Overexpression of OsEXPA8, a root-specific gene, improves rice growth and root system architecture by facilitating cell extension

Nana Ma, Ying Wang, Shichun Qiu, Zhenhui Kang, Shugang Che, Guixue Wang, Junli Huang
PloS One 2013, 8 (10): e75997
Expansins are unique plant cell wall proteins that are involved in cell wall modifications underlying many plant developmental processes. In this work, we investigated the possible biological role of the root-specific α-expansin gene OsEXPA8 in rice growth and development by generating transgenic plants. Overexpression of OsEXPA8 in rice plants yielded pleiotropic phenotypes of improved root system architecture (longer primary roots, more lateral roots and root hairs), increased plant height, enhanced leaf number and enlarged leaf size. Further study indicated that the average cell length in both leaf and root vascular bundles was enhanced, and the cell growth in suspension cultures was increased, which revealed the cellular basis for OsEXPA8-mediated rice plant growth acceleration. Expansins are thought to be a key factor required for cell enlargement and wall loosening. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) technology revealed that average wall stiffness values for 35S::OsEXPA8 transgenic suspension-cultured cells decreased over six-fold compared to wild-type counterparts during different growth phases. Moreover, a prominent change in the wall polymer composition of suspension cells was observed, and Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectra revealed a relative increase in the ratios of the polysaccharide/lignin content in cell wall compositions of OsEXPA8 overexpressors. These results support a role for expansins in cell expansion and plant growth.

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