In 2013, in response to an epidemic of ash dieback disease in England the previous year, we launched a Facebook-based game called Fraxinus to enable non-scientists to contribute to genomics studies of the pathogen that causes the disease and the ash trees that are devastated by it. Over a period of 51 weeks players were able to match computational alignments of genetic sequences in 78% of cases, and to improve them in 15% of cases. We also found that most players were only transiently interested in the game, and that the majority of the work done was performed by a small group of dedicated players. Based on our experiences we have built a linear model for the length of time that contributors are likely to donate to a crowd-sourced citizen science project. This model could serve a guide for the design and implementation of future crowd-sourced citizen science initiatives.
The plant innate immune system employs plasma membrane-localized receptors that specifically perceive pathogen/microbe-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs/MAMPs). This induces a defence response called pattern-triggered immunity (PTI) to fend off pathogen attack. Commensal bacteria are also exposed to potential immune recognition and must employ strategies to evade and/or suppress PTI to successfully colonize the plant. During plant infection the flagellum has an ambiguous role, acting as both a virulence factor and also as a potent immunogen due to the recognition of its main building block, flagellin, by the plant pattern-recognition receptors (PRRs), including FLAGELLIN SENSING2 (FLS2). Therefore, strict control of flagella synthesis is especially important for plant-associated bacteria. Here we show that cyclic-di-GMP, a central regulator of bacterial lifestyle, is involved in the evasion of PTI. Elevated cyclic-di-GMP levels in the pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pto) DC3000, the opportunist P. aeruginosa PAO1, and the commensal P. protegens Pf-5 inhibit flagellin synthesis and help the bacteria to evade FLS2-mediated signalling in Nicotiana benthamiana and Arabidopsis thaliana. Despite this, high cellular cyclic-di-GMP concentrations were shown to drastically reduce the virulence of Pto DC3000 during plant infection. We propose that this is due to reduced flagellar motility and/or additional pleiotropic effects of cyclic-di-GMP signalling on bacterial behaviour.
The non-fluorescent pseudomonads, Pseudomonas corrugata (Pcor) and P. mediterranea (Pmed), are closely related species that cause pith necrosis, a disease of tomato that causes severe crop losses. However, they also show strong antagonistic effects against economically important pathogens, demonstrating their potential for utilization as biological control agents. In addition, their metabolic versatility makes them attractive for the production of commercial biomolecules and bioremediation. An extensive comparative genomics study is required to dissect the mechanisms that Pcor and Pmed employ to cause disease, prevent disease caused by other pathogens, and to mine their genomes for commercially significant chemical pathways. Here, we present the draft genomes of nine Pcor and Pmed strains from different geographical locations. This analysis covered significant genetic heterogeneity and allowed in-depth genomic comparison. All examined strains were able to trigger symptoms in tomato plants but not all induced a hypersensitive-like response in Nicotiana benthamiana. Genome-mining revealed the absence of a type III secretion system and of known type III effectors from all examined Pcor and Pmed strains. The lack of a type III secretion system appears to be unique among the plant pathogenic pseudomonads. Several gene clusters coding for type VI secretion system were detected in all genomes.
Vesicle trafficking including exocytosis pathway is intimately associated with host immunity against pathogens. However, we have still insufficiently known about how they contribute to immunity, and how pathogen factors affect them. In this study, we explored host interactors of Magnaporthe oryzae effector AVR-Pii. Gel filtration chromatography and co-immunoprecipitation assays identified a 150 kDa complex of proteins in the soluble fraction comprising AVR-Pii and OsExo70-F2 and OsExo70–F3, the two rice Exo70 proteins presumably involved in exocytosis. Simultaneous knockdown of OsExo70-F2/F3 totally abrogated Pii immune receptor-dependent resistance, but had no effect on Pia- and Pik-dependent resistance. Knockdown levels of OsExo70-F3 but not OsExo70-F2 correlated with reduction of Pii function suggesting that OsExo70-F3 is specifically involved in Pii-dependent resistance. In our current experimental conditions, overexpression of AVR-Pii or knockdown of OsExo70-F2 and -F3 genes in rice did not affect the virulence of compatible isolates of M. oryzae. AVR-Pii interaction with OsExo70-F3 seems to play a crucial role in effector triggered immunity by Pii, suggesting the role of OsExo70 as decoy or helper in Pii/AVR-Pii interactions.
Plants are protected from microbial infection by a robust immune system. Two of the earliest responses mediated by surface-localized immune receptors include an increase in cytosolic calcium (Ca2+) and a burst of apoplastic reactive oxygen species (ROS). The Arabidopsis plasma membrane-associated cytoplasmic kinase BIK1 is an immediate convergent substrate of multiple surface-localized immune receptors that is genetically required for the PAMP-induced Ca2+ burst and directly regulates ROS production catalyzed by the NADPH oxidase RBOHD. We recently demonstrated that Arabidopsis plants maintain an optimal level of BIK1 through a process of continuous degradation regulated by the Ca2+-dependent protein kinase CPK28. cpk28 mutants accumulate more BIK1 protein and display enhanced immune signaling, while plants over-expressing CPK28 accumulate less BIK1 protein and display impaired immune signaling. Here, we show that CPK28 additionally contributes to the PAMP-induced Ca2+ burst, supporting its role as a negative regulator of BIK1.
Defense against pathogens in multicellular eukaryotes depends on intracellular immune receptors, yet surveillance by these receptors is poorly understood. Several plant nucleotide-binding, leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR) immune receptors carry fusions with other protein domains. The Arabidopsis RRS1-R NB-LRR protein carries a C-terminal WRKY DNA binding domain and forms a receptor complex with RPS4, another NB-LRR protein. This complex detects the bacterial effectors AvrRps4 or PopP2 and then activates defense. Both bacterial proteins interact with the RRS1 WRKY domain, and PopP2 acetylates lysines to block DNA binding. PopP2 and AvrRps4 interact with other WRKY domain-containing proteins, suggesting these effectors interfere with WRKY transcription factor-dependent defense, and RPS4/RRS1 has integrated a “decoy” domain that enables detection of effectors that target WRKY proteins. We propose that NB-LRR receptor pairs, one member of which carries an additional protein domain, enable perception of pathogen effectors whose function is to target that domain.
Parasite effector proteins target various host cell compartments to alter host processes and promote infection. How effectors cross membrane-rich interfaces to reach these compartments is a major question in effector biology. Growing evidence suggests that effectors use molecular mimicry to subvert host cell machinery for protein sorting. We recently identified CTP1 (chloroplast-targeted protein 1), a candidate effector from the poplar leaf rust fungus Melampsora larici-populina that carries a predicted transit peptide and accumulates in chloroplasts. Here, we show that the CTP1 transit peptide is necessary and sufficient for accumulation in the stroma of chloroplasts, and is cleaved after translocation. CTP1 is part of a Melampsora-specific family of polymorphic secreted proteins whose members translocate and are processed in chloroplasts in a N-terminal signal-dependent manner. Our findings reveal that fungi have evolved effector proteins that mimic plant-specific sorting signals to traffic within plant cells.
Pathogen recognition induces the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by NADPH oxidases in both plants and animals. ROS has direct anti-microbial properties, but also serve as signaling molecules to activate further immune outputs. However, ROS production has to be tightly controlled to avoid detrimental effects on host cells, but yet must be produced in the right amount, at the right place and at the right time upon pathogen perception. Plant NADPH oxidases belong to the respiratory burst oxidase homolog (RBOH) family, which contains 10 members in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The perception of pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) leads to a rapid, specific and strong production of ROS, which is dependent on RBOHD. RBOHD is mainly controlled by Ca2+ via direct binding to EF-hand motifs and phosphorylation by Ca2+-dependent protein kinases. Recent studies have, however, revealed a critical role for a Ca2+-independent regulation of RBOHD. The plasma membrane-associated cytoplasmic kinase BIK1, which is a direct substrate of the PRR complex, directly interacts with and phosphorylates RBOHD upon PAMP perception. Impairment of these phosphorylation events completely abolishes the function of RBOHD in immunity. These results suggest that RBOHD activity is tightly controlled by multilayered regulations. In this review, we summarize recent advances in our understanding of the regulatory mechanisms controlling RBOHD activation.
The cell's endomembranes comprise an intricate, highly dynamic and well-organised system. In plants the proteins that regulate function of the various endomembrane compartments and their cargo remain largely unknown. Our aim was to dissect subcellular trafficking routes by enriching for partially overlapping subpopulations of endosomal proteomes associated with endomembrane markers. We selected RABD2a/ARA5, RABF2b/ARA7, RABF1/ARA6, and RABG3f as markers for combinations of the Golgi, trans-Golgi Network (TGN), Early Endosomes (EE), secretory vesicles, Late Endosomes (LE), Multivesicular Bodies (MVB) and the tonoplast. As comparisons we used Golgi transport 1 (GOT1), which localises to the Golgi, Clathrin Light Chain 2 (CLC2) labelling Clathrin-coated vesicles and pits and the Vesicle Associated Membrane Protein 711 (VAMP711) present at the tonoplast. We developed an easy-to-use method by refining published protocols based on affinity purification of fluorescent fusion constructs to these seven subcellular marker proteins in Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings. We present a total of 433 proteins, only five of which were shared among all enrichments, while many proteins were common between endomembrane compartments of the same trafficking route. Approximately half, 251 proteins, were assigned to one enrichment only. Our dataset contains known regulators of endosome functions including small GTPases, SNARES and tethering complexes. We identify known cargo proteins such as PIN3, PEN3, CESA and recently defined complexes such as TPLATE. The sub-cellular localisation of two GTPase regulators predicted from our enrichments was validated using live-cell imaging. This is the first proteomic data set to discriminate between such highly overlapping endomembrane compartments in plants and can be used as a general proteomic resource to predict the localisation of proteins, identify the components of regulatory complexes and provides a useful tool for the identification of new protein markers of the endomembrane system.
Standard molecular biological methods involve the analysis of gene expression in living organisms under diverse environmental and developmental conditions. One of the most direct approaches to quantify gene expression is the isolation of RNA. Most techniques used to quantify gene expression require the isolation of RNA, usually from a large number of samples. While most published protocols, including those for commercial reagents, are either labour intensive, use hazardous chemicals and/or are costly, a previously published protocol for RNA isolation in Arabidopsis thaliana yields high amounts of good quality RNA in a simple, safe and inexpensive manner.
Potato late blight, caused by the destructive Irish famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans, is a major threat to global food security1,2. All late blight resistance genes identified to date belong to the coiled-coil, nucleotide-binding, leucine-rich repeat class of intracellular immune receptors3. However, virulent races of the pathogen quickly evolved to evade recognition by these cytoplasmic immune receptors4. Here we demonstrate that the receptor-like protein ELR (elicitin response) from the wild potato Solanum microdontum mediates extracellular recognition of the elicitin domain, a molecular pattern that is conserved in Phytophthora species. ELR associates with the immune co-receptor BAK1/SERK3 and mediates broad-spectrum recognition of elicitin proteins from several Phytophthora species, including four diverse elicitins from P. infestans. Transfer of ELR into cultivated potato resulted in enhanced resistance to P. infestans. Pyramiding cell surface pattern recognition receptors with intracellular immune receptors could maximize the potential of generating a broader and potentially more durable resistance to this devastating plant pathogen.
Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that affected Japan, >20,000 ha of rice paddy field was inundated with seawater, resulting in salt contamination of the land. As local rice landraces are not tolerant of high salt concentrations, we set out to develop a salt-tolerant rice cultivar. We screened 6,000 ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) mutant lines of a local elite cultivar, 'Hitomebore', and identified a salt-tolerant mutant that we name hitomebore salt tolerant 1 (hst1). In this Correspondence, we report how we used our MutMap method to rapidly identify a loss-of-function mutation responsible for the salt tolerance of hst1 rice. The salt-tolerant hst1 mutant was used to breed a salt-tolerant variety named 'Kaijin', which differs from Hitomebore by only 201 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Field trials showed that it has the same growth and yield performance as the parental line under normal growth conditions. Notably, production of this salt-tolerant mutant line ready for delivery to farmers took only two years using our approach.
The recently described fungal phylum Entorrhizomycota was established solely for the genus Entorrhiza, species of which cause root-galls in Cyperaceae and Juncaceae. Talbotiomyces calosporus (incertae sedis) shares morphological characteristics and an ecological niche with species of Entorrhiza. We investigated the higher classification of T. calosporus to determine whether it belongs in Entorrhizomycota. Ribosomal DNA sequences showed Talbotiomyces to be a close relative of Entorrhiza and both taxa form a highly supported monophyletic group. Based on molecular phylogenetic analyses and in congruence with existing morphological and ecological data, Entorrhiza and Talbotiomyces represent a deep dichotomy within the Entorrhizomycota. While species of Entorrhiza are characterised by dolipores and occur on monocotyledons, members of Talbotiomyces are characterised by simple pores and are associated with eudicotyledons. This expands the host range of the recently described Entorrhizomycota from Poales to other angiosperms. Higher taxa, namely Talbotiomycetales ord. nov. and Talbotiomycetaceae fam. nov., are proposed here to accommodate Talbotiomyces.
The Pseudomonas syringae effector AvrB targets multiple host proteins during infection, including the plant immune regulator RPM1-INTERACTING PROTEIN4 (RIN4) and RPM1-INDUCED PROTEIN KINASE (RIPK). In the presence of AvrB, RIPK phosphorylates RIN4 at Thr-21, Ser-160, and Thr-166, leading to activation of the immune receptor RPM1. Here, we investigated the role of RIN4 phosphorylation in susceptible Arabidopsis thaliana genotypes. Using circular dichroism spectroscopy, we show that RIN4 is a disordered protein and phosphorylation affects protein flexibility. RIN4 T21D/S160D/ T166D phosphomimetic mutants exhibited enhanced disease susceptibility upon surface inoculation with P. syringae, wider stomatal apertures, and enhanced plasma membrane H+-ATPase activity. The plasma membrane H+-ATPase AHA1 is highly expressed in guard cells, and its activation can induce stomatal opening. The ripk knockout also exhibited a strong defect in pathogen-induced stomatal opening. The basal level of RIN4 Thr-166 phosphorylation decreased in response to immune perception of bacterial flagellin. RIN4 Thr166D lines exhibited reduced flagellin-triggered immune responses. Flagellin perception did not lower RIN4 Thr-166 phosphorylation in the presence of strong ectopic expression of AvrB. Taken together, these results indicate that the AvrB effector targets RIN4 in order to enhance pathogen entry on the leaf surface as well as dampen responses to conserved microbial features.
Receptor-like kinases (RLKs) are important regulators in signal transduction in plants. However, the large number of RLKs and their high sequence similarity has hampered the analysis of RLKs. One of the largest subgroups of RLKs, the cysteine-rich receptor-like kinases (CRKs), has been suggested to be involved in mediating the effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS). While ROS are recognized as important signalling elements with a large variety of roles in plants, their ligands and achievement of signalling specificity remain unknown. Using insertion mutants we analysed the roles of CRKs in plant development and stress responses and show that CRKs have important roles as mediators of signalling specificity during regulation of stomatal aperture. Our study shows that, despite their large number and high sequence conservation, individual CRKs have intriguingly distinct functions in different aspects of plant life. This makes the CRKs promising candidates for future studies of their biochemical function.
Inventors in the field of mechanical and electronic engineering can access multitudes of components and, thanks to standardization, parts from different manufacturers can be used in combination with each other. The introduction of BioBrick standards for the assembly of characterized DNA sequences was a landmark in microbial engineering, shaping the field of synthetic biology. Here, we describe a standard for Type IIS restriction endonuclease-mediated assembly, defining a common syntax of 12 fusion sites to enable the facile assembly of eukaryotic transcriptional units. This standard has been developed and agreed by representatives and leaders of the international plant science and synthetic biology communities, including inventors, developers and adopters of Type IIS cloning methods. Our vision is of an extensive catalogue of standardized, characterized DNA parts that will accelerate plant bioengineering.
One of the world’s most important staple crops, the sweet potato, is a naturally transgenic plant that was genetically modified thousands of years ago by a soil bacterium. This surprising discovery may influence the public view of GM crops.
The first layer of plant immunity is activated by cell surface receptor-like kinases (RLKs) and proteins (RLPs) that detect infectious pathogens. Constitutive interaction with the RLK SUPPRESSOR OF BIR1 (SOBIR1) contributes to RLP stability and kinase activity. As RLK activation requires transphosphorylation with a second associated RLK, it remains elusive how RLPs initiate downstream signaling. To address this, we investigated functioning of Cf RLPs that mediate immunity of tomato against Cladosporium fulvum. We employed live-cell imaging and co-immunoprecipitation in tomato and Nicotiana benthamiana to investigate the requirement of associated kinases for Cf activity and ligand-induced subcellular trafficking of Cf-4. Upon elicitation with the matching effector ligands Avr4 and Avr9, BRI1-ASSOCIATED KINASE 1 (BAK1) associates with Cf-4 and Cf-9. Furthermore, Cf-4 that interacts with SOBIR1 at the plasma membrane, is recruited to late endosomes after elicitation. Significantly, BAK1 is required for Avr4-triggered endocytosis, effector-triggered defenses in Cf-4 plants and resistance of tomato against C. fulvum. Our observations indicate that RLP-mediated immune signaling and endocytosis require ligand-induced recruitment of BAK1, reminiscent of BAK1 interaction and subcellular fate of the FLAGELLIN SENSING 2 RLK. This reveals that diverse classes of cell surface immune receptors share common requirements for signaling initiation and endocytosis.
Tyrosine (Tyr) phosphorylation plays an essential role in signaling in animal systems, but the relative contribution of Tyr phosphorylation to plant signal transduction has, until recently, remained an open question. One of the major issues hampering the analysis is the low abundance of Tyr phosphorylation and therefore underrepresentation in most mass spec-based proteomic studies. Here, we describe a working approach to selectively enrich Tyr-phosphorylated peptides from complex plant tissue samples. We describe a detailed protocol that is based on immuno-affinity enrichment step using an anti-phospho-tyrosine (pTyr)-specific antibody. This single enrichment strategy effectively enriches pTyr-containing peptides from complex total plant cell extracts, which can be measured by LC-MS/MS without further fractionation or enrichment.
Receptor-like proteins (RLPs), forming an important group of transmembrane receptors in plants, play roles in development and immunity. RLPs contain extracellular leucine-rich repeats (LRRs) and, in contrast to receptor-like kinases (RLKs), lack a cytoplasmic kinase required for initiating downstream signalling. Recent studies revealed that the RLK SOBIR1/EVR (SUPPRESSOR OF BIR1-1/EVERSHED) specifically interacts with RLPs. SOBIR1 stabilizes RLPs and is required for their function. However, the mechanism by which SOBIR1 associates with RLPs and regulates RLP function remains unknown. The Cf immune receptors of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), mediating resistance to the fungus Cladosporium fulvum, are RLPs that also interact with SOBIR1. Here, we show that both the LRR and kinase domain of SOBIR1 are dispensable for association with the RLP Cf-4, whereas the highly conserved GxxxGxxxG motif present in the transmembrane domain of SOBIR1 is essential for its interaction with Cf-4 and additional RLPs. Complementation assays in Nicotiana benthamiana, in which endogenous SOBIR1 levels were knocked-down by virus-induced gene silencing, showed that the LRR domain as well as kinase activity of SOBIR1 are required for the Cf-4/Avr4-triggered hypersensitive response (HR). In contrast, the LRRs and kinase activity of SOBIR1 are not required for facilitating Cf-4 accumulation. Together, these results suggest that in addition to being a stabilizing scaffold for RLPs, SOBIR1 is also required for initiating downstream signalling through its kinase domain.
The introgression of disease resistance (R) genes encoding immunoreceptors with broad-spectrum recognition into cultivated potato appears to be the most promising approach to achieve sustainable management of late blight caused by the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Rpi-blb2 from Solanum bulbocastanum, shows great potential for use in agriculture based on preliminary potato disease trials. Rpi-blb2 confers immunity by recognizing the P. infestans avirulence effector protein AVRblb2 after it is translocated inside the plant cell. This effector belongs to the RXLR class of effectors and is under strong positive selection. Structure-function analyses revealed a key polymorphic amino acid (position 69) in AVRblb2 effector that is critical for activation of Rpi-blb2. In this study, we reconstructed the evolutionary history of the Avrblb2 gene family and further characterized its genetic structure in worldwide populations. Our data indicates that Avrblb2 evolved as a single copy gene in a putative ancestral species of P. infestans and has recently expanded in the Phytophthora species that infect solanaceous hosts. As a consequence, at least four variants of AVRblb2 arose in P. infestans. One of these variants, with a Phe residue at position 69, evades recognition by the cognate resistance gene. Surprisingly, all Avrblb2 variants are maintained in pathogen populations. This suggests a potential benefit for the pathogen in preserving duplicated versions of AVRblb2 possibly because the variants may have different contributions to pathogen fitness in a diversified solanaceous host environment.
Focus issue on plant immunity: from model systems to crop species
The Sainsbury Lab's insight:
One of the largest challenges of our time is to enhance agricultural production to feed a growing population in the midst of a changing climate. According to estimates, the global population will increase from 7 to 9 billion people by 2050 requiring a 60% increase in food in order to meet demand (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). Only the combination of reduction of food waste together with an increase in food productivity will enable us to meet this daunting challenge (Godfray et al., 2010). Advancements in agricultural practices, technology, food transport, and crop yields on marginal lands will be required to address this looming food production challenge. Crop losses due to plant disease significantly impact agriculture, with ~15% of global crop production lost due to preharvest plant disease (Pinstrup-Andersen, 2001; Oerke, 2006). Studies of model plants, such as Arabidopsis, have significantly enhanced our understanding of plant innate immune perception and signaling. For example, the identification of classical plant resistant genes in Arabidopsis and other model dicots facilitated the successful cloning of multiple wheat rust resistant genes (Ellis et al., 2014; Wulff and Moscou, 2014). With advancements in genome sequencing and analyses, we are now at a stage to exploit the basic knowledge gained in plant model species at a full genome scale in crops (Piquerez et al., 2014).
Author Summary Plants possess multi-layered immune recognition systems. Early in the infection process, plants use receptor proteins to recognize pathogen molecules. Some of these receptors are present in only in a subset of plant species. Transfer of these taxonomically restricted immune receptors between plant species by genetic engineering is a promising approach for boosting the plant immune system. Here we show the successful transfer of an immune receptor from a species in the mustard family, called EFR, to rice. Rice plants expressing EFR are able to sense the bacterial ligand of EFR and elicit an immune response. We show that the EFR receptor is able to use components of the rice immune signaling pathway for its function. Under laboratory conditions, this leads to an enhanced resistance response to two weakly virulent isolates of an economically important bacterial disease of rice.
In a rare gathering, genomics met palaeontology at the 10th New Phytologist Workshop on the ‘Origin and evolution of plants and their interactions with fungi’. An eclectic group of 17 experts met at The Natural History Museum (London, UK) on 9–10 September 2014 to discuss the latest findings on plant interactions with fungi (Eumycota) and oomycetes (Oomycota = Peronosporomycota), with topics ranging from the fossil record and comparative genomics to symbiosis and phytopathology. The discussions were largely disseminated via social media (Box 1). Highly diverse plant–fungal interactions have formed the backbone of land ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles since the Palaeozoic (see Fig. 1 for geological timeframe). As summarized by Christine Strullu-Derrien and Paul Kenrick (The Natural History Museum, London, UK) the first land plants arose c. 470 million years (Myr) ago (Kenrick et al., 2012; Edwards et al., 2014), at which time fungi and oomycetes had already colonized terrestrial ecosystems. Following their terrestrialization, these microbes began to abound within plant fossils (Taylor et al., 2014, and references therein). Ultimately, biological interactions sculpted the genomes of plants, fungi and oomycetes (e.g. Schmidt & Panstruga, 2011; Kohler et al., 2015). Here we illustrate the picture that has emerged from the discussions at the 10th New Phytologist Workshop, and point to some pending questions.
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