Background: Cotton fiber maturity is an important factor for determining the commercial value of cotton. How fiber cell wall development affects fiber maturity is not well understood. A comparison of fiber cross-sections showed that an immature fiber (im) mutant had lower fiber maturity than its near isogenic wild type, Texas marker-1 (TM-1). The availability of the im mutant and TM-1 provides a unique way to determine molecular mechanisms regulating cotton fiber maturity.
Results: Transcriptome analysis showed that the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in the im mutant fibers grown under normal stress conditions were similar to those in wild type cotton fibers grown under severe stress conditions. The majority of these DEGs in the im mutant were related to stress responses and cellular respiration. Stress is known to reduce the activity of a classical respiration pathway responsible for energy production and reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation. Both energy productions and ROS levels in the im mutant fibers are expected to be reduced if the im mutant is associated with stress responses. In accord with the prediction, the transcriptome profiles of the im mutant showed the same alteration of transcriptional regulation that happened in energy deprived plants in which expressions of genes associated with cell growth processes were reduced whereas expressions of genes associated with recycling and transporting processes were elevated. We confirmed that ROS production in developing fibers from the im mutant was lower than that from the wild type. The lower production of ROS in the im mutant fibers might result from the elevated levels of alternative respiration induced by stress.
Conclusion: The low degree of fiber cell wall thickness of the im mutant fibers is associated with deregulation of the genes involved in stress responses and cellular respiration. The reduction of ROS levels and up-regulation of the genes involved in alternative respirations suggest that energy deprivation may occur in the im mutant fibers.