Gossypol and related compounds are produced and accumulate in the aboveground parts of the cotton plant, independent of roots as the source.
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Use of Ultra-low gossypol cottonseed event as a scion in a graft combination confirmed that roots are not a source of terpenoids in the aboveground parts of a cotton plant. Gossypol and related terpenoids, derived from the same basic biosynthetic pathway, are present in the numerous lysigenous glands in the aboveground parts of a cotton plant. Roots, with sparse presence of such glands, do produce significant amount of gossypol and a different set of terpenoids. These compounds serve a defensive function against various pests and pathogens. This investigation was undertaken to examine whether gossypol produced in the roots can replenish the gossypol content of the cottonseed-glands that are largely devoid of this terpenoid in a genetically engineered event. Graft unions between a scion derived from the RNAi-based, Ultra-low gossypol cottonseed (ULGCS) event, TAM66274, and a rootstock derived from wild-type parental genotype, Coker 312 (Coker), were compared with various other grafts that served as controls. The results showed that the seeds developing within the scion of test grafts (ULGCS/Coker) continued to maintain the ultra-low gossypol levels found in the TAM66274 seeds. Molecular analyses confirmed that while the key gene involved in gland development showed normal activity in the developing embryos in the scion, two genes encoding the enzymes involved in gossypol biosynthesis were suppressed. Thus, the gene expression data confirmed the results obtained from biochemical measurements and collectively demonstrated that roots are not a source of gossypol for the aboveground parts of the cotton plant. These findings, combined with the results from previous investigations, support the assertion that gossypol and related terpenoids are produced in a highly localized manner in various organs of the cotton plant and are retained therein.