Wood is an important raw material and environmentally cost-effective renewable source of energy. However, the molecular biology of wood formation (i.e. secondary growth) is surprisingly understudied. A novel experimental system was employed to study the molecular regulation of secondary xylem formation in Arabidopsis. First, we demonstrate that the weight carried by the stem is a primary signal for the induction of cambium differentiation and the plant hormone, auxin, is a downstream carrier of the signal for this process. We used Arabidopsis whole-transcriptome (23 K) GeneChip analysis to examine gene expression profile changes in the inflorescent stems treated for wood formation by cultural manipulation or artificial weight application. Many of the genes up-regulated in wood-forming stems had auxin responsive cis-acting elements in their promoter region, indicating auxin-mediated regulation of secondary growth. We identified 700 genes that were differentially expressed during the transition from primary growth to secondary growth. More than 40% of the genes that were up-regulated (>5×) were associated with signal transduction and transcriptional regulation. Biological significance of these regulatory genes is discussed in light of the induction and development of secondary xylem.
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