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Plant Physiol. 2000 Jun;123(2):463-70.

Subcellular localization of expansin mRNA in xylem cells.

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  • 1Department of Biology, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599-3280, USA.


Terminal differentiation of many vascular cells involves cell wall changes. Cells first elongate their primary wall, then lay down a lignified secondary wall, which is often followed by digestion of the primary wall. Expansins are wall proteins that regulate wall changes, but little is known about the specific functions of the many individual expansin isoforms. An in vitro cell culture of synchronously differentiating tracheary elements was used to identify three new expansins and to compare their expression kinetics with the timing of wall changes. The genes encoding these expansins from zinnia (Zinnia elegans), designated ZeExp1, ZeExp2, ZeExp3, are expressed during cell elongation. ZeExp1 and ZeExp2 mRNA decrease at the early stage of secondary wall formation, whereas ZeExp3 does not. In planta, all three ZeExp mRNAs are found predominantly in a single flank of cells adjacent to protoxylem and metaxylem vessels and in cells roughly at the radial position of the fasicular and interfasicular cambium. Furthermore, within these cells, Exp mRNA is localized exclusively either to the apical or basipetal end of cells depending on the expansin gene and organ, providing the first evidence for polar localization of mRNA in plant cells. ZeExp1 and ZeExp3 mRNA are localized at the apical tip, whereas ZeExp2 mRNA is found in the basal tip. These observations indicate that these three expansins are xylem cell specific and possibly involved in the intrusive growth of the primary walls of differentiating xylem cells.

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