Plants with modified vascular tissue

Wageningen University & Research is seeking commercial partners interested in applications for plants with modified vascular tissue.

Summary

The invention relates to the modification of gene expression in plants in order to manipulate the growth and/or structure of a plant through modification of the amount of vascular tissue and/or location of the vascular tissue. Modulation of the amount or location of vascular tissue in a plant can be used to produce plants or plant-derived products with altered mechanical properties to suit a variety of industrial applications, such as biofuel or paper production.

The invention

Scientists from Wageningen University have found that modulating the amount of TMO5/LHW dimer in Arabidopsis affects the amount of periclinal cell divisions of vascular cells, thereby modulating the size of the vascular bundle (both increasing or decreasing). Furthermore, it was found that expression of both members of this heterodimer is sufficient to trigger additional periclinal divisions (and therefore more cell files) in any cell type tested. Thus, this invention allows to modulate the size of the vascular bundle and any other tissue or organ type in a precise dose-dependent manner.

Applications

  • Modulating the amount of the TMO5/LHW allows for a dose-dependent control of vascular bundle size with many putative applications (see benefits).
  • Modulating the amount of TMO5/LHW ectopically using tissue specific promoters allows for enlargement specific organ or tissue types by increasing the amount of cell files. In Arabidopsis this appears to work in all tested plant tissues. Therefore, applications are numerous (see benefits).

Benefits

  • Increased biomass of the plant for bio-fuel and paper production in woody species
  • Modulating wood properties by increasing/decreasing the amount of cells, not the total organ size, resulting in eg. harder/softer wood species
  • Increasing source to sink transport of photosynthates, sugars and metabolites in tuber forming species by increasing the vascular bundle size
  • Modulated vascular bundle size could have an effect of for example water usage in restricting environments or improving plant strength

Stage of development

We have proof of concept in Arabidopsis thaliana and Physcomitrella Patens. Transformation into relevant crop species including Rice, Tomato and Poplar is in progress in collaboration with other research groups. Due to strict conservation of TMO5 and LHW in all vascular plants and the fact that the TMO5/LHW dimer functions in the non-vascular Physcomitrella, it is highly likely that a similar effect will be seen in crop species.