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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Occurrence of autophagy during pioneer root and stem development in Populus trichocarpa

Wojciechowska, Natalia; Smugarzewska, Iga; Marzec-Schmidt, Katarzyna; Zarzynska-Nowak, Aleksandra; Bagniewska-Zadworna, Agnieszka


Main conclusion Autophagy is involved in developmentally programmed cell death and is identified during the early development of phloem, as well as xylem with a dual role, as both an inducer and executioner of cell death. The regulation of primary and secondary development of roots and stems is important for the establishment of root systems and for the overall survival of trees. The molecular and cellular basis of the autophagic processes, which are used at distinct moments during the growth of both organs, is crucial to understand the regulation of their development. To address this, we use Populus trichocarpa seedlings grown in a rhizotron system to examine the autophagy processes involved in root and stem development. To monitor the visual aspects of autophagy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and immunolocalization of AuTophaGy-related protein (ATG8) enabled observations of the phenomenon at a structural level. To gain further insight into the autophagy process at the protein and molecular level, we evaluated the expression of ATG gene transcripts and ATG protein levels. Alternations in the expression level of specific ATG genes and localization of ATG8 proteins were observed during the course of root or stem primary and secondary development. Specifically, ATG8 was present in the cells exhibiting autophagy, during the differentiation and early development of xylem and phloem tissues, including both xylary and extraxylary fibers. Ultrastructural observations revealed tonoplast invagination with the formation of autophagic-like bodies. Additionally, the accumulation of autophagosomes was identifiable during the differentiation of xylem in both organs, long before the commencement of cell death. Taken together, these results provide evidence in support of the dual role of autophagy in developmental PCD. A specific role of the controller of cell death, which is a committed step with the release of hydrolytic enzymes from the vacuole and final digestion of protoplast, from which there is no return once initiated, is only attributed to mega-autophagy.


ATG; Autophagy; Black cottonwood; Phloemogenesis; Programmed cell death (PCD); Xylogenesis

Published in

2019, Volume: 250, number: 6, pages: 1789-1801

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    Developmental Biology

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