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Keywords:

  • Arabidopsis;
  • sterol-C24-methyltransferases;
  • campesterol;
  • sitosterol;
  • brassinosteroids;
  • growth;
  • development

Summary

The Arabidopsis genome contains three distinct genes encoding sterol-C24-methyltransferases (SMTs) involved in sterol biosynthesis. The expression of one of them, STEROL METHYLTRANSFERASE 2;1, was modulated in 35S::SMT2;1 Arabidopsis in order to study its physiological function. Plants overexpressing the transgene accumulate sitosterol, a 24-ethylsterol which is thought to be the typical plant membrane reinforcer, at the expense of campesterol. These plants displayed a reduced stature and growth that could be restored by brassinosteroid treatment. Plants showing co-suppression of SMT2;1 were characterized by a predominant 24-methylsterol biosynthetic pathway leading to a high campesterol content and a depletion in sitosterol. Pleiotropic effects on development such as reduced growth, increased branching, and low fertility of high-campesterol plants were not modified by exogenous brassinosteroids, indicating specific sterol requirements to promote normal development. Thus SMT2;1 has a crucial role in balancing the ratio of campesterol to sitosterol in order to fit both growth requirements and membrane integrity.