Genomics Helps Advance Understanding of How an Important Bioenergy Feedstock Tolerates Environmental Stresses

First comprehensive study of an important protein family in the perennial woody plant Populus lays the foundation for functional characterization.

The Science

A genome-wide characterization of a family of plant-specific receptor proteins in the bioenergy feedstock Populus revealed tissue-specific expression and suggests a possible function in tolerance to environmental stresses.

The Impact

This comprehensive study of lectin receptor-like kinases (LecRLKs) in a woody plant provides the foundation for functional characterization of an important protein family.


Cell-surface receptor proteins play an important role in signal perception and processing, which, in turn, influence growth and development. The membrane-bound LecRLKs comprise a large family of such proteins. LecRLKs are specific to plants and are believed to be involved in responses to external stimuli such as pathogens and environmental stresses. Scientists with Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Plant-Microbe Interface project report the first genome-wide analysis and classification of LecRLKs in the perennial woody model plant Populus, a bioenergy feedstock tree important for carbon sequestration, ecological systems studies, and biomass production. The researchers found that the LecRLK family was greatly expanded in Populus, with notably high levels of expression in the roots as compared with other plant tissues. They hypothesize that since the root system provides the interface for soil microbes, LecRLKs expressed in the roots may function to perceive microbial signals, which, in turn, influence plant health and tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses. This first comprehensive study of LecRLKs in a woody plant lays the basis for functional characterization of an important protein family.


Principal Investigator(s)

Jin-Gui Chen
Oak Ridge National Laboratory


This work was supported by the Plant-Microbe Interfaces Scientific Focus Area in the Genomic Science program, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy [(DOE); DE-AC05-00OR22725], as well as DOE’s Joint Genome Institute, an Office of Science user facility (DE-AC02-05CH11231).


Yang, Y., J. Labbé, W. Muchero, X. Yang, S. S. Jawdy, M. Kennedy, J. Johnson, A. Sreedasyam, J. Schmutz, G. A. Tuskan, and J.-G. Chen. 2016. “Genome-Wide Analysis of Lectin Receptor-Like Kinases in Populus,” BMC Genomics 17, 699. DOI 10.1186/s12864-016-3026-2.