Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:The Plant Cell, Volume 25, Number 7, p.2587-2600 (2013)
Keywords:Enabling Technologies, Plants
Lignins are phenylpropanoid polymers, derived from monolignols, commonly found in terrestrial plant secondary cell walls. We recently reported evidence of an unanticipated catechyl lignin homopolymer (C lignin) derived solely from caffeyl alcohol in the seed coats of several monocot and dicot plants. We previously identified plant seeds that possessed either C lignin or traditional guaiacyl/syringyl (G/S) lignins, but never both. Here we identified several dicot plants (Euphorbiaceae and Cleomaceae) that produce C lignin together with traditional G/S lignins in their seed coats. Solution-state NMR analyses, along with an in vitro lignin polymerization study, determined that there is, however, no copolymerization detectable, i.e., that the synthesis and polymerization of caffeyl alcohol and conventional monolignols in vivo is spatially and/or temporally separated. In particular, the deposition of G and C lignins in Cleome hassleriana seed coats is developmentally regulated during seed maturation; C lignin appears successively after G lignin within the same testa layers, concurrently with apparent loss of the functionality of O-methyltransferases that are key enzymes for the conversion of C to G lignin precursors. This study exemplifies the flexible assembly of different types of lignin polymers in plants dictated by substantial, but poorly understood, control of monomer supply by the cells.