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Research article2003Peer reviewedOpen access

Expression of Chia4-Pa chitinase genes during somatic and zygotic embryo development in Norway spruce (Picea abies): similarities and differences between gymnosperm and angiosperm class IV chitinases

Wiweger M, Farbos I, Ingouff M, Lagercrantz U, von Arnold S


The developmental pathway of somatic embryogenesis in Norway spruce involves proliferation of proembryogenic masses (PEMs), PEM-to-somatic embryo transition and further development of the somatic embryos. It has previously been shown that extracellular signal molecules, including arabinogalactan proteins, lipo-chitooligosaccharides and chitinases, regulate somatic embryogenesis. The Chia4-Pa1 gene from Norway spruce is described here. The Chia4-Pa1 encodes a typical basic class IV chitinase, although the intron-exon organization of this gymnosperm chitinase is different from that in angiosperm class IV chitinases. The Chia4-Pa1 belongs to a small gene family with highly similar members, and the expression pattern of Chia4-Pa1 cannot be distinguished from that of other Chia4-Pa members. Upon withdrawal of plant growth regulators, i.e. during a treatment that stimulates PEM-to-somatic embryo transition and massive programmed cell death, a significant increase in transcription and translation of Chia4-Pa genes takes place. The expression pattern analysis revealed that Chia4-Pa genes are expressed in a subpopulation of proliferating cells and at the base of the somatic embryo. Furthermore, in seeds, Chia4-Pa genes are expressed in the megagametophyte in the single cell-layered zone surrounding the corrosion cavity. Taken together these results suggest that the Chia4-Pa expressing cells have a megagametophyte signalling function and that CHIA4-Pa stimulates programmed cell death and promotes PEM-to-somatic embryo transition

Published in

Journal of Experimental Botany
2003, Volume: 54, number: 393, pages: 2691-2699