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Expansin genes expression in growing ovaries and grains of sunflower are tissue-specific and associate with final grain weight

Castillo, Francisca M., Canales, Javier, Claude, Alejandro, Calderini, Daniel F.
BMC plant biology 2018 v.18 no.1 pp. 327
Helianthus annuus, cell growth, cell walls, developmental stages, gene expression, gene expression regulation, genes, genotype, grains, pericarp, proteins, shade, tissues
BACKGROUND: Grain weight (GW) is a key component of sunflower yield and quality, but may be limited by maternal tissues. Cell growth is influenced by expansin proteins that loosen the plant cell wall. This study aimed to identify spatio-temporal expression of EXPN genes in sunflower reproductive organ tissues (ovary, pericarp, and embryo) and evaluate correlations between reproductive organ growth and expansin genes expression. Evaluations involved eight different developmental stages, two genotypes, two source-sink treatments and two experiments. The genotypes evaluated are contrasting in GW (Alybro and confection variety RHA280) under two source-sink treatments (control and shaded) to study the interactions between grain growth and expansin genes expression. RESULTS: Ovaries and grains were sampled at pre- and post-anthesis, respectively. Final GW differed between genotypes and shading treatments. Shading treatment decreased final GW by 16.4 and 19.5% in RHA280 and Alybro, respectively. Relative expression of eight expansin genes were evaluated in grain tissues. EXPN4 was the most abundant expansin in the ovary tissue, while EXPN10 and EXPN7 act predominantly in ovary and pericarp tissues, and EXPN1 and EXPN15 in the embryo tissues. CONCLUSIONS: Specific expansin genes were expressed in ovary, pericarp and embryo in a tissue-specific manner. Differential expression among grain tissues was consistent between genotypes, source-sink treatments and experiments. The correlation analysis suggests that EXPN genes could be specifically involved in grain tissue extension, and their expression could be linked to grain size in sunflower.