Expression of the pea (Pisum sativum L.) α-tubulin gene TubA1 is correlated with cell division activity
Microtubules are thought to be major determinants of plant morphogenesis, through effects on planes of cell division and on directions of differential cell expansion. In differentiation and redifferentiation processes, tubulin expression may prove a useful early indicator of cell activity. We examined the expression and localization of the pea α-tubulin gene TubA1 in situ and in transgenic alfalfa (Medicago sativa) to explore its use as a probe for plant development, and as a test case for correct developmental expression between two legume species commonly compared for studies of symbiosis with Rhizobium. The TubA1 mRNA was more abundant in root tips and immature leaves than in other tissues of pea. The promoter of TubA1 was fused to β-glucuronidase (GUS) to analyze α-tubulin expression in transgenic alfalfa. Transient assays indicated that the TubAl gene is transcribed at moderate levels compared to the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter. Histochemical staining for GUS activity confirmed a correlation between TubAl expression and cell division in nodules, roots and leaves. TubA1 promoter activity was first detected in the inner cortex of the root between 18 h and 24 h after spot inoculation with Rhizobium meliloti. Expression of a c-myc epitope fused to the carboxy-terminus of TubAl resulted in an incorporation into the microtubular cytoskeleton, demonstrating the effectiveness of at least one epitope tag in creating functional tubulin fusions.