microRNAs (miRNAs) are important noncoding small RNAs that regulate mRNAs in eukaryotes. However, under which circumstances different miRNAs/miRNA families exhibit different evolutionary trajectories in plants remains unclear. In this study, we sequenced the small RNAs and degradome from a basal eudicot, sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera or lotus), to identify miRNAs and their targets. Combining with public miRNAs, we predicted 57 pre-eudicot miRNA families from different evolutionary stages. We found that miRNA families featuring older age, higher copy and target number tend to show lower propensity for miRNA family loss (PGL) and stronger signature of purifying selection during divergence of temperate and tropical lotus. Further analyses of lotus genome revealed that there is an association between loss of miRNA families in descendent plants and in duplicated genomes. Gene dosage balance is crucial in maintaining those preferentially retained MIRNA duplicates by imposing stronger purifying selection. However, these factors and selection influencing miRNA family evolution are not applicable to the putative MIRNA-likes. Additionally, the MIRNAs participating in lotus pollen–pistil interaction, a conserved process in angiosperms, also have a strong signature of purifying selection. Functionally, sequence divergence in MIRNAs escalates expression divergence of their target genes between temperate and tropical lotus during rhizome and leaf growth. Overall, our study unravels several important factors and selection that determine the miRNA family distribution in plants and duplicated genomes, and provides evidence for functional impact of MIRNA sequence evolution.
Global food security is a challenge, especially under changing climatic conditions. Recent advances in plant technology using plant2microbiome interactions promise an increased crop production. Indeed, all healthy plants or crop genotypes carry a beneficial microbiome, encompassing root and seed associated endosymbionts, providing mycotrophy and mycovitality to plants, respectively. Recent studies have found that mycovitality, or the endosymbiotic seed-fungus relationship and its key translational functions, bear tangible biotechnological benefits. Thus, this paper underlines the role of endophytes as early plant growth promoters under stressful environments. Notably, it explores the concept of p ant prenatal care towards enhanced seed vigor/germination and resilience, which results in an improved crop yield under stressful conditions. It presents an extensive research overview of endosymbiotic plant-fungi relationships with special focus on the wheat seed, an important source of staple food. Historical advances in terminology and scientific concepts on the subject are also presented to highlight the areas where further research is urgently needed.
“ RALFs (rapid alkalinization factors), a family of small peptides in plants, are produced in response to rapidly changing conditions. Stegmann et al. studied the agility and diversity built into this signaling network. Some RALFs, such as RALF23 and its relative RALF33, are activated by proteolytic cleavage. Others, such as RALF32, are not. RALF23 and RALF33 are called into play after a pathogen triggers immune responses. RALF32, on the other hand, regulates seedling growth. All three of these RALFs use the same receptor kinase, which can interact with other signaling components. Thus, plant responses can be fine-tuned by rapid release of peptides. Science , this issue p.  : /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.aal2541”
Via Tatsuya Nobori, Xiefang lab
Chenopodium quinoa (quinoa) is a highly nutritious grain identified as an important crop to improve world food security. Unfortunately, few resources are available to facilitate its genetic improvement. Here we report the assembly of a high-quality, chromosome-scale reference genome sequence for quinoa, which was produced using single-molecule real-time sequencing in combination with optical, chromosome-contact and genetic maps. We also report the sequencing of two diploids from the ancestral gene pools of quinoa, which enables the identification of sub-genomes in quinoa, and reduced-coverage genome sequences for 22 other samples of the allotetraploid goosefoot complex. The genome sequence facilitated the identification of the transcription factor likely to control the production of anti-nutritional triterpenoid saponins found in quinoa seeds, including a mutation that appears to cause alternative splicing and a premature stop codon in sweet quinoa strains. These genomic resources are an important first step towards the genetic improvement of quinoa.
Plant nitrate transporters were first identified and functionally characterized more than 20 years ago. They are encoded at least by four gene families, NRT1 (NPF), NRT2, CLC, and SLAC1/SLAH. In this review, we overview the functions of the nitrate transporters in relation to their potential use as targets for improving crop nitrogen use efficiency. These functions include their roles in root architecture and nutrient acquisition; vacuole nitrate and protein storage; nutrient allocation from source to sink; sensing both abiotic and biotic stresses; the ionic balance of nitrate with potassium, chloride and cellular pH; and the circadian clock-regulated carbon and nitrogen balance. We provide and discuss some examples of the use of nitrate transporter genes and their regulators in improving plant growth and development, nitrogen use efficiency, and resistance to some abiotic stresses. We propose several strategies for effectively using nitrate transporters to achieve higher crop yields and nitrogen use efficiency by using gene transformation or genome editing or molecular marker-assisted breeding.
A classic view of the evolution of mutualism is that it derives from a pathogenic relationship that attenuated over time to a situation in which both partners can benefit. If this is the case for rhizobia, then one might uncover features of the symbiosis that reflect this earlier pathogenic state. For example, as with plant pathogens, it is now generally assumed that rhizobia actively suppress the host immune response to allow infection and symbiosis establishment. Likewise, the host has retained mechanisms to control the nutrient supply to the symbionts and the number of nodules so that they do not become too burdensome. The open question is whether such events are strictly ancillary to the central symbiotic nodulation factor signaling pathway or are essential for rhizobial host infection. Subsequent to these early infection events, plant immune responses can also be induced inside nodules and likely play a role in, for example, nodule senescence. Thus, a balanced regulation of innate immunity is likely required throughout rhizobial infection, symbiotic establishment, and maintenance. In this review, we discuss the significance of plant immune responses in the regulation of symbiotic associations with rhizobia, as well as rhizobial evasion of the host immune system.
Crop breeding aims to balance disease resistance with yield, however single resistance ( R ) genes can lead to resistance breakdown and R gene pyramiding may impact growth fitness. Here we report that the rice Pigm locus contains a cluster of genes encoding nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat (NLR) receptors that confer durable resistance to the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae without yield penalty. In the cluster, PigmR confers broad-spectrum resistance, whereas PigmS competitively attenuates PigmR homodimerization to suppress resistance. PigmS expression, and thus PigmR -mediated resistance, are subjected to tight epigenetic regulation. PigmS increases seed production to counteract the yield cost induced by PigmR . Therefore, our study reveals a mechanism balancing high disease resistance and yield through epigenetic regulation of paired antagonistic NLRs, providing a tool to develop elite crop varieties.
Plant associated microbes rely on secreted virulence factors (effectors) to modulate host immunity and ensure progressive infection. Amongst the secreted protein repertoires defined and studied in pathogens to date, the CRNs (for CRinkling and Necrosis) have emerged as one of only a few highly conserved protein families, spread across several kingdoms. CRN proteins were first identified in plant pathogenic oomycetes where they were found to be modular factors that are secreted and translocated inside host cells by means of a conserved N-terminal domain. Subsequent localization and functional studies have led to the view that CRN C-termini execute their presumed effector function in the host nucleus, targeting processes required for immunity. These findings have led to great interest in this large protein family and driven the identification of additional CRN-like proteins in other organisms. The identification of CRN proteins and subsequent functional studies have markedly increased the number of candidate CRN protein sequences, expanded the range of phenotypes tentatively associated with function and revealed some of their molecular functions toward virulence. The increased number of characterized CRNs also has presented a set of challenges that may impede significant progress in the future. Here, we summarize our current understanding of the CRNs and re-assess some basic assumptions regarding this protein family. We will discuss the latest findings on CRN biology and highlight exciting new hypotheses that have emanated from the field. Finally, we will discuss new approaches to study CRN functions that would lead to a better understanding of CRN effector biology as well as the processes that lead to host susceptibility and immunity.
Constitutive expression of the Arabidopsis vacuolar proton-pumping pyrophosphatase (H+-PPase) gene (AVP1) increases plant growth under various abiotic stress conditions and, importantly, under nonstressed conditions. Many interpretations have been proposed to explain these phenotypes, including greater vacuolar ion sequestration, increased auxin transport, enhanced heterotrophic growth, and increased transport of sucrose from source to sink tissues. In this review, we evaluate all the roles proposed for AVP1, using findings published to date from mutant plants lacking functional AVP1 and transgenic plants expressing AVP1. It is clear that AVP1 is one protein with many roles, and that one or more of these roles act to enhance plant growth. The complexity suggests that a systems biology approach to evaluate biological networks is required to investigate these intertwined roles.
Detection of pathogens by plants is mediated by intracellular nucleotide-binding site leucine-rich repeat (NLR) receptor proteins. NLR proteins are defined by their stereotypical multidomain structure: an N-terminal Toll–interleukin receptor (TIR) or coiled-coil (CC) domain, a central nucleotide-binding (NB) domain, and a C-terminal leucine-rich repeat (LRR). The plant innate immune system contains a limited NLR repertoire that functions to recognize all potential pathogens. We isolated Response to the bacterial type III effector protein HopBA1 (RBA1), a gene that encodes a TIR-only protein lacking all other canonical NLR domains. RBA1 is sufficient to trigger cell death in response to HopBA1. We generated a crystal structure for HopBA1 and found that it has similarity to a class of proteins that includes esterases, the heme-binding protein ChaN, and an uncharacterized domain of Pasteurella multocida toxin. Self-association, coimmunoprecipitation with HopBA1, and function of RBA1 require two previously identified TIR–TIR dimerization interfaces. Although previously described as distinct in other TIR proteins, in RBA1 neither of these interfaces is sufficient when the other is disrupted. These data suggest that oligomerization of RBA1 is required for function. Our identification of RBA1 demonstrates that “truncated” NLRs can function as pathogen sensors, expanding our understanding of both receptor architecture and the mechanism of activation in the plant immune system.
Commercially available tomatoes are renowned these days for sturdiness, but perhaps not for flavor. Heirloom varieties, on the other hand, maintain the richer flavors and sweeter tomatoes of years past. Tieman et al. combined tasting panels with chemical and genomic analyses of nearly 400 varieties of tomatoes. They identified some of the flavorful components that have been lost over time. Identification of the genes that have also gone missing provides a path forward for reinstating flavor to commercially grown tomatoes.
Plant biotechnology has been around since the advent of humankind, resulting in tremendous improvements in plant cultivation through crop domestication, breeding and selection. The emergence of transgenic approaches involving the introduction of defined DNA sequences into plants by humans has rapidly changed the surface of our planet by further expanding the gene pool used by plant breeders for plant improvement.
Transgenic approaches in food plants have raised concerns on the merits, social implications, ecological risks and true benefits of plant biotechnology. The recently acquired ability to precisely edit plant genomes by modifying native genes without introducing new genetic material offers new opportunities to rapidly exploit natural variation, create new variation and incorporate changes with the goal to generate more productive and nutritious plants...
Agriculture faces significant challenges in the light of climate change, emerging pests and pathogens, and a rapidly growing and wealthier population. We are at an exciting and revolutionary time for plant genetic improvement with new tools to meet these challenges.
For most crops, reference genomes exist. In addition, there are thousands of non-crop genomes available, providing abundant opportunities to discover new allelic variation and facilitate genomic-based breeding. Biotechnology in the broad sense offers a powerful set of research tools to address basic questions in plant science related to food production.
GMO technologies and genome editing provide opportunities to create new variation rapidly, and this variation has the ability to solve real world problems. Many of the products from basic research may also find a commercial home. Recent success stories in biofortification provide a template for future success. For the potential of biotechnology to be realized, research needs to consider a complex milieu of issues from regulation, intellectual property, cultural preferences, local conditions, and existing market standards
Epidemics caused by fungal plant pathogens pose a major threat to agro-ecosystems and impact global food security. High-throughput sequencing enabled major advances in understanding how pathogens cause disease on crops. Hundreds of fungal genomes are now available and analyzing these genomes highlighted the key role of effector genes in disease. Effectors are small secreted proteins that enhance infection by manipulating host metabolism. Fungal genomes carry 100s of putative effector genes, but the lack of homology among effector genes, even for closely related species, challenges evolutionary and functional analyses. Furthermore, effector genes are often found in rapidly evolving chromosome compartments which are difficult to assemble. We review how population and comparative genomics toolsets can be combined to address these challenges. We highlight studies that associated genome-scale polymorphisms with pathogen lifestyles and adaptation to different environments. We show how genome-wide association studies can be used to identify effectors and other pathogenicity-related genes underlying rapid adaptation. We also discuss how the compartmentalization of fungal genomes into core and accessory regions shapes the evolution of effector genes. We argue that an understanding of genome evolution provides important insight into the trajectory of host-pathogen co-evolution
Trait-based approaches have led to significant advances in plant ecology, but are currently biased toward above-ground traits. It is becoming clear that a stronger emphasis on below-ground traits is needed to better predict future changes in plant biodiversity and their consequences for ecosystem functioning. Here I propose six ‘below-ground frontiers’ in trait-based plant ecology, with an emphasis on traits governing soil nutrient acquisition: redefining fine roots; quantifying root trait dimensionality; integrating mycorrhizas; broadening the suite of root traits; determining linkages between root traits and abiotic and biotic factors; and understanding ecosystem-level consequences of root traits. Focusing research efforts along these frontiers should help to fulfil the promise of trait-based ecology: enhanced predictive capacity across ecological scales.
Maize (Zea mays) tassels underwent profound morphological changes during maize domestication and improvement. Although a number of genes affecting maize inflorescence development have been identified, the genetic basis of the morphological changes in maize tassels since domestication is not well understood. Here, using a large population of 866 maize-teosinte BC2S3 recombinant inbred lines genotyped using 19 838 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers, we performed high-resolution quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping for five tassel morphological traits. We showed that the five tassel traits were associated with different genetic architecture features. Known genes for maize inflorescence development identified by mutagenesis were significantly enriched in the tassel trait QTLs, and many of these genes, including ramosa1 (ra1), barren inflorescence2 (bif2), unbranched2 (ub2), zea floricaula leafy2 (zfl2) and barren stalk fastigiate1 (baf1), showed evidence of selection. An in-depth nucleotide diversity analysis at the bif2 locus identified strong selection signatures in the 5′-regulatory region. We also found that several known flowering time genes co-localized with tassel trait QTLs. A further association analysis indicated that the maize photoperiod gene ZmCCT was significantly associated with tassel size variation. Using near-isogenic lines, we narrowed down a major-effect QTL for tassel length, qTL9-1, to a 513-kb physical region. These results provide important insights into the genetic architecture that controls maize tassel evolution.
Phytophthora pathogens secrete effectors to manipulate host innate immunity, thus facilitating infection. Among the RXLR effectors highly induced during Phytophthora sojae infection, Avh238 not only contributes to pathogen virulence but also triggers plant cell death. However, the detailed molecular basis of Avh238 functions remains largely unknown. We mapped the regions responsible for Avh238 functions in pathogen virulence and plant cell death induction using a strategy that combines investigation of natural variation and large-scale mutagenesis assays. The correlation between cellular localization and Avh238 functions was also evaluated. We found that the 79th residue (histidine or leucine) of Avh238 determined its cell death-inducing activity, and that the 53 amino acids in its C-terminal region are responsible for promoting Phytophthora infection. Transient expression of Avh238 in Nicotiana benthamiana revealed that nuclear localization is essential for triggering cell death, while Avh238-mediated suppression of INF1-triggered cell death requires cytoplasmic localization. Our results demonstrate that a representative example of an essential Phytophthora RXLR effector can evolve to escape recognition by the host by mutating one nucleotide site, and can also retain plant immunosuppressive activity to enhance pathogen virulence in planta.
The movement of nuclear DNA from one vascular plant species to another in the absence of fertilization is thought to be rare. Here, nonnative rRNA gene [ribosomal DNA (rDNA)] copies were identified in a set of 16 diploid barley (Hordeum) species; their origin was traceable via their internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequence to five distinct Panicoideae genera, a lineage that split from the Pooideae about 60 Mya. Phylogenetic, cytogenetic, and genomic analyses implied that the nonnative sequences were acquired between 1 and 5 Mya after a series of multiple events, with the result that some current Hordeum sp. individuals harbor up to five different panicoid rDNA units in addition to the native Hordeum rDNA copies. There was no evidence that any of the nonnative rDNA units were transcribed; some showed indications of having been silenced via pseudogenization. A single copy of a Panicum sp. rDNA unit present in H. bogdanii had been interrupted by a native transposable element and was surrounded by about 70 kbp of mostly noncoding sequence of panicoid origin. The data suggest that horizontal gene transfer between vascular plants is not a rare event, that it is not necessarily restricted to one or a few genes only, and that it can be selectively neutral.
Independently evolved pathogen effectors from three branches of life (ascomycete, eubacteria, and oomycete) converge onto the Arabidopsis TCP14 transcription factor to manipulate host defense. However, the mechanistic basis for defense control via TCP14 regulation is unknown. We demonstrate that TCP14 regulates the plant immune system by transcriptionally repressing a subset of the jasmonic acid (JA) hormone signaling outputs. A previously unstudied Pseudomonas syringae (Psy) type III effector, HopBB1, interacts with TCP14 and targets it to the SCFCOI1 degradation complex by connecting it to the JA signaling repressor JAZ3. Consequently, HopBB1 de-represses the TCP14-regulated subset of JA response genes and promotes pathogen virulence. Thus, HopBB1 fine-tunes host phytohormone crosstalk by precisely manipulating part of the JA regulon to avoid pleiotropic host responses while promoting pathogen proliferation.
Brassinosteroids (BRs) trigger an intracellular signaling cascade through its receptors BR INSENSITIVE 1 (BRI1), BRI1-LIKE 1 (BRL1) and BRL3. Recent studies suggest that BR-independent inputs related to vascular differentiation, for instance root protophloem development, modulate downstream BR signaling components. Here, we report that protophloem sieve element differentiation is indeed impaired in bri1 brl1 brl3 mutants, although this effect might not be mediated by canonical downstream BR signaling components. We also found that their small meristem size is entirely explained by reduced cell elongation, which is, however, accompanied by supernumerary formative cell divisions in the radial dimension. Thus, reduced cell expansion in conjunction with growth retardation, because of the need to accommodate supernumerary formative divisions, can account for the overall short root phenotype of BR signaling mutants. Tissue-specific re-addition of BRI1 activity partially rescued subsets of these defects through partly cell-autonomous, partly non-cell-autonomous effects. However, protophloem-specific BRI1 expression essentially rescued all major bri1 brl1 brl3 root meristem phenotypes. Our data suggest that BR perception in the protophloem is sufficient to systemically convey BR action in the root meristem context.
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