Combined approaches provide an anatomical and transcriptomic fingerprint of maize cell wall digestibility


Understanding cell wall biosynthesis and degradation in grasses has become a major aim in plant biology. Although independent previous reports have focused on specific features that dictate cell wall digestibility, cytological, biochemical, and gene regulation parameters have never been integrated within the same study. Herein, we applied a combination of state-of-the-art technologies and different scales of observation on two maize lines that are characterized by highly contrasted forage digestibility. Comparative image analysis of internode sections allow to get an anatomical fingerprint associated with high digestibility: a thin peripheral rind of lignified parenchyma, small numerous vascular bundles, and low proportion of PeriVascular Sclerenchyma (PVS). This cell type patterning led to enhanced digestibility when internode sections were treated with Celluclast, a commercially cell wall degrading enzyme. At a lower scale of observation, Laser Capture Microdissection (LCM) followed by thioacidolysis of PVS revealed a higher proportion of Syringyl (S) unit lignins in the low digestible line while the high digestible line was p-Hydroxyphenyl (H)-rich. Moreover, cytological observation of internodes of the two lines point out that this difference in composition is associated with a delayed lignification of PVS. At the same time, comparative transcriptomics on internodes indicated differential expression of several genes encoding enzymes along the phenylpropanoid pathway and known cell wall-associated Transcription Factors (TFs). Together, these results give an integrative view of different factors which could aim in designing a maize silage ideotype and provide a novel set of potential regulatory genes controlling lignification in maize.


cell wall; digestibility; Fourier-transformed infrared (FTIR); gene expression; Laser Capture Microdissection (LCM); stem anatomy; Zea mays

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