The actions of, and interactions between, auxins and cytokinins and their effect on in vitro rooting of selected Eucalyptus clones.
Clonal propagation of Eucalyptus spp. and its hybrids allows for competitiveness in the commercial forestry industry through the propagation and preservation of superior/elite genotypes. Vegetative propagation through rooted cuttings is the industry‟s standard and the choice of clones selected for plantations are determined by their rooting ability. However, as many potentially valuable genotypes are recalcitrant to adventitious rooting, micropropagation is the only effective means of propagating them. Micropropagation results in high plantlet yields, achieved primarily through the empirical use of the key plant growth regulators (PGRs) cytokinins and auxins, for shoot and root production, respectively. Their selection for use in vitro is driven by their effects on percent rooting rather than root quality. Little is known regarding the quality of the roots of the plantlets ex vitro, but there is some evidence that they are different from those of seedlings and cuttings. It was therefore hypothesized that the properties of exogenous PGRs and their interaction with other exogenous and endogenous PGRs, influenced root development and subsequent root quality. This was tested in vitro using a good-rooting E. grandis (TAG31) and two poor-rooting E. grandis x nitens hybrid clones (GN155 and NH58). In the former, the auxins supplied during the pre-rooting culture stages (multiplication and elongation) were sufficient for 100% rooting in an auxin-free rooting medium. Different combinations of PGRs in the two pre-rooting stages, followed by rooting without auxins, revealed a direct relationship between the stability of the supplied auxin and the rooting ability of TAG31. Gas chromatographymass spectrometry (GC-MS) analyses indicated that endogenous shoot levels of indole- 3-acetic acid (IAA) influenced graviperception. Also, low IAA content was associated with atypical starch grain accumulation or its absence from root tips (53.1 nmol IAA gˉ¹ DW compared with 325.7 nmol IAA g-¹ DW in gravisensing roots). The specific roles of the natural auxins IAA and IBA on root morphogenesis were then investigated using 2,3,5-triiodobenzoic acid (TIBA; inhibits IAA transport), ρ-chlorophenoxyisobutyric acid (PCIB; inhibits auxin signal transduction), and the auxin antagonist kinetin in the rooting medium, following root induction. After 3 weeks, the mean root diameter was significantly reduced from 552.8μm (control) to 129.2μm (with PCIB) and 278.6μm (with kinetin). TIBA increased root diameter to 833.4μm, decreased Δ root length, increased root vasculature and resulted in agravitropism. Hence, whereas rooting could be induced by IBA, IAA was necessary for the maintenance of vascular integrity and graviperception. This critical role of IAA in root development is of importance as IBA, owing to its higher stability, has been traditionally relied upon for root induction in the majority of micropropagation protocols. The potential of incorporating IAA into the media formulations of in vitro protocols for poor-rooters that do not respond well to IAA was then investigated, using GN155 and NH58. While PCIB in the rooting medium of GN155 completely inhibited rooting, the addition of dihydroxyacetophenone (DHAP), an inhibitor of auxin conjugation, to the rooting medium, did not significantly increase % rooting in the presence of 0.1 mg 1ˉ¹ IBA (i.e. 50% rooting with 2mM DHAP and IBA, compared with 45% with IBA alone). The results suggested that the inability of some eucalypts to induce roots easily in vitro was not due to a deficiency in auxin signal transduction or to auxin conjugation. Instead, rooting was inhibited by an accumulation of kinetin within shoots during the pre-rooting culture stages. The endogenous levels of PGRs in shoots of GN155 and NH58 showed a strong relationship (R² = 0.943) between the shoot kinetin:auxin and shoot rootability. Substituting kinetin with the relatively less stable natural cytokinin trans-zeatin in the elongation stage resulted in a significant increase in % rooting in both clones, from 19% to 45% (GN155) and from 31% to 52% (NH58), with 0.1 mg 1ˉ¹ IAA in the rooting medium. However, omitting all cytokinins from the elongation medium, resulted in over 95% and 75% rooting of shoots of GN155 and NH58, respectively, with 0.1 mg 1ˉ¹ IAA. These results suggest that IAA is a requirement for root development and cannot be substituted by its analogues in certain root developmental events. Hence, IAA should be the preferred auxin for eucalypt micropropagation. As fundamental research, the approach taken in this study circumvents the empirical method used in improving micropropagation protocols. The importance of the properties and the interactions between endogenous and exogenous PGRs in regulating root morphogenesis, and the practical implications of these findings is emphasised.