Maize (Zea mays ssp. mays L.) is highly susceptible to drought stress. This work focused on whole-plant physiological mechanisms by which a biotechnology-derived maize event expressing bacterial cold shock protein B (CspB), MON 87460, increased grain yield under drought. Plants of MON 87460 and a conventional control (hereafter ‘control’) were tested in the field under well-watered (WW) and water-limited (WL) treatments imposed during mid-vegetative to mid-reproductive stages during 2009–2011. Across years, average grain yield increased by 6% in MON 87460 compared with control under WL conditions. This was associated with higher soil water content at 0.5 m depth during the treatment phase, increased ear growth, decreased leaf area, leaf dry weight and sap flow rate during silking, increased kernel number and harvest index in MON 87460 than the control. No consistent differences were observed under WW conditions. This indicates that MON 87460 acclimated better under WL conditions than the control by lowering leaf growth which decreased water use during silking, thereby eliciting lower stress under WL conditions. These physiological responses in MON 87460 under WL conditions resulted in increased ear growth during silking, which subsequently increased the kernel number, harvest index and grain yield compared to the control.
The introduction of genetically-modified (GM) crops is often accompanied by other changes in cultural practices. The objective of the present study was to evaluate these changes with the simulation model FlorSys which quantifies the effects of cropping systems and pedoclimate on weed dynamics as well as indicators of weed-related biodiversity (species richness and equitability, trophic resources for birds, insects and pollinators) and crop production loss (yield loss, harvest contamination, harvesting problems, field infestation). The study focused on two GM maize variety types, i.e. expressing Bacillus thuringiensis toxins against insects (Bt) and tolerating the non-selective herbicide glyphosate (HT). Two contrasting maize-growing sites were studied: Aquitaine, a region in South-Western France, and Catalonia in North-Eastern Spain. Typical regional cropping systems containing maize were identified for each site from expert knowledge and the Biovigilance database recording French agricultural practices. GM scenarios were based on expert knowledge, literature and current Spanish practices. A total of 11 most probable scenarios (1 conventional, 3 Bt and 8 HT) were simulated over 28 years for each region, and repeated with 10 different regional random weather series. An additional series of 5–7 scenarios per region was run to decorrelate factors, and make it easier to identify the cultural practices responsible for changes in weed flora, biodiversity and production. The simulations showed that the changes accompanying the introduction of GM maize varieties affected weed flora as well as weed-related biodiversity and crop production loss, but that the consequences depended on local conditions. Most of these consequences were caused by simplifications in the cropping systems made possible by the GM varieties, rather than by the glyphosate associated to GM varieties. Simplified tillage or no-till increased weed harmfulness, particularly in Aquitaine where the weed flora was poorer and dominated by larger and more persistent species. Conversely, no-till cancelled part or all of the nefarious effects on biodiversity of simplified rotations (maize/wheat and maize monoculture), particularly by improving trophic resources offered by weeds to birds, insects and pollinators. Overall, biodiversity was less affected by simplified rotations in Catalonia where the initial weed flora was richer and more equitable. Delayed maize sowing reduced weed harmfulness and biodiversity, except food offer for insects and pollinators whose pertinent feeding period covered spring and summer (vs. winter for birds). Based on the two most affected weed-based biodiversity indicators, ex post monitoring after GM introduction should focus on birds in Aquitaine and on pollinators in Catalonia.
Weeds are currently present in a wide range of ecosystems worldwide. Although the beginning of their evolution is largely unknown, researchers assumed that they developed in tandem with cultivation since the appearance of agricultural habitats some 12,000 years ago. These rapidly-evolving plants invaded the human disturbed areas and thrived in the new habitat. Here we present unprecedented new findings of the presence of “proto-weeds” and small-scale trial cultivation in Ohalo II, a 23,000-year
The scent of roses (Rosa x hybrida) is composed of hundreds of volatile molecules. Monoterpenes represent up to 70% percent of the scent content in some cultivars, such as the Papa Meilland rose. Monoterpene biosynthesis in plants relies on plastid-localized terpene synthases. Combining transcriptomic and genetic approaches, we show that the Nudix hydrolase RhNUDX1, localized in the cytoplasm, is part of a pathway for the biosynthesis of free monoterpene alcohols that contribute to fragrance in roses. The RhNUDX1 protein shows geranyl diphosphate diphosphohydrolase activity in vitro and supports geraniol biosynthesis in planta.
Exposure to green space has been associated with better physical and mental health. Although this exposure could also influence cognitive development in children, available epidemiological evidence on such an impact is scarce. This study aimed to assess the association between exposure to green space and measures of cognitive development in primary schoolchildren. This study was based on 2,593 schoolchildren in the second to fourth grades (7–10 y) of 36 primary schools in Barcelona, Spain (2012–2013). Cognitive development was assessed as 12-mo change in developmental trajectory of working memory, superior working memory, and inattentiveness by using four repeated (every 3 mo) computerized cognitive tests for each outcome. We assessed exposure to green space by characterizing outdoor surrounding greenness at home and school and during commuting by using high-resolution (5 m × 5 m) satellite data on greenness (normalized difference vegetation index). Multilevel modeling was used to estimate the associations between green spaces and cognitive development. We observed an enhanced 12-mo progress in working memory and superior working memory and a greater 12-mo reduction in inattentiveness associated with greenness within and surrounding school boundaries and with total surrounding greenness index (including greenness surrounding home, commuting route, and school). Adding a traffic-related air pollutant (elemental carbon) to models explained 20–65% of our estimated associations between school greenness and 12-mo cognitive development. Our study showed a beneficial association between exposure to green space and cognitive development among schoolchildren that was partly mediated by reduction in exposure to air pollution
Existing agrochemicals can be endowed with new applications through protein engineering of plant receptors. A recent study shows an engineered PYR1 ABA receptor can be activated by mandipropamid. Plants engineered with such PYR1 variant are responsive to this agrochemical, which confers protection against drought through activation of ABA signaling.
Betalains, a small group of alkaloid pigments restricted to certain families of the Caryophyllales, have comparable optical properties and share similar histological locations in vegetative tissues with those of the more abundant anthocyanins. It has long been speculated that the two pigments are functional homologues in plant-environment interactions. Recent empirical evidence indicates that anthocyanins and betacyanins are both effective photoprotectants, are associated with increased tolerance to drought and salinity stress, and are efficient scavengers of reactive oxygen species in plants facing a variety of abiotic stressors. Nevertheless, the capacity of betalains to maintain a red colour irrespective of changes in vacuolar pH, their enhanced absorptivity of visible wavelengths, and their strong association with vacuolar ATPase activity, suggest that they may confer adaptive benefits not found in those species that produce anthocyanins. There remains much to be learned about the functional significance of betalains.
Many phylogenomic studies based on transcriptomes have been limited to “single-copy” genes due to methodological challenges in homology and orthology inferences. Only a relatively small number of studies have explored analyses beyond reconstructing species relationships. We sampled 69 transcriptomes in the hyperdiverse plant clade Caryophyllales and 27 outgroups from annotated genomes across eudicots. Using a combined similarity- and phylogenetic tree-based approach, we recovered 10,960 homolog groups, where each was represented by at least eight ingroup taxa. By decomposing these homolog trees, and taking gene duplications into account, we obtained 17,273 ortholog groups, where each was represented by at least ten ingroup taxa. We reconstructed the species phylogeny using a 1,122-gene data set with a gene occupancy of 92.1%. From the homolog trees, we found that both synonymous and nonsynonymous substitution rates in herbaceous lineages are up to three times as fast as in their woody relatives. This is the first time such a pattern has been shown across thousands of nuclear genes with dense taxon sampling. We also pinpointed regions of the Caryophyllales tree that were characterized by relatively high frequencies of gene duplication, including three previously unrecognized whole-genome duplications. By further combining information from homolog tree topology and synonymous distance between paralog pairs, phylogenetic locations for 13 putative genome duplication events were identified. Genes that experienced the greatest gene family expansion were concentrated among those involved in signal transduction and oxidoreduction, including a cytochrome P450 gene that encodes a key enzyme in the betalain synthesis pathway. Our approach demonstrates a new approach for functional phylogenomic analysis in nonmodel species that is based on homolog groups in addition to inferred ortholog groups.
•Organic farming suffers from lower productivity than conventional agriculture because the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers is restricted. •Rewilding furnishes crops with lost properties that their ancestors once had to tolerate adverse environmental conditions. •Rewilding is in accordance with the values of organic breeding and would contribute to closing the yield gap. •New breeding techniques that involve methods of genetic engineering allow for rewilding in a way that the final crop cannot be distinguished from a crop bred by traditional means.
Organic farming is based on the concept of working ‘with nature’ instead of against it; however, compared with conventional farming, organic farming reportedly has lower productivity. Ideally, the goal should be to narrow this yield gap. In this review, we specifically discuss the feasibility of new breeding techniques (NBTs) for rewilding, a process involving the reintroduction of properties from the wild relatives of crops, as a method to close the productivity gap. The most efficient methods of rewilding are based on modern biotechnology techniques, which have yet to be embraced by the organic farming movement. Thus, the question arises of whether the adoption of such methods is feasible, not only from a technological perspective, but also from conceptual, socioeconomic, ethical, and regulatory perspectives.
The potential impact of genetically modified (GM) plants on human health has attracted much attention worldwide, and the issue remains controversial. This is in sharp contrast to the broad acceptance of plants produced by breeding through Marker Assisted Backcrossing (MAB). Focusing on transcriptome variation and perturbation to signaling pathways, we assessed the molecular and biological aspects of substantial equivalence, a general principle for food safety endorsed by the Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization, between a transgenic crop and a plant from MAB breeding. We compared a transgenic rice line (DXT) and a MAB rice line (DXB), both of which contain the gene Xa21 providing resistance to bacterial leaf blight. By using Next-Generation sequencing data of DXT, DXB and their parental line (D62B), we compared the transcriptome variation of DXT and DXB. Remarkably, DXT had 43% fewer differentially expressed genes (DEGs) than DXB. The genes exclusively expressed in DXT and in DXB have pathogen and stress defense functions. Functional categories of DEGs in DXT were comparable to that in DXB, and seven of the eleven pathways significantly affected by transgenesis were also perturbed by MAB breeding. These results indicated that the transgenic rice and rice from MAB breeding are substantial equivalent at the transcriptome level, and paved a way for further study of transgenic rice, e.g., understanding the chemical and nutritional properties of the DEGs identified in the current study. Keywords: Transgenesis; Marker-assisted backcrossing; Substantial equivalence; Transcriptome profile; Xa21
Mapping agricultural crops is an important application of remote sensing. However, in many cases it is based either on hyperspectral imagery or on multitemporal coverage, both of which are difficult to scale up to large-scale deployment at high spatial resolution. In the present paper, we evaluate the possibility of crop classification based on single images from very high-resolution (VHR) satellite sensors. The main objective of this work is to expose performance difference between state-of-the-art parcel-based smoothing and purely data-driven conditional random field (CRF) smoothing, which is yet unknown. To fulfill this objective, we perform extensive tests with four different classification methods (Support Vector Machines, Random Forest, Gaussian Mixtures, and Maximum Likelihood) to compute the pixel-wise data term; and we also test two different definitions of the pairwise smoothness term. We have performed a detailed evaluation on different multispectral VHR images (Ikonos, QuickBird, Kompsat-2). The main finding of this study is that pairwise CRF smoothing comes close to the state-of-the-art parcel-based method that requires parcel boundaries (average difference ≈ 2.5%). Our results indicate that a single multispectral (R, G, B, NIR) image is enough to reach satisfactory classification accuracy for six crop classes (corn, pasture, rice, sugar beet, wheat, and tomato) in Mediterranean climate. Overall, it appears that crop mapping using only one-shot VHR imagery taken at the right time may be a viable alternative, especially since high-resolution multitemporal or hyperspectral coverage as well as parcel boundaries are in practice often not available.
Shoot phototropism enables plants to position their photosynthetic organs in favorable light conditions and thus benefits growth and metabolism in land plants. To understand the evolution of this response, we established an experimental system to study phototropism in gametophores of the moss Physcomitrella patens. The phototropic response of gametophores occurs slowly; a clear response takes place more than 24 hours after the onset of unilateral light irradiation, likely due to the slow growth rate of gametophores. We also found that red and far-red light can induce phototropism, with blue light being less effective. These results suggest that plants used a broad range of light wavelengths as phototropic signals during the early evolution of land plants.
For populations to maintain optimal fitness, harmful mutations must be efficiently purged from the genome. Yet, under circumstances that diminish the effectiveness of natural selection, such as the process of plant and animal domestication, deleterious mutations are predicted to accumulate. Here, we compared the load of deleterious mutations in 21 accessions from natural populations and 19 domesticated accessions of the common sunflower using whole-transcriptome single nucleotide polymorphism data. Although we find that genetic diversity has been greatly reduced during domestication, the remaining mutations were disproportionally biased toward nonsynonymous substitutions. Bioinformatically predicted deleterious mutations affecting protein function were especially strongly over-represented. We also identify similar patterns in two other domesticated species of the sunflower family (globe artichoke and cardoon), indicating that this phenomenon is not due to idiosyncrasies of sunflower domestication or the sunflower genome. Finally, we provide unequivocal evidence that deleterious mutations accumulate in low recombining regions of the genome, due to the reduced efficacy of purifying selection. These results represent a conundrum for crop improvement efforts. Although the elimination of harmful mutations should be a long-term goal of plant and animal breeding programs, it will be difficult to weed them out because of limited recombination
Plant betalain pigments are intriguing because they are restricted to the Caryophyllales and are mutually exclusive with the more common anthocyanins. However, betalain biosynthesis is poorly understood compared to that of anthocyanins. In this study, betalain production and betalain-related genes were characterized in Parakeelya mirabilis (Montiaceae). RT-PCR and transcriptomics identified three sequences related to the key biosynthetic enzyme Dopa 4,5-dioxgenase (DOD). In addition to a LigB gene similar to that of non-Caryophyllales species (Class I genes), two other P. mirabilis LigB genes were found (DOD and DOD-like, termed Class II). PmDOD and PmDOD-like had 70% amino acid identity. Only PmDOD was implicated in betalain synthesis based on transient assays of enzyme activity and correlation of transcript abundance to spatio-temporal betalain accumulation. The role of PmDOD-like remains unknown. The striking pigment patterning of the flowers was due to distinct zones of red betacyanin and yellow betaxanthin production. The major betacyanin was the unglycosylated betanidin rather than the commonly found glycosides, an occurrence for which there are a few previous reports. The white petal zones lacked pigment but had DOD activity suggesting alternate regulation of the pathway in this tissue. DOD and DOD-like sequences were also identified in other betalain-producing species but not in examples of anthocyanin-producing Caryophyllales or non-Caryophyllales species. A Class I LigB sequence from the anthocyanin-producing Caryophyllaceae species Dianthus superbus and two DOD-like sequences from the Amaranthaceae species Beta vulgaris and Ptilotus spp. did not show DOD activity in the transient assay. The additional sequences suggests that DOD is part of a larger LigB gene family in betalain-producing Caryophyllales taxa, and the tandem genomic arrangement of two of the three B. vulgaris LigB genes suggests the involvement of duplication in the gene family evolution.
Vavilov’s Law of Homologous Series indicates that heritable variation for a given trait will occur in different species based on parallel selection. The conclusion comes from Vavilov’s study of extensive collections and careful attention to phenotypic variation across taxa. The same examination of variation can be applied to traits using the power of genetic and genomic resolution, because parallel traits would be expected to be governed by the same genetic loci, and perhaps even common mutations. In this review, these concepts are applied to two central traits—the control of “shattering” of kernels in cereals and in the control of photoperiodic flowering. One of the strengths of the law is that it can make predictions about traits and perhaps the genes or genomic regions that control them. With respect to genetic variation, the occurrence and physical location of genes associated with kernel retention may be predicted. Many grains share mutations, such as the Sh 1 gene, which were selected in parallel. Selection of the Sh1 gene led to higher yields due to better kernel retention. While the genes affected are often the same, the types of mutations are not, implying convergent selection. Flowering time is governed by multiple loci, so variation may be attributed only to a few candidates, yet because of the number of regulators the predictive power of the law is lower. The modern application of the Law of Homologous Series is that it allows basic researchers or plant breeders to make predictions about the genes controlling key traits, although the genetic basis of variation is likely not conserved.
While ongoing climate change can increase the number of days above freezing, changes in other climatic conditions will lead to fewer days when plants can grow, which in turn will affect biodiversity and people. See the Synopsis.
Over the past two decades, the moss Physcomitrella patens has been developed from scratch to a model species in basic research and in biotechnology. A fully sequenced genome, outstanding possibilities for precise genome-engineering via homologous recombination (knockout moss), a certified GMP production in moss bioreactors, successful upscaling to 500 L wave reactors, excellent homogeneity of protein glycosylation, remarkable batch-to-batch stability and a safe cryopreservation for master cell banking are some of the key features of the moss system. Several human proteins are being produced in this system as potential biopharmaceuticals. Among the products are tumour-directed monoclonal antibodies with enhanced antibody-dependent cytotoxicity (ADCC), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), complement factor H (FH), keratinocyte growth factor (FGF7/KGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), asialo-erythropoietin (asialo-EPO, AEPO), alpha-galactosidase (aGal) and beta-glucocerebrosidase (GBA). Further, an Env-derived multi-epitope HIV protein as a candidate vaccine was produced, and first steps for a metabolic engineering of P. patens have been made. Some of the recombinant biopharmaceuticals from moss bioreactors are not only similar to those produced in mammalian systems such as CHO cells, but are of superior quality (biobetters). The first moss-made pharmaceutical, aGal to treat Morbus Fabry, is in clinical trials.
The ability of scientific knowledge to contribute to public debate about societal risks depends on how the public assimilates information resulting from the scientific community. Bayesian decision theory assumes that people update a belief by allocating weights to a prior belief and new information to form a posterior belief. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of prior beliefs on assimilation of scientific information and test several hypotheses about the manner in which people process scientific information on genetically modified food and global warming. Results indicated that assimilation of information is dependent on prior beliefs and that the failure to converge a posterior belief to information is a result of several factors including: misinterpreting information, illusionary correlations, selectively scrutinizing information, information-processing problems, knowledge, political affiliation, and cognitive function.
Following the consensus view for unitary origin and conserved function of stomata across over 400 million years of land plant evolution, stomatal abundance has been widely used to reconstruct palaeo-atmospheric environments. However, the responsiveness of stomata in mosses and hornworts, the most basal stomate lineages of extant land plants, has received relatively little attention. This study aimed to redress this imbalance and provide the first direct evidence of bryophyte stomatal responsiveness to atmospheric CO2.
Betalain pigments are unique to the Caryophyllales and structurally and biosynthetically distinct from anthocyanins. Two key enzymes within the betalain synthesis pathway have been identified: 4,5-dioxygenase (DODA) that catalyzes the formation of betalamic acid and CYP76AD1, a cytochrome P450 gene that catalyzes the formation of cyclo-DOPA. We performed phylogenetic analyses to reveal the evolutionary history of the DODA and CYP76AD1 lineages and in the context of an ancestral reconstruction of pigment states we explored the evolution of these genes in relation to the complex evolution of pigments in Caryophylalles. Duplications within the CYP76AD1 and DODA lineages arose just before the origin of betalain pigmentation in the core Caryophyllales. The duplications gave rise to DODA-α and CYP76AD1-α isoforms that appear specific to betalain synthesis. Both betalain-specific isoforms were then lost or downregulated in the anthocyanic Molluginaceae and Caryophyllaceae. Our findings suggest a single origin of the betalain synthesis pathway, with neofunctionalization following gene duplications in the CYP76AD1 and DODA lineages. Loss of DODA-α and CYP76AD1-α in anthocyanic taxa suggests that betalain pigmentation has been lost twice in Caryophyllales, and exclusion of betalain pigments from anthocyanic taxa is mediated through gene loss or downregulation. [Correction added after online publication 13 May 2015: in the last two paragraphs of the Summary the gene name CYP761A was changed to CYP76AD1.]
Two methods were developed for the generation of cisgenic apples. Both have been successfully applied producing trees. The first method avoids the use of any foreign selectable marker genes; only the gene-of-interest is integrated between the T-DNA border sequences. The second method makes use of recombinase-based marker excision. For the first method we used the MdMYB10 gene from a red-fleshed apple coding for a transcription factor involved in regulating anthocyanin biosynthesis. Red plantlets were obtained and presence of the cisgene was confirmed. Plantlets were grafted and grown in a greenhouse. After 3 years, the first flowers appeared, showing red petals. Pollination led to production of red-fleshed cisgenic apples. The second method used the pM(arker)F(ree) vector system, introducing the scab resistance gene Rvi6, derived from apple. Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, followed by selection on kanamycin, produced genetically modified apple lines. Next, leaves from in vitro material were treated to activate the recombinase leading to excision of selection genes. Subsequently, the leaf explants were subjected to negative selection for marker-free plantlets by inducing regeneration on medium containing 5-fluorocytosine. After verification of the marker-free nature, the obtained plants were grafted onto rootstocks. Young trees from four cisgenic lines and one intragenic line, all containing Rvi6, were planted in an orchard. Appropriate controls were incorporated in this trial. We scored scab incidence for three consecutive years on leaves after inoculations with Rvi6-avirulent strains. One cisgenic line and the intragenic line performed as well as the resistant control. In 2014 trees started to overcome their juvenile character and formed flowers and fruits. The first results of scoring scab symptoms on apple fruits were obtained. Apple fruits from susceptible controls showed scab symptoms, while fruits from cisgenic and intragenic lines were free of scab.
Nature Plants, Published online: 5 May 2015; | doi:10.1038/nplants.2015.67 ............ Some researchers already consider Arabidopsis as too complex an organism to help inform us about the fundamentals of plant biology and evolution. Plants whose common ancestor with trees and grasses was much more ancient than that of Arabidopsis are becoming popular subjects of investigation. The moss Physcomitrella patens, whose standard laboratory strain was collected from a wood near Cambridge, UK, in 1962, was the subject of over 500 publications in the past five years, while the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha could be the model plant du jour with 126 publications over the same period.
Physcomitrella patens, a haploid dominant plant, is fast becoming a useful molecular genetics and bioinformatics tool due to its key phylogenetic position as a bryophyte in the post-genomic era. Genome sequences from select reference species were compared bioinformatically to Physcomitrella patens using reciprocal blasts with the InParanoid software package. A reference protein interaction database assembled using MySQL by compiling BioGrid, BIND, DIP, and Intact databases was queried for moss orthologs existing for both interacting partners. This method has been used to successfully predict interactions for a number of angiosperm plants.
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