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Type: Journal article
Title: Powerful regulatory systems and post-transcriptional gene silencing resist increases in cellulose content in cell walls of barley
Author: Tan, H.
Shirley, N.
Singh, R.
Henderson, M.
Dhugga, K.
Mayo, G.
Fincher, G.
Burton, R.
Citation: BMC Plant Biology, 2015; 15(1):62-1-62-16
Publisher: BioMed Central
Issue Date: 2015
ISSN: 1471-2229
Statement of
Hwei-Ting Tan, Neil J Shirley, Rohan R Singh, Marilyn Henderson, Kanwarpal S Dhugga, Gwenda M Mayo, Geoffrey B Fincher, and Rachel A Burton
Abstract: BACKGROUND: The ability to increase cellulose content and improve the stem strength of cereals could have beneficial applications in stem lodging and producing crops with higher cellulose content for biofuel feedstocks. Here, such potential is explored in the commercially important crop barley through the manipulation of cellulose synthase genes (CesA). RESULTS: Barley plants transformed with primary cell wall (PCW) and secondary cell wall (SCW) barley cellulose synthase (HvCesA) cDNAs driven by the CaMV 35S promoter, were analysed for growth and morphology, transcript levels, cellulose content, stem strength, tissue morphology and crystalline cellulose distribution. Transcript levels of the PCW HvCesA transgenes were much lower than expected and silencing of both the endogenous CesA genes and introduced transgenes was often observed. These plants showed no aberrant phenotypes. Although attempts to over-express the SCW HvCesA genes also resulted in silencing of the transgenes and endogenous SCW HvCesA genes, aberrant phenotypes were sometimes observed. These included brittle nodes and, with the 35S:HvCesA4 construct, a more severe dwarfing phenotype, where xylem cells were irregular in shape and partially collapsed. Reductions in cellulose content were also observed in the dwarf plants and transmission electron microscopy showed a significant decrease in cell wall thickness. However, there were no increases in overall crystalline cellulose content or stem strength in the CesA over-expression transgenic plants, despite the use of a powerful constitutive promoter. CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that the cellulose biosynthetic pathway is tightly regulated, that individual CesA proteins may play different roles in the synthase complex, and that the sensitivity to CesA gene manipulation observed here suggests that in planta engineering of cellulose levels is likely to require more sophisticated strategies.
Keywords: CaMV 35S constitutive promoter; cellulose; gene silencing, HvCesA genes; primary cell walls, secondary cell walls
Rights: © 2015 Tan et al.; licensee BioMed Central. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
RMID: 0030026278
DOI: 10.1186/s12870-015-0448-y
Appears in Collections:Agriculture, Food and Wine publications

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