Background: Plant cell walls are complex dynamic structures that play a vital role in coordinating the directional growth of plant tissues. The rapid elongation of the inflorescence stem in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana is accompanied by radical changes in cell wall structure and chemistry, but analysis of the underlying mechanisms and identification of the genes that are involved has been hampered by difficulties in accurately sampling discrete developmental states along the developing stem.
Results: By creating stem growth kinematic profiles for individual expanding Arabidopsis stems we have been able to harvest and pool developmentally-matched tissue samples, and to use these for comparative analysis of global transcript profiles at four distinct phases of stem growth: the period of elongation rate increase, the point of maximum growth rate, the point of stem growth cessation and the fully matured stem. The resulting profiles identify numerous genes whose expression is affected as the stem tissues pass through these defined growth transitions, including both novel loci and genes identified in earlier studies. Of particular note is the preponderance of highly active genes associated with secondary cell wall deposition in the region of stem growth cessation, and of genes associated with defence and stress responses in the fully mature stem.
Conclusions: The use of growth kinematic profiling to create tissue samples that are accurately positioned along the expansion growth continuum of Arabidopsis inflorescence stems establishes a new standard for transcript profiling analyses of such tissues. The resulting expression profiles identify a substantial number of genes whose expression is correlated for the first time with rapid cell wall extension and subsequent fortification, and thus provide an important new resource for plant biologists interested in gene discovery related to plant biomass accumulation.