BACKGROUND: Cotton is the dominant source of natural textile fibre and a significant oil crop. Cotton fibres, produced by certain species in the genus Gossypium, are seed trichomes derived from individual cells of the epidermal layer of the seed coat. Cotton fibre development is delineated into four distinct and overlapping developmental stages: fibre initiation, elongation, secondary wall biosynthesis and maturation.
SCOPE: Recent advances in gene expression studies are beginning to provide new insights into a better understanding of early events in cotton fibre development. Fibre cell development is a complex process involving many pathways, including various signal transduction and transcriptional regulation components. Several analyses using expressed sequence tags and microarray have identified transcripts that preferentially accumulate during fibre development. These studies, as well as complementation and overexpression experiments using cotton genes in arabidopsis and tobacco, indicate some similar molecular events between trichome development from the leaf epidermis and fibre development from the ovule epidermis. Specifically, MYB transcription factors regulate leaf trichome development in arabidopsis and may regulate seed trichome development in cotton. In addition, transcript profiling and ovule culture experiments both indicate that several phytohormones and other signalling pathways mediate cotton fibre development. Auxin and gibberellins promote early stages of fibre initiation; ethylene- and brassinosteroid-related genes are up-regulated during the fibre elongation phase; and genes associated with calmodulin and calmodulin-binding proteins are up-regulated in fibre initials. Additional genomic data, mutant and functional analyses, and genome mapping studies promise to reveal the critical factors mediating cotton fibre cell development.
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