The BOP-type co-transcriptional regulator NODULE ROOT1 promotes stem secondary growth of the tropical Cannabaceae tree Parasponia andersonii

Shen, Defeng; Holmer, Rens; Kulikova, Olga; Mannapperuma, Chanaka; Street, Nathaniel R.; Yan, Zhichun; Maden, Thomas van der; Bu, Fengjiao; Zhang, Yuanyuan; Geurts, Rene; Magne, Kévin


Tree stems undergo a massive secondary growth in which secondary xylem and phloem tissues arise from the vascular cambium. Vascular cambium activity is driven by endogenous developmental signalling cues and environmental stimuli. Current knowledge regarding the genetic regulation of cambium activity and secondary growth is still far from complete. The tropical Cannabaceae tree Parasponia andersonii is a non-legume research model of nitrogen-fixing root nodulation. Parasponia andersonii can be transformed efficiently, making it amenable for CRISPR-Cas9-mediated reverse genetics. We considered whether P. andersonii also could be used as a complementary research system to investigate tree-related traits, including secondary growth. We established a developmental map of stem secondary growth in P. andersonii plantlets. Subsequently, we showed that the expression of the co-transcriptional regulator PanNODULE ROOT1 (PanNOOT1) is essential for controlling this process. PanNOOT1 is orthologous to Arabidopsis thaliana BLADE-ON-PETIOLE1 (AtBOP1) and AtBOP2, which are involved in the meristem-to-organ-boundary maintenance. Moreover, in species forming nitrogen-fixing root nodules, NOOT1 is known to function as a key nodule identity gene. Parasponia andersonii CRISPR-Cas9 loss-of-function Pannoot1 mutants are altered in the development of the xylem and phloem tissues without apparent disturbance of the cambium organization and size. Transcriptomic analysis showed that the expression of key secondary growth-related genes is significantly down-regulated in Pannoot1 mutants. This allows us to conclude that PanNOOT1 positively contributes to the regulation of stem secondary growth. Our work also demonstrates that P. andersonii can serve as a tree research system.