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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

An AP2/ERF transcription factor ERF139 coordinates xylem cell expansion and secondary cell wall deposition

Wessels, Bernard; Seyfferth, Carolin; Escamez, Sacha; Vain, Thomas; Antos, Kamil; Vahala, Jorma; Delhomme, Nicolas; Kangasjarvi, Jaakko; Eder, Michaela; Felten, Judith; Tuominen, Hannele


Differentiation of xylem elements involves cell expansion, secondary cell wall (SCW) deposition and programmed cell death. Transitions between these phases require strict spatiotemporal control. The function of Populus ERF139 (Potri.013G101100) in xylem differentiation was characterized in transgenic overexpression and dominant repressor lines of ERF139 in hybrid aspen (Populus tremula x tremuloides). Xylem properties, SCW chemistry and downstream targets were analyzed in both types of transgenic trees using microscopy techniques, Fourier transform-infrared spectroscopy, pyrolysis-GC/MS, wet chemistry methods and RNA sequencing. Opposite phenotypes were observed in the secondary xylem vessel sizes and SCW chemistry in the two different types of transgenic trees, supporting the function of ERF139 in suppressing the radial expansion of vessel elements and stimulating accumulation of guaiacyl-type lignin and possibly also xylan. Comparative transcriptomics identified genes related to SCW biosynthesis (LAC5, LBD15, MYB86) and salt and drought stress-responsive genes (ANAC002, ABA1) as potential direct targets of ERF139. The phenotypes of the transgenic trees and the stem expression profiles of ERF139 potential target genes support the role of ERF139 as a transcriptional regulator of xylem cell expansion and SCW formation, possibly in response to osmotic changes of the cells.


cell expansion; ethylene response factor (ERF); hybrid aspen; lignin; Populus; secondary growth; xylem development

Published in

New Phytologist
2019, Volume: 224, number: 4, pages: 1585-1599
Publisher: WILEY