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Planta. 2016 Nov;244(5):1109-1124. Epub 2016 Jul 21.

Expression of a constitutively activated plasma membrane H+-ATPase in Nicotiana tabacum BY-2 cells results in cell expansion.

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Institute of Life Sciences, University of Louvain, 1348, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.
Institute of Life Sciences, University of Louvain, 1348, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


Increased acidification of the external medium by an activated H + -ATPase results in cell expansion, in the absence of upstream activating signaling. The plasma membrane H+-ATPase couples ATP hydrolysis with proton transport outside the cell, and thus creates an electrochemical gradient, which energizes secondary transporters. According to the acid growth theory, this enzyme is also proposed to play a major role in cell expansion, by acidifying the external medium and so activating enzymes that are involved in cell wall-loosening. However, this theory is still debated. To challenge it, we made use of a plasma membrane H+-ATPase isoform from Nicotiana plumbaginifolia truncated from its C-terminal auto-inhibitory domain (ΔCPMA4), and thus constitutively activated. This protein was expressed in Nicotiana tabacum BY-2 suspension cells using a heat shock inducible promoter. The characterization of several independent transgenic lines showed that the expression of activated ΔCPMA4 resulted in a reduced external pH by 0.3-1.2 units, as well as in an increased H+-ATPase activity by 77-155 % (ATP hydrolysis), or 70-306 % (proton pumping) of isolated plasma membranes. In addition, ΔCPMA4-expressing cells were 17-57 % larger than the wild-type cells and displayed abnormal shapes. A proteomic comparison of plasma membranes isolated from ΔCPMA4-expressing and wild-type cells revealed the altered abundance of several proteins involved in cell wall synthesis, transport, and signal transduction. In conclusion, the data obtained in this work showed that H+-ATPase activation is sufficient to induce cell expansion and identified possible actors which intervene in this process.


Acid growth theory; Apoplasm acidification; Apoptosis; Cell size; External pH

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