Plants modify development in response to external stimuli, to produce new growth that is appropriate for environmental conditions. For example, gravi-stimulation of leaning branches in angiosperm trees results in modifications of wood development, to produce tension wood that pulls leaning stems upright. Here, we use gravi-stimulation and tension wood response to dissect the temporal changes in gene expression underlying wood formation in Populus stems. Using time-series analysis of seven time points over a 14-d experiment, we identified 8,919 genes that were differentially expressed between tension wood (upper) and opposite wood (lower) sides of leaning stems. Clustering of differentially expressed genes showed four major transcriptional responses, including gene clusters whose transcript levels were associated with two types of tissue-specific impulse responses that peaked at about 24-48 h, and gene clusters with sustained changes in transcript levels that persisted until the end of the 14-d experiment. Functional enrichment analysis of those clusters suggests they reflect temporal changes in pathways associated with hormone regulation, protein localization, cell wall biosynthesis and epigenetic processes. Time-series analysis of gene expression is an underutilized approach for dissecting complex developmental responses in plants, and can reveal gene clusters and mechanisms influencing development.
Published 2018. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.