Plant cell walls are complex multicomponent structures that have evolved to fulfil an essential function in providing strength and protection to cells.
Plant cell walls are complex multicomponent structures that have evolved to fulfil an essential function in providing strength and protection to cells. Hemicelluloses constitute a key component of the cell wall and recently a number of the genes thought to encode the enzymes required for its synthesis have been identified in Arabidopsis. The acquisition of hemicellulose synthesis capability is hypothesised to have been an important step in the evolution of higher plants.Results
Analysis of the Physcomitrella patens genome has revealed the presence of homologs for all of the Arabidopsis glycosyltransferases including IRX9, IRX10 and IRX14 required for the synthesis of the glucuronoxylan backbone. The Physcomitrella IRX10 homolog is expressed in a variety of moss tissues which were newly formed or undergoing expansion. There is a high degree of sequence conservation between the Physcomitrella IRX10 and Arabidopsis IRX10 and IRX10-L. Despite this sequence similarity, the Physcomitrella IRX10 gene is only able to partially rescue the Arabidopsis irx10 irx10-L double mutant indicating that there has been a neo- or sub-functionalisation during the evolution of higher plants. Analysis of the monosaccharide composition of stems from the partially rescued Arabidopsis plants does not show any significant change in xylose content compared to the irx10 irx10-L double mutant. Likewise, knockout mutants of the Physcomitrella IRX10 gene do not result in any visible phenotype and there is no significant change in monosaccharide composition of the cell walls.Conclusions
The fact that the Physcomitrella IRX10 (PpGT47A) protein can partially complement an Arabidopsis irx10 irx10-L double mutant suggests that it shares some function with the Arabidopsis proteins, but the lack of a phenotype in knockout lines shows that the function is not required for growth or development under normal conditions in Physcomitrella. In contrast, the Arabidopsis irx10 and irx10 irx10-L mutants have strong phenotypes indicating an important function in growth and development. We conclude that the evolution of vascular plants has been associated with a significant change or adaptation in the function of the IRX10 gene family.