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Tree Physiol. 2018 Mar 1;38(3):471-484. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpx133.

The role of arginine metabolic pathway during embryogenesis and germination in maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Ait.).

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Departamento de Biología Molecular y Bioquímica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Málaga, Campus Universitario de Teatinos, 29071 Málaga, Spain.
Institut Technologique FCBA, Pôle Biotechnologies et Sylviculture Avancée (BSA), 71 Route d'Arcachon, Pierroton, 33610 Cestas, France.


Vegetative propagation through somatic embryogenesis is critical in conifer biotechnology towards multivarietal forestry that uses elite varieties to cope with environmental and socio-economic issues. An important and still sub-optimal process during in vitro maturation of somatic embryos (SE) is the biosynthesis and deposition of storage proteins, which are rich in amino acids with high nitrogen (N) content, such as arginine. Mobilization of these N-rich proteins is essential for the germination and production of vigorous somatic seedlings. Somatic embryos accumulate lower levels of N reserves than zygotic embryos (ZE) at a similar stage of development. To understand the molecular basis for this difference, the arginine metabolic pathway has been characterized in maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Ait.). The genes involved in arginine metabolism have been identified and GFP-fusion constructs were used to locate the enzymes in different cellular compartments and clarify their metabolic roles during embryogenesis and germination. Analysis of gene expression during somatic embryo maturation revealed high levels of transcripts for genes involved in the biosynthesis and metabolic utilization of arginine. By contrast, enhanced expression levels were only observed during the last stages of maturation and germination of ZE, consistent with the adequate accumulation and mobilization of protein reserves. These results suggest that arginine metabolism is unbalanced in SE (simultaneous biosynthesis and degradation of arginine) and could explain the lower accumulation of storage proteins observed during the late stages of somatic embryogenesis.

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