Commercial tomatoes are widely perceived by consumers as lacking flavor. A major part of that problem is a postharvest handling system that chills fruit. Low-temperature storage is widely used to slow ripening and reduce decay. However, chilling results in loss of flavor. Flavor-associated volatiles are sensitive to temperatures below 12 °C, and their loss greatly reduces flavor quality. Here, we provide a comprehensive view of the effects of chilling on flavor and volatiles associated with consumer liking. Reduced levels of specific volatiles are associated with significant reductions in transcripts encoding key volatile synthesis enzymes. Although expression of some genes critical to volatile synthesis recovers after a return to 20 °C, some genes do not. RNAs encoding transcription factors essential for ripening, including RIPENING INHIBITOR (RIN), NONRIPENING, and COLORLESS NONRIPENING are reduced in response to chilling and may be responsible for reduced transcript levels in many downstream genes during chilling. Those reductions are accompanied by major changes in the methylation status of promoters, including RIN. Methylation changes are transient and may contribute to the fidelity of gene expression required to provide maximal beneficial environmental response with minimal tangential influence on broader fruit developmental biology.
Antisense transcription through genic regions is pervasive in most genomes; however, its functional significance is still unclear. We are studying the role of antisense transcripts (COOLAIR) in the cold-induced, epigenetic silencing of Arabidopsis FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), a regulator of the transition to reproduction. Here we use single-molecule RNA FISH to address the mechanistic relationship of FLC and COOLAIR transcription at the cellular level. We demonstrate that while sense and antisense transcripts can co-occur in the same cell they are mutually exclusive at individual loci. Cold strongly upregulates COOLAIR transcription in an increased number of cells and through the mutually exclusive relationship facilitates shutdown of sense FLC transcription in cis. COOLAIR transcripts form dense clouds at each locus, acting to influence FLC transcription through changed H3K36me3 dynamics. These results may have general implications for other loci showing both sense and antisense transcription
Successful colonization of plants by prokaryotic and eukaryotic pathogens requires active effector-mediated suppression of defense responses and host tissue reprogramming. Secreted effector proteins can either display their activity in the apoplast or translocate into host cells and function therein. Although characterized in bacteria, the molecular mechanisms of effector delivery by fungal phytopathogens remain elusive. Here we report the establishment of an assay that is based on biotinylation of effectors in the host cytoplasm as hallmark of uptake. The assay exploits the ability of the bacterial biotin ligase BirA to biotinylate any protein that carries a short peptide (Avitag). It is based on the stable expression of BirA in the cytoplasm of maize plants and on engineering of Ustilago maydis strains to secrete Avitagged effectors. We demonstrate translocation of a number of effectors in the U. maydis–maize system and show data that suggest that the uptake mechanism could be rather nonspecific The assay promises to be a powerful tool for the classification of effectors as well as for the functional study of effector uptake mechanism not only in the chosen system but more generally for systems where biotrophic interactions are established.
Salicylic acid (SA) biosynthesis, the expression of SA-related genes and the effect of SA on the Arabidopsis–Plasmodiophora brassicae interaction were examined. Biochemical analyses revealed that, in P. brassicae-infected Arabidopsis, the majority of SA is synthesized from chorismate. Real-time monitored expression of a gene for isochorismate synthase was induced on infection. SA can be modified after accumulation, either by methylation, improving its mobility, or by glycosylation, as one possible reaction for inactivation. Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) confirmed the induction of an SA methyltransferase gene, whereas SA glucosyltransferase expression was not changed after infection. Col-0 wild-type (wt) did not provide a visible phenotypic resistance response, whereas the Arabidopsis mutant dnd1, which constitutively activates the immune system, showed reduced gall scores. As dnd1 showed control of the pathogen, exogenous SA was applied to Arabidopsis in order to test whether it could suppress clubroot. In wt, sid2 (SA biosynthesis), NahG (SA-deficient) and npr1 (SA signalling-impaired) mutants, SA treatment did not alter the gall score, but positively affected the shoot weight. This suggests that SA alone is not sufficient for Arabidopsis resistance against P. brassicae. Semi-quantitative PCR revealed that wt, cpr1, dnd1 and sid2 showed elevated PR-1 expression on P. brassicae and SA + P. brassicae inoculation at 2 and 3 weeks post-inoculation (wpi), whereas NahG and npr1 showed no expression. This work contributes to the understanding of SA involvement in the Arabidopsis–P. brassicae interaction.
Brassinosteroids (BRs) are a group of steroid molecules perceived at the cell surface and that act as plant hormones. Since their discovery as crucial growth substances, BRs were mainly studied for their action in above ground organs and the BR signaling pathway was largely uncovered in the context of hypocotyl elongation. However, for the past two years, most of the exciting findings on BR signaling have been made using roots as a model. The Arabidopsis root is a system of choice for cell biology and allowed detailed characterization of BR perception at the cell membrane. In addition, a series of elegant articles dissected how BRs act in tissue specific manners to control root growth and development.
Two lines of Zea mays were developed as a short-generation model for maize. The Fast-Flowering Mini-Maize (FFMM) lines A and B are robust inbred lines with a significantly shorter generation time, much smaller stature, and better greenhouse adaptation than traditional maize varieties. Five generations a year are typical. FFMM is the result of a modified double-cross hybrid between four fast-flowering lines: Neuffer’s Early ACR (full color), Alexander’s Early Early Synthetic, Tom Thumb Popcorn, and Gaspe Flint, followed by selection for early flowering and desirable morphology throughout an 11-generation selfing regime. Lines A and B were derived from different progeny of the initial hybrid, and crosses between Mini-Maize A and B exhibit heterosis. The ancestry of each genomic region of Mini-Maize A and B was inferred from the four founder populations using genotyping by sequencing. Other genetic and genomic tools for these lines include karyotypes for both lines A and B, kernel genetic markers y1 (white endosperm) and R1-scm2 (purple endosperm and embryo) introgressed into Mini-Maize A, and ∼24× whole-genome resequencing data for Mini-Maize A.
There is considerable debate about the functionality of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). Lack of sequence conservation has been used to argue against functional relevance. We investigated antisense lncRNAs, called COOLAIR, at the A. thaliana FLC locus and experimentally determined their secondary structure. The major COOLAIR variants are highly structured, organized by exon. The distally polyadenylated transcript has a complex multi-domain structure, altered by a single non-coding SNP defining a functionally distinct A. thaliana FLC haplotype. The A. thaliana COOLAIR secondary structure was used to predict COOLAIR exons in evolutionarily divergent Brassicaceae species. These predictions were validated through chemical probing and cloning. Despite the relatively low nucleotide sequence identity, the structures, including multi-helix junctions, show remarkable evolutionary conservation. In a number of places, the structure is conserved through covariation of a non-contiguous DNA sequence. This structural conservation supports a functional role for COOLAIR transcripts rather than, or in addition to, antisense transcription.
Redirection of intercellular auxin fluxes via relocalization of the PIN-FORMED 3 (PIN3) and PIN7 auxin efflux carriers has been suggested to be necessary for the root gravitropic response. Cytokinins have also been proposed to play a role in controlling root gravitropism, but conclusive evidence is lacking. We present a detailed study of the dynamics of root bending early after gravistimulation, which revealed a delayed gravitropic response in transgenic lines with depleted endogenous cytokinins (Pro35S:AtCKX) and cytokinin signaling mutants. Pro35S:AtCKX lines, as well as a cytokinin receptor mutant ahk3, showed aberrations in the auxin response distribution in columella cells consistent with defects in the auxin transport machinery. Using in vivo real-time imaging of PIN3-GFP and PIN7-GFP in AtCKX3 overexpression and ahk3 backgrounds, we observed wild-type-like relocalization of PIN proteins in the columella early after gravistimulation, with gravity-induced relocalization of PIN7 faster than that of PIN3. Nonetheless, the cellular distribution of PIN3 and PIN7 and expression of PIN7 and the auxin influx carrier AUX1 was affected in AtCKX overexpression lines. Based on the retained cytokinin sensitivity in pin3 pin4 pin7 mutant, we propose the AUX1-mediated auxin transport rather than columella-located PIN proteins as a target of endogenous cytokinins in the control of root gravitropism.
Cellulose, often touted as the most abundant biopolymer on Earth, is a critical component of the plant cell wall and is synthesized by plasma membrane-spanning cellulose synthase (CESA) enzymes, which in plants are organized into rosette-like CESA complexes (CSCs). Plants construct two types of cell walls, primary cell walls (PCWs) and secondary cell walls (SCWs), which differ in composition, structure, and purpose. Cellulose in PCWs and SCWs is chemically identical but has different physical characteristics. During PCW synthesis, multiple dispersed CSCs move along a shared linear track in opposing directions while synthesizing cellulose microfibrils with low aggregation. In contrast, during SCW synthesis, we observed swaths of densely arranged CSCs that moved in the same direction along tracks while synthesizing cellulose microfibrils that became highly aggregated. Our data support a model in which distinct spatiotemporal features of active CSCs during PCW and SCW synthesis contribute to the formation of cellulose with distinct structure and organization in PCWs and SCWs of Arabidopsis thaliana. This study provides a foundation for understanding differences in the formation, structure, and organization of cellulose in PCWs and SCWs.
Signaling pathways regulated by heterotrimeric G-proteins exist in all eukaryotes. The regulator of G-protein signaling (RGS) proteins are key interactors and critical modulators of the Gα protein of the heterotrimer. However, while G-proteins are widespread in plants, RGS proteins have been reported to be missing from the entire monocot lineage, with two exceptions. A single amino acid substitution-based adaptive coevolution of the Gα:RGS proteins was proposed to enable the loss of RGS in monocots. We used a combination of evolutionary and biochemical analyses and homology modeling of the Gα and RGS proteins to address their expansion and its potential effects on the G-protein cycle in plants. Our results show that RGS proteins are widely distributed in the monocot lineage, despite their frequent loss. There is no support for the adaptive coevolution of the Gα:RGS protein pair based on single amino acid substitutions. RGS proteins interact with, and affect the activity of, Gα proteins from species with or without endogenous RGS. This cross-functional compatibility expands between the metazoan and plant kingdoms, illustrating striking conservation of their interaction interface. We propose that additional proteins or alternative mechanisms may exist which compensate for the loss of RGS in certain plant species.
DNA methylation is an important feature of plant epigenomes, involved in the formation of heterochromatin and affecting gene expression. Extensive variation of DNA methylation patterns within a species has been uncovered from studies of natural variation. However, the extent to which DNA methylation varies between flowering plant species is still unclear. To understand the variation in genomic patterning of DNA methylation across flowering plant species, we compared single base resolution DNA methylomes of 34 diverse angiosperm species. By analyzing whole-genome bisulfite sequencing data in a phylogenetic context, it becomes clear that there is extensive variation throughout angiosperms in gene body DNA methylation, euchromatic silencing of transposons and repeats, as well as silencing of heterochromatic transposons. The Brassicaceae have reduced CHG methylation levels and also reduced or loss of CG gene body methylation. The Poaceae are characterized by a lack or reduction of heterochromatic CHH methylation and enrichment of CHH methylation in genic regions. Furthermore, low levels of CHH methylation are observed in a number of species, especially in clonally propagated species. These results reveal the extent of variation in DNA methylation in angiosperms and show that DNA methylation patterns are broadly a reflection of the evolutionary and life histories of plant species.
It is an apparent conundrum how plants evolved effector-triggered immunity (ETI), involving programmed cell death (PCD), as a major defence mechanism against biotrophic pathogens, because ETI-associated PCD could leave them vulnerable to necrotrophic pathogens that thrive on dead host cells. Interestingly, during ETI, the normally antagonistic defence hormones, salicylic acid (SA) and jasmonic acid (JA) associated with defence against biotrophs and necrotrophs respectively, both accumulate to high levels. In this study, we made the surprising finding that JA is a positive regulator of RPS2-mediated ETI. Early induction of JA-responsive genes and de novo JA synthesis following SA accumulation is activated through the SA receptors NPR3 and NPR4, instead of the JA receptor COI1. We provide evidence that NPR3 and NPR4 may mediate this effect by promoting degradation of the JA transcriptional repressor JAZs. This unique interplay between SA and JA offers a possible explanation of how plants can mount defence against a biotrophic pathogen without becoming vulnerable to necrotrophic pathogens.
The transition to reproductive development is a crucial step in the plant life cycle, and the timing of this transition is an important factor in crop yields. Here, we report new insights into the genetic control of natural variation in flowering time in Brachypodium distachyon, a non-domesticated pooid grass closely related to cereals such as wheat and barley. A recombinant inbred line (RIL) population derived from a cross between the rapid-flowering accession Bd21 and the delayed-flowering accession Bd1-1 were grown in a variety of environmental conditions to enable exploration of the genetic architecture of flowering time. A genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) approach was used to develop SNP markers for genetic map construction, and quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that control differences in flowering time were identified. Many of the flowering time QTLs are detected across a range of photoperiod and vernalization conditions, suggesting that the genetic control of flowering within this population is robust. The two major QTLs identified in undomesticated B distachyon colocalize with VERNALIZATION1/PHYTOCHROME C and VERNALIZATION2, loci identified as flowering regulators in the domesticated crops wheat and barley. This suggests that variation in flowering time is controlled in part by a set of genes broadly conserved within pooid grasses.
Abscisic acid (ABA) dynamically balances plant water use and availability. It is synthesized during water deficit and quickly catabolized into breakdown products previously thought to be largely inactive. New work demonstrates that phaseic acid, a major ABA catabolite, is a weak ABA receptor agonist with its own auxiliary role in water relations.
ABA plays a major role in controlling plant water use: its levels rise and fall in proportion to water deficit, coordinating transpiration and growth with environmental conditions1. ABA is synthesized in a series of well-characterized enzymatic steps from β-carotene and then catabolized through steps that are somewhat murkier2 (Fig. 1). The first catabolic step is hydroxylation by the CYP707A family of cytochrome P450s (CYPs). The hydroxylated products then isomerize into phaseic acid (PA) or neoPA, depending on the site of hydroxylation; this reaction occurs spontaneously in vitro and may not require an enzyme. In the next step, PA and neoPA are reduced to dihydrophaseic acid (DPA) and epi-DPA, respectively; but how this step is catalysed was unknown until now. In the final step, DPA and epi-DPA are converted to glucose esters by yet another unknown enzyme.
As sessile organisms that cannot evade adverse environmental conditions, plants have evolved various adaptive strategies to cope with environmental stresses. One of the most successful adaptations is the formation of symbiotic associations with beneficial microbes. In these mutualistic interactions the partners exchange essential nutrients and improve their resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. In arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) and in root nodule symbiosis (RNS), AM fungi and rhizobia, respectively, penetrate roots and accommodate within the cells of the plant host. In these endosymbiotic associations, both partners keep their plasma membranes intact and use them to control the bidirectional exchange of signaling molecules and nutrients. Intracellular accommodation requires the exchange of symbiotic signals and the reprogramming of both interacting partners. This involves fundamental changes at the level of gene expression and of the cytoskeleton, as well as of organelles such as plastids, endoplasmic reticulum (ER), and the central vacuole. Symbiotic cells are highly compartmentalized and have a complex membrane system specialized for the diverse functions in molecular communication and nutrient exchange. Here, we discuss the roles of the different cellular membrane systems and their symbiosis-related proteins in AM and RNS, and we review recent progress in the analysis of membrane proteins involved in endosymbiosis.
Simultaneous multiplex mutation of large gene families using Cas9 has the potential to revolutionize agriculture and plant sciences. The targeting of multiple genomic sites at once raises concerns about the efficiency and specificity in targeting. The model Arabidopsis thaliana is widely used in basic plant research. Previous work has suggested that the Cas9 off-target rate in Arabidopsis is undetectable. Here we use deep sequencing on pooled plants simultaneously targeting 14 distinct genomic loci to demonstrate that multiplex targeting in Arabidopsis is highly specific to on-target sites with no detectable off-target events. In addition, chromosomal translocations are extremely rare. The high specificity of Cas9 in Arabidopsis makes this a reliable method for clean mutant generation with no need to enhance specificity or adopt alternate Cas9 variants.
Plant pathogenic fungi represent the largest group of disease-causing agents on crop plants, and are a constant and major threat to agriculture worldwide. Recent studies have shown that engineered production of RNA interference (RNAi)-inducing dsRNA in host plants can trigger specific fungal gene silencing and confer resistance to fungal pathogens1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Although these findings illustrate efficient uptake of host RNAi triggers by pathogenic fungi, it is unknown whether or not such an uptake mechanism has been evolved for a natural biological function in fungus–host interactions. Here, we show that in response to infection with Verticillium dahliae (a vascular fungal pathogen responsible for devastating wilt diseases in many crops) cotton plants increase production of microRNA 166 (miR166) and miR159 and export both to the fungal hyphae for specific silencing. We found that two V. dahliae genes encoding a Ca2+-dependent cysteine protease (Clp-1) and an isotrichodermin C-15 hydroxylase (HiC-15), and targeted by miR166 and miR159, respectively, are both essential for fungal virulence. Notably, V. dahliae strains expressing either Clp-1 or HiC-15 rendered resistant to the respective miRNA exhibited drastically enhanced virulence in cotton plants. Together, our findings identify a novel defence strategy of host plants by exporting specific miRNAs to induce cross-kingdom gene silencing in pathogenic fungi and confer disease resistance.Cotton plants export microRNAs to inhibit virulence gene expression in a fungal pathogen
“Heterotrimeric G proteins comprising Gα, Gβ, and Gγ subunits (hereafter termed G proteins) mediate important signaling processes in all eukaryotes. As per the established paradigm, during resting phase the Gα is guanosine diphosphate (GDP)-bound and the three subunits form an inactive trimeric complex GDP⋅Gαβγ. Signal perception occurs at the G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), which act as guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) and facilitate the exchange of GDP for guanosine triphosphate (GTP) on Gα. GTP⋅Gα dissociates from the Gβγ dimer, and both these entities can interact with downstream effectors to transduce the signal. The intrinsic GTPase activity of Gα produces its GDP-bound form, which associates with the Gβγ dimer to reconstitute the inactive heterotrimer, making it available for the next round of activation (Figure 1). Proteins such as regulator of G-protein signaling (RGS) or phospholipases accelerate the inherent GTPase activity of Gα, causing a faster turnover of the cycle. Both the activation and deactivation of Gα are exquisitely controlled for persistent signaling (Offermanns, 2003).”
Via Jean-Michel Ané, Xiefang lab
Aggressive fungal pathogens such as Botrytis and Verticillium spp. cause severe crop losses worldwide. We recently discovered that Botrytis cinerea delivers small RNAs (Bc–sRNAs) into plant cells to silence host immunity genes. Such sRNA effectors are mostly produced by Botrytis cinerea Dicer-like protein 1 (Bc-DCL1) and Bc-DCL2. Here we show that expressing sRNAs that target Bc-DCL1 and Bc-DCL2 in Arabidopsis and tomato silences Bc-DCL genes and attenuates fungal pathogenicity and growth, exemplifying bidirectional cross-kingdom RNAi and sRNA trafficking between plants and fungi. This strategy can be adapted to simultaneously control multiple fungal diseases. We also show that Botrytis can take up external sRNAs and double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs). Applying sRNAs or dsRNAs that target Botrytis DCL1 and DCL2 genes on the surface of fruits, vegetables and flowers significantly inhibits grey mould disease. Such pathogen gene-targeting RNAs represent a new generation of environmentally friendly fungicides.
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