoA ester metabolism, i.e., with hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA reductases in Arabidopsis and a bacterial enoyl CoA hydratase/lyase overexpressed in tobacco. Although the reasons for dwarfing in each case are unknown, a common mechanism for the various pleiotropic effects is proposed through perturbation of CoASH pool levels. Finally, this study demonstrates the need for progressive analyses over the lifespan of an organism, rather than at a single time point which cannot reveal the progressive developmental changes occurring.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Lignin / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular


  • DNA Primers
  • Lignin
  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases
  • cinnamoyl CoA reductase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AY743921