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Thigmomorphogenesis: changes in morphology, biochemistry, and levels of transcription in response to mechanical stress in Acacia koa

Ishihara, Kazue L., Lee, Eric K.W., Borthakur, Dulal
Canadian journal of forest research 2016 v.47 no.5 pp. 583-593
Acacia koa, abscisic acid, anthocyanins, calcium signaling, disease resistance, drought, ethylene production, forests, fungi, gene expression, genes, lignin, mechanical stress, pathogens, rain, seedlings, transcription (genetics), trees, wind speed, xylem, Hawaii
Acacia koa A. Gray, an economically important timber-wood tree growing in the Hawaiian Islands, is affected by many environmental stresses, including drought, strong wind, heavy rain, and infection by fungal pathogens. Previous studies have shown that some morphological and biochemical changes that take place as a result of environmental stresses in plants can be also induced by mechanical stresses such as touching and bending. We studied morphological and biochemical changes and levels of gene transcription in A.koa plants due to mechanical stress. For a mechanical stress treatment, A.koa seedlings were gently bent in four cardinal directions daily for 2–6 months, after which morphological and biochemical changes were quantified. The stressed A.koa had significantly increased stem diameter, number of xylem cells, and anthocyanin and lignin contents and significantly reduced stem length. The gene expression analyses showed that 53 genes, including the genes for calcium signaling, ethylene biosynthesis, abscisic acid degradation, stress-related transcriptional regulation, and disease resistance, were induced more than twofold within 10–60 min following mechanical stress. The observation that the genes for disease resistance such as NBS-LRR can be induced by mechanical stress suggests that strong wind and rain in the natural forest may also induce disease resistance in trees.