Qiao, Z., et al., 2021. Plant Biotechnology Journal

Towards engineering ectomycorrhization into switchgrass bioenergy crops via a lectin receptor-like kinase

Zhenzhen Qiao, Timothy B. Yates, Him K. Shrestha, Nancy L. Engle, Amy Flanagan, Jennifer L. Morrell-Falvey, Yali Sun, Timothy J. Tschaplinski, Paul E. Abraham, Jessy Labbé, Zeng-Yu Wang, Robert L. Hettich, Gerald A. Tuskan, Wellington Muchero, and Jin-Gui Chen
17 July 2021, Plant Biotechnology Journal; https://doi.org/10.1111/pbi.13671


Soil-borne microbes can establish compatible relationships with host plants, providing a large variety of nutritive and protective compounds in exchange for photosynthesized sugars. However, the molecular mechanisms mediating the establishment of these beneficial relationships remain unclear. Our previous genetic mapping and whole-genome resequencing studies identified a gene deletion event of a Populus trichocarpa lectin receptor-like kinase gene PtLecRLK1 in Populus deltoides that was associated with poor root colonization by the ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria bicolor. By introducing PtLecRLK1 into a perennial grass known to be a non-host of L. bicolor, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), we found that L. bicolor colonizes ZmUbipro-PtLecRLK1 transgenic switchgrass roots, which illustrates that the introduction of PtLecRLK1 has the potential to convert a non-host to a host of L. bicolor. Furthermore, transcriptomic and proteomic analyses on inoculated transgenic switchgrass roots revealed genes/proteins overrepresented in the compatible interaction and underrepresented in the pathogenic defense pathway, consistent with the view that pathogenic defense response is downregulated during compatible interaction. Metabolomic profiling revealed that root colonization in the transgenic switchgrass was associated with an increase in N-containing metabolites and a decrease in organic acids, sugars, and aromatic hydroxycinnamate conjugates, which are often seen in the early steps of establishing compatible interactions. These studies illustrate that PtLecRLK1 is able to render a plant susceptible to colonization by the ectomycorrhizal fungus L. bicolor and shed light on engineering mycorrhizal symbiosis into a non-host to enhance plant productivity and fitness on marginal lands.


Qiao, Z., Yates, T.B., Shrestha, H.K., Engle, N.L., Flanagan, A., Morrell-Falvey, J.L., Sun, Y., Tschaplinski, T.J., Abraham, P.E., Labbé, J., Wang, Z.-Y., Hettich, R.L., Tuskan, G.A., Muchero, W. and Chen, J.-G. (2021), Towards engineering ectomycorrhization into switchgrass bioenergy crops via a lectin receptor-like kinase. Plant Biotechnology Journal. Accepted Author Manuscript. https://doi.org/10.1111/pbi.13671

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