2020 Volume 37 Issue 3 Pages 273-283
Growth of biomass for lignocellulosic biofuels and biomaterials may take place on land unsuitable for foods, meaning the biomass plants are exposed to increased abiotic stresses. Thus, the understanding how this affects biomass composition and quality is important for downstream bioprocessing. Here, we analyzed the effect of drought and salt stress on cell wall biosynthesis in young shoots and xylem tissues of Populus trichocarpa using transcriptomic and biochemical methods. Following exposure to abiotic stress, stem tissues reduced vessel sizes, and young shoots increased xylem formation. Compositional analyses revealed a reduction in the total amount of cell wall polysaccharides. In contrast, the total lignin amount was unchanged, while the ratio of S/G lignin was significantly decreased in young shoots. Consistent with these observations, transcriptome analyses show that the expression of a subset of cell wall-related genes is tightly regulated by drought and salt stresses. In particular, the expression of a part of genes encoding key enzymes for S-lignin biosynthesis, caffeic acid O-methyltransferase and ferulate 5-hydroxylase, was decreased, suggesting the lower S/G ratio could be partly attributed to the down-regulation of these genes. Together, our data identifies a transcriptional abiotic stress response strategy in poplar, which results in adaptive changes to the plant cell wall.