Get access

Intron retention regulates the expression of pectin methyl esterase inhibitor (Pmei) genes during wheat growth and development


  • Editor
    R. Mendel

R. D’Ovidio, Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie per l’Agricoltura, le Foreste, la Natura e l’Energia, (DAFNE) Università della Tuscia, Via San Camillo de Lellis, s.n.c., Viterbo, Italy.


Pectin is an important component of the plant cell wall and its remodelling occurs during normal plant growth or following stress responses. Pectin is secreted into the cell wall in a highly methyl-esterified form and subsequently de-methyl-esterified by pectin methyl esterase (PME), whose activity is controlled by the pectin methyl esterase inhibitor protein (PMEI). Cereal cell wall contains a low amount of pectin; nonetheless the level and pattern of pectin methyl esterification play a primary role during development or pathogen infection. Since few data are available on the role of PMEI in plant development and defence of cereal species, we isolated and characterised three Pmei genes (Tdpmei2.1, Tdpmei2.2 and Tdpmei3) and their encoded products in wheat. Sequence comparisons showed a low level of intra- and inter-specific sequence conservation of PMEIs. Tdpmei2.1 and Tdpmei2.2 share 94% identity at protein level, but only 20% identity with the product of Tdpmei3. All three Tdpmei genes code for functional inhibitors of plant PMEs and do not inhibit microbial PMEs or a plant invertase. RT-PCR analyses demonstrated, for the first time to our knowledge, that Pmei genes are regulated by intron retention. Processed and unprocessed transcripts of Tdpmei2.1 and Tdpmei2.2 accumulated in several organs, but anthers contained only mature transcripts. Tdpmei3 lacks introns and its transcript accumulated mainly in stem internodes. These findings suggest that products encoded by these Tdpmei genes control organ- or tissue-specific activity of specific PME isoforms in wheat.