Molecular dissection of xylan biosynthesis during wood formation in poplar

Mol Plant. 2011 Jul;4(4):730-47. doi: 10.1093/mp/ssr035. Epub 2011 May 18.


Xylan, being the second most abundant polysaccharide in dicot wood, is considered to be one of the factors contributing to wood biomass recalcitrance for biofuel production. To better utilize wood as biofuel feedstock, it is crucial to functionally characterize all the genes involved in xylan biosynthesis during wood formation. In this report, we investigated roles of poplar families GT43 and GT8 glycosyltransferases in xylan biosynthesis during wood formation. There exist seven GT43 genes in the genome of poplar (Populus trichocarpa), five of which, namely PtrGT43A, PtrGT43B, PtrGT43C, PtrGT43D, and PtrGT43E, were shown to be highly expressed in the developing wood and their encoded proteins were localized in the Golgi. Comprehensive genetic complementation coupled with chemical analyses demonstrated that overexpression of PtrGT43A/B/E but not PtrGT43C/D was able to rescue the xylan defects conferred by the Arabidopsis irx9 mutant, whereas overexpression of PtrGT43C/D but not PtrGT43A/B/E led to a complementation of the xylan defects in the Arabidopsis irx14 mutant. The essential roles of poplar GT43 members in xylan biosynthesis was further substantiated by RNAi down-regulation of GT43B in the hybrid poplar (Populus alba x tremula) leading to reductions in wall thickness and xylan content in wood, and an elevation in the abundance of the xylan reducing end sequence. Wood digestibility analysis revealed that cellulase digestion released more glucose from the wood of poplar GT43B RNAi lines than the control wood, indicating a decrease in wood biomass recalcitrance. Furthermore, RNAi down-regulation of another poplar wood-associated glycosyltransferase, PoGT8D, was shown to cause decreases in wall thickness and xylan content as well as in the abundance of the xylan reducing end sequence. Together, these findings demonstrate that the poplar GT43 members form two functionally non-redundant groups, namely PtrGT43A/B/E as functional orthologs of Arabidopsis IRX9 and PtrGT43C/D as functional orthologs of Arabidopsis IRX14, all of which are involved in the biosynthesis of xylan backbones, and that the poplar GT8D is essential for the biosynthesis of the xylan reducing end sequence.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Glycosyltransferases / genetics
  • Glycosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Populus / enzymology
  • Populus / genetics
  • Populus / growth & development*
  • Populus / metabolism*
  • Wood / enzymology
  • Wood / genetics
  • Wood / growth & development*
  • Wood / metabolism*
  • Xylans / biosynthesis*


  • Plant Proteins
  • Xylans
  • Glycosyltransferases

Associated data

  • GENBANK/EF501824
  • GENBANK/EF501825
  • GENBANK/JF518934
  • GENBANK/JF518935
  • GENBANK/JF518936
  • GENBANK/JF518937
  • GENBANK/JF518938