2009 Volume 23 Issue 3 Pages 121-129
The characteristic growth pattern of vascular plants largely depends on the intrinsic properties of their cell walls, which are flexible, but strong enough to support the plant body. The plant body is composed of various tissues each with a specific cell wall type. Different sets of enzymes are required for the construction of these individual cell wall types. The cell wall type-specific enzyme-set hypothesis has been described to explain the mechanisms underlying cell wall construction. This hypothesis suggests that specific sets of transcription factors are required for the construction of each of the cell-wall types. Recent reverse genetic studies investigating secondary wall formation in Arabidopsis thaliana have demonstrated the existence of a hierarchical transcriptional network that governs the regulation of secondary wall formation in cell wall types. The examination of the effects of mechanical stimuli on the expression of genes encoding a particular set of cell wall-related enzymes and transcriptional factors has shown that A. thaliana is able to perceive subtle changes in self-weight of the aerial portions, and use this information as a signal to regulate formation of cell walls in the supporting tissues. However, the mechanisms by which mechanical signals are perceived via sensors presumably located at the cell surface remain unknown. In addition, the pathways through which the signal is transmitted and integrated into the transcriptional network that governs the coordinated actions of cell wall-related genes are also yet to be described. Current reverse genetic approaches based on comprehensive expression analysis of cell wall-related genes may aid in the elucidation of the regulatory mechanisms underlying supporting tissue formation via mechanical signals. Such information may contribute not only to a further understanding of the molecular basis underlying evolution of the plant vascular system, but may also provide us with the knowledge required for the future development and utilization of plant cell walls as a sustainable resource.