Cereal grasses of the Triticeae tribe have been the major food source in temperate regions since the dawn of agriculture. Their large genomes are characterized by a high content of repetitive elements and large pericentromeric regions that are virtually devoid of meiotic recombination. Here we present a high-quality reference genome assembly for barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). We use chromosome conformation capture mapping to derive the linear order of sequences across the pericentromeric space and to investigate the spatial organization of chromatin in the nucleus at megabase resolution. The composition of genes and repetitive elements differs between distal and proximal regions. Gene family analyses reveal lineage-specific duplications of genes involved in the transport of nutrients to developing seeds and the mobilization of carbohydrates in grains. We demonstrate the importance of the barley reference sequence for breeding by inspecting the genomic partitioning of sequence variation in modern elite germplasm, highlighting regions vulnerable to genetic erosion.
Histone modifications and histone variants barcode the genome and play major roles in epigenetic regulations. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) coupled with next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a well-established method to investigate the landscape of epigenetic marks at a genomic level. Here, we describe procedures for conducting ChIP, subsequent NGS library construction, and data analysis on histone modifications and histone variants in Arabidopsis thaliana. We also describe an optimized nuclear isolation procedure to prepare chromatin for ChIP in the liverwort, Marchantia polymorpha, which is the emerging model plant ideal for evolutionary studies.
In legume nodules, rhizobia differentiate into nitrogen-fixing forms called bacteroids, which are enclosed by a plant membrane in an organelle-like structure called the symbiosome. In the Inverted Repeat-Lacking Clade (IRLC) of legumes, this differentiation is terminal due to irreversible loss of cell division ability and is associated with genome amplification and different morphologies of the bacteroids that can be swollen, elongated, spherical, and elongated–branched, depending on the host plant. In Medicago truncatula, this process is orchestrated by nodule-specific cysteine-rich peptides (NCRs) delivered into developing bacteroids. Here, we identified the predicted NCR proteins in 10 legumes representing different subclades of the IRLC with distinct bacteroid morphotypes. Analysis of their expression and predicted sequences establishes correlations between the composition of the NCR family and the morphotypes of bacteroids. Although NCRs have a single origin, their evolution has followed different routes in individual lineages, and enrichment and diversification of cationic peptides has resulted in the ability to impose major morphological changes on the endosymbionts. The wide range of effects provoked by NCRs such as cell enlargement, membrane alterations and permeabilization, and biofilm and vesicle formation is dependent on the amino acid composition and charge of the peptides. These effects are strongly influenced by the rhizobial surface polysaccharides that affect NCR-induced differentiation and survival of rhizobia in nodule cells.
Fungi have recently been found to comprise a significant part of the deep biosphere in oceanic sediments and crustal rocks. Fossils occupying fractures and pores in Phanerozoic volcanics indicate that this habitat is at least 400 million years old, but its origin may be considerably older. A 2.4-billion-year-old basalt from the Palaeoproterozoic Ongeluk Formation in South Africa contains filamentous fossils in vesicles and fractures. The filaments form mycelium-like structures growing from a basal film attached to the internal rock surfaces. Filaments branch and anastomose, touch and entangle each other. They are indistinguishable from mycelial fossils found in similar deep-biosphere habitats in the Phanerozoic, where they are attributed to fungi on the basis of chemical and morphological similarities to living fungi. The Ongeluk fossils, however, are two to three times older than current age estimates of the fungal clade. Unless they represent an unknown branch of fungus-like organisms, the fossils imply that the fungal clade is considerably older than previously thought, and that fungal origin and early evolution may lie in the oceanic deep biosphere rather than on land. The Ongeluk discovery suggests that life has inhabited submarine volcanics for more than 2.4 billion years.
Due to a large and growing collection of genomic and experimental resources, Brachypodium distachyon has emerged as a powerful experimental model for the grasses. To add to these resources we sequenced 21,165 T-DNA lines, 15,569 of which were produced in this study. This increased the number of unique insertion sites in the T-DNA collection by 21,078 bringing the overall total to 26,112. Thirty seven percent (9,754) of these insertion sites are within genes (including UTRs and introns) and 28% (7,217) are within 500 bp of a gene. Approximately 31% of the genes in the v2.1 annotation have been tagged in this population. To demonstrate the utility of this collection, we phenotypically characterized six T-DNA lines with insertions in genes previously shown in other systems to be involved in cellulose biosynthesis, hemicellulose biosynthesis, secondary cell wall development, DNA damage repair, wax biosynthesis, and chloroplast synthesis. In all cases, the phenotypes observed supported previous studies demonstrating the utility of this collection for plant functional genomics. The Brachypodium T-DNA collection can be accessed at http://jgi.doe.gov/our-science/science-programs/plant-genomics/brachypodium/brachypodium-t-dna-collection/.
Ca2+ serves as a universal second messenger in eukaryotic signaling pathways, and the spatial and temporal patterns of Ca2+ concentration changes are determined by feedback and feed-forward regulation of the involved transport proteins. Cyclic nucleotide-gated channels (CNGCs) are Ca2+-permeable channels that interact with the ubiquitous Ca2+ sensor calmodulin (CaM). CNGCs interact with CaMs via diverse CaM-binding sites, including an IQ-motif, which has been identified in the C-termini of CNGC20 and CNGC12. Here we present a family-wide analysis of the IQ-motif from all 20 Arabidopsis CNGC isoforms. While most of their IQ-peptides interacted with conserved CaMs in yeast, some were unable to do so, despite high sequence conservation across the family. We showed that the CaM-binding ability of the IQ-motif is highly dependent on its proximal and distal vicinity. We determined that two alanine residues positioned N-terminal to the core IQ-sequence play a significant role in CaM-binding, and identified a polymorphism at this site that promoted or inhibited CaM-binding in yeast. Through detailed biophysical analysis of the CNGC2 IQ-motif we found that this polymorphism specifically affected the Ca2+-independent interactions with the C-lobe of CaM. This same polymorphism partially suppressed the induction of programmed cell death by CNGC11/12 in planta. Our work expands the model of CNGC regulation, and posits the C-lobe of apo-CaM is permanently associated with the channel at the N-terminal part of the IQ-domain. This mode allows CaM to function as a Ca2+-sensing regulatory subunit of the channel complex, providing a mechanism by which Ca2+ signals may be fine-tuned.
The domestication history of rice remains controversial, with multiple studies reaching different conclusions regarding its origin(s). These studies have generally assumed that populations of living wild rice, O. rufipogon, are descendants of the ancestral population that gave rise to domesticated rice, but relatively little attention has been paid to the origins and history of wild rice itself. Here, we investigate the genetic ancestry of wild rice by analyzing a diverse panel of rice genomes consisting of 203 domesticated and 435 wild rice accessions. We show that most modern wild rice is heavily admixed with domesticated rice through both pollen- and seed-mediated gene flow. In fact, much presumed wild rice may simply represent different stages of feralized domesticated rice. In line with this hypothesis, many presumed wild rice varieties show remnants of the effects of selective sweeps in previously identified domestication genes, as well as evidence of recent selection in flowering genes possibly associated with the feralization process. Furthermore, there is a distinct geographical pattern of gene flow from aus, indica, and japonica varieties into colocated wild rice. We also show that admixture from aus and indica is more recent than gene flow from japonica, possibly consistent with an earlier spread of japonica varieties. We argue that wild rice populations should be considered a hybrid swarm, connected to domesticated rice by continuous and extensive gene flow.
Setaria viridis is a rapid-life-cycle model panicoid grass. To identify genes that may contribute to inflorescence architecture and thus have the potential to influence grain yield in related crops such as maize, we conducted an N-nitroso-N-methylurea (NMU) mutagenesis of S. viridis and screened for visible inflorescence mutant phenotypes. Of the approximately 2,700 M2 families screened, we identified four recessive sparse panicle mutants (spp1–spp4) characterized by reduced and uneven branching of the inflorescence. To identify the gene underlying the sparse panicle1 (spp1) phenotype, we performed bulked segregant analysis and deep sequencing to fine map it to an approximately 1 Mb interval. Within this interval, we identified disruptive mutations in two genes. Complementation tests between spp1 and spp3 revealed they were allelic, and deep sequencing of spp3 identified an independent disruptive mutation in SvAUX1 (AUXIN1), one of the two genes in the ∼1 Mb interval and the only gene disruption shared between spp1 and spp3. SvAUX1 was found to affect both inflorescence development and root gravitropism in S. viridis. A search for orthologous mutant alleles in maize confirmed a very similar role of ZmAUX1 in maize, which highlights the utility of S. viridis in accelerating functional genomic studies in maize.
As one of the earliest plant groups to evolve stomata, hornworts are key to understanding stomata origin and function. Hornwort stomata are large and scattered on sporangia that grow from their bases and release spores at their tips. We present data from development and immunocytochemistry that identify a role for hornwort stomata that is correlated with sporangial and spore maturation. We measured guard cells across the genera with stomata to assess developmental changes in size and to analyze any correlation with genome size. Stomata form at the base of the sporophyte in the green region, where they develop differential wall thickenings, form a pore and die. Guard cells collapse inwardly, increase in surface area and remain perched over a substomatal cavity and network of intercellular spaces that is initially fluid filled. Following pore formation, the sporophyte dries from the outside inwardly and continues to do so after guard cells die and collapse. Spore tetrads develop in spore mother cell walls within a mucilaginous matrix, both of which progressively dry before sporophyte dehiscence. A lack of correlation between guard cell size and DNA content, lack of arabinans in cell walls, and perpetually open pores are consistent with inactivity of hornwort stomata. Stomata are expendable in hornworts as they have been lost twice in derived taxa. Guard cells and epidermal cells of hornworts show striking similarities with the earliest plant fossils. Our findings identify an architecture and fate of stomata in hornworts that is ancient and common to plants without sporophytic leaves.
Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is an important staple food crop in Africa and South America; however, ubiquitous deleterious mutations may severely decrease its fitness. To evaluate these deleterious mutations, we constructed a cassava haplotype map through deep sequencing 241 diverse accessions and identified >28 million segregating variants. We found that (i) although domestication has modified starch and ketone metabolism pathways to allow for human consumption, the concomitant bottleneck and clonal propagation have resulted in a large proportion of fixed deleterious amino acid changes, increased the number of deleterious alleles by 26%, and shifted the mutational burden toward common variants; (ii) deleterious mutations have been ineffectively purged, owing to limited recombination in the cassava genome; (iii) recent breeding efforts have maintained yield by masking the most damaging recessive mutations in the heterozygous state but have been unable to purge the mutation burden; such purging should be a key target in future cassava breeding.
Nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ) is the process that protects the photosynthetic apparatus of plants and algae from photodamage by dissipating as heat the energy absorbed in excess. Studies on NPQ have almost exclusively focused on photosystem II (PSII), as it was believed that NPQ does not occur in photosystem I (PSI). Recently, Ballottari et al. [Ballottari M, et al. (2014) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111:E2431–E2438], analyzing PSI particles isolated from an Arabidopsis thaliana mutant that accumulates zeaxanthin constitutively, have reported that this xanthophyll can efficiently induce chlorophyll fluorescence quenching in PSI. In this work, we have checked the biological relevance of this finding by analyzing WT plants under high-light stress conditions. By performing time-resolved fluorescence measurements on PSI isolated from Arabidopsis thaliana WT in dark-adapted and high-light–stressed (NPQ) states, we find that the fluorescence kinetics of both PSI are nearly identical. To validate this result in vivo, we have measured the kinetics of PSI directly on leaves in unquenched and NPQ states; again, no differences were observed. It is concluded that PSI does not undergo NPQ in biologically relevant conditions in Arabidopsis thaliana. The possible role of zeaxanthin in PSI photoprotection is discussed.
Chloroplast and mitochondrial DNA encodes genes essential for photosynthesis and respiration, respectively. Thus, loss of organelle genomic DNA integrity leads to a decline in organelle function and to alteration of organelle genetic information. RECA (RECA1 and RECA2) and RECG, which are homologs of bacterial homologous recombination repair (HRR) factors RecA and RecG, respectively, play an important role in the maintenance of organelle genome integrity by suppressing aberrant recombination between short dispersed repeats (SDRs) in the moss Physcomitrella patens. On the other hand, MutS homolog 1 (MSH1), a plant-specific MSH with a C-terminal GIY-YIG endonuclease domain, is involved in the maintenance of organelle genome integrity in the angiosperm Arabidopsis thaliana. Here, we address the role of the duplicated MSH1 genes, MSH1A and MSH1B, in P. patens, in which MSH1A lacks the C-terminal endonuclease domain. MSH1A and MSH1B localized to both chloroplast and mitochondrial nucleoids in protoplast cells. Single and double knockout (KO) mutants of MSH1A and MSH1B showed no obvious morphological defects; however, MSH1B KO and double KO mutants, as well as MSH1B GIY-YIG deletion mutants, exhibited genomic instability due to recombination between SDRs in chloroplasts and mitochondria. Creating double KO mutations of each combination of MSH1B, RECA2, and RECG synergistically increased recombination between SDRs in chloroplasts and mitochondria. These results show the role of MSH1 in the maintenance of organelle genome integrity, and the genetic interaction between MSH1 and homologs of HRR factors in the basal land plant P. patens.
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a major crop and a member of the large, highly successful Compositae family of flowering plants. Here we present a reference assembly for the species and family. This was generated using whole-genome shotgun Illumina reads plus in vitro proximity ligation data to create large superscaffolds; it was validated genetically and superscaffolds were oriented in genetic bins ordered along nine chromosomal pseudomolecules. We identify several genomic features that may have contributed to the success of the family, including genes encoding Cycloidea-like transcription factors, kinases, enzymes involved in rubber biosynthesis and disease resistance proteins that are expanded in the genome. We characterize 21 novel microRNAs, one of which may trigger phasiRNAs from numerous kinase transcripts. We provide evidence for a whole-genome triplication event specific but basal to the Compositae. We detect 26% of the genome in triplicated regions containing 30% of all genes that are enriched for regulatory sequences and depleted for genes involved in defence.
The carbohydrate-rich cell walls of land plants and algae have been the focus of much interest given the value of cell wall based products to our current and future economies. Hydroxyproline-rich glycoproteins (HRGPs), a major group of wall glycoproteins, play important roles in plant growth and development, yet little is known about how they have evolved in parallel with the polysaccharide components of walls. We investigate the origins and evolution of the HRGP superfamily, which is commonly divided into three major multigene families: the arabinogalactan-proteins (AGPs), extensins (EXTs) and proline-rich proteins (PRPs). Using MAAB, a newly developed bioinformatics pipeline, we identified HRGPs in sequences from the 1000 plants (1KP) transcriptome project (www.onekp.com). Our analyses provide new insights into the evolution of HRGPs across major evolutionary milestones, including the transition to land and early radiation of angiosperms. Significantly, data mining reveals the origin of GPI-anchored AGPs in green algae and a 3-4 fold increase in GPI-AGPs in liverworts and mosses. The first detection of cross-linking (CL)-EXTs is observed in bryophytes, which suggest that CL-EXTs arose though the juxtaposition of pre-existing SPn EXT glycomotifs with refined Y-based motifs. We also detected the loss of CL-EXT in a few lineages, including the grass family (Poaceae), that have a cell wall composition distinct from other monocots and eudicots. A key challenge in HRGP research is tracking individual HRGPs throughout evolution. Using the 1KP output we were able to find putative orthologs of Arabidopsis pollen-specific GPI-AGPs in basal eudicots.
In plants, miR390 directs the production of tasiRNAs from TRANS-ACTING SIRNA 3 (TAS3) transcripts to regulate AUXIN RESPONSIVE FACTOR (ARF) genes, critical for auxin signaling; these tasiRNAs are known as tasiARFs. To understand the evolution of this miR390-TAS3-ARF pathway, we characterized homologs of these three genes from thousands of plant species, from bryophytes to angiosperms. We found the lower-stem region of MIR390 genes, critical for accurate DCL1 (DICER-LIKE 1) processing, is conserved in sequence in seed plants. We propose a model for the transition of functional tasiRNA sequences in TAS3 genes occurred at the emergence of vascular plants, in which the two miR390 target sites of TAS3 genes showed distinct pairing patterns. Based on the cleavability of miR390 target sites and the distance between target site and tasiARF we inferred a potential bidirectional processing mechanism exists for some TAS3 genes. We also demonstrated a tight mutual selection between tasiARF and its target genes, and that ARGONAUTE 7 (AGO7), the partner of miR390, was specified later than other factors in the pathway. All these data illuminate the evolutionary path of the miR390-TAS3-ARF pathway in land plants, and demonstrate the significant variation that occurs in this functionally important and archetypal regulatory circuit.
The phenomenon of de novo gene birth from junk DNA is surprising, because random polypeptides are expected to be toxic. There are two conflicting views about how de novo gene birth is nevertheless possible: the continuum hypothesis invokes a gradual gene birth process, whereas the preadaptation hypothesis predicts that young genes will show extreme levels of gene-like traits. We show that intrinsic structural disorder conforms to the predictions of the preadaptation hypothesis and falsifies the continuum hypothesis, with all genes having higher levels than translated junk DNA, but young genes having the highest level of all. Results are robust to homology detection bias, to the non-independence of multiple members of the same gene family and to the false positive annotation of protein-coding genes.
Lichens are highly specialized symbioses between heterotrophic fungi and photoautotrophic green algae or cyanobacteria. The mycobionts of many lichens produce morphologically complex thalli to house their photobionts. Lichens play important roles in ecosystems and have been used as indicators of environmental change. Here we report the finding of 152 new fossil lichens from European Palaeogene amber, and hence increase the total number of known fossil lichens from 15 to 167. Most of the fossils represent extant lineages of the Lecanoromycetes, an almost exclusively lichen-symbiotic class of Ascomycota. The fossil lichens show a wide diversity of morphological adaptations that attached epiphytic thalli to their substrates, helped to combine external water storage with effective gas exchange and facilitated the simultaneous reproduction and dispersal of both partners in symbiosis. The fossil thallus morphologies suggest that the climate of European Palaeogene amber forests was relatively humid and most likely temperate.
The maize genome experienced an ancient whole genome duplication approximately 10 million years ago and the duplicate subgenomes have since experienced reciprocal gene loss (fractionation) such that many genes have returned to single-copy status. This process has not affected the subgenomes equally; reduced gene expression in one of the subgenomes mitigates the consequences of mutations and gene deletions and is thought to drive higher rates of fractionation. Here we take advantage of published genome-wide SNP and phenotype association data to show that, in accordance with predictions of this model, paralogs with greater expression contribute more to phenotypic variation compared to their lowly expressed counterparts. Furthermore, paralogous genes in the least-fractionated subgenome account for a greater degree of phenotypic diversity than those resident on the more-fractionated subgenome. Intriguingly, analysis of singleton genes reveals this difference persists even after fractionation is complete. Additionally, we show that the two subgenomes of maize may differ in their epigenetic profiles.
Eukaryotic 14-3-3 proteins have been implicated in the regulation of diverse biological processes by phosphorylation-dependent protein-protein interactions. The Arabidopsis genome encodes two groups of 14-3-3s, one of which – epsilon – is thought to fulfill conserved cellular functions. Here, we assessed the in vivo role of the ancestral 14-3-3 epsilon group members. Their simultaneous and conditional repression by RNA interference and artificial microRNA in seedlings led to altered distribution patterns of the phytohormone auxin and associated auxin transport-related phenotypes, such as agravitropic growth. Moreover, 14-3-3 epsilon members were required for pronounced polar distribution of PIN-FORMED auxin efflux carriers within the plasma membrane. Defects in defined post-Golgi trafficking processes proved causal for this phenotype and might be due to lack of direct 14-3-3 interactions with factors crucial for membrane trafficking. Taken together, our data demonstrate a fundamental role for the ancient 14-3-3 epsilon group members in regulating PIN polarity and plant development.
Advances in genome sequencing and assembly technologies are generating many high-quality genome sequences, but assemblies of large, repeat-rich polyploid genomes, such as that of bread wheat, remain fragmented and incomplete. We have generated a new wheat whole-genome shotgun sequence assembly using a combination of optimized data types and an assembly algorithm designed to deal with large and complex genomes. The new assembly represents >78% of the genome with a scaffold N50 of 88.8 kb that has a high fidelity to the input data. Our new annotation combines strand-specific Illumina RNA-seq and Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) full-length cDNAs to identify 104,091 high-confidence protein-coding genes and 10,156 noncoding RNA genes. We confirmed three known and identified one novel genome rearrangements. Our approach enables the rapid and scalable assembly of wheat genomes, the identification of structural variants, and the definition of complete gene models, all powerful resources for trait analysis and breeding of this key global crop.
In Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco), nicotine is the predominant alkaloid. It is produced in the roots and accumulated mainly in the leaves. Jasmonates play a central signaling role in damage-induced nicotine formation. The genome sequence of tobacco provides us an almost complete inventory of structural and regulatory genes involved in nicotine pathway. Phylogenetic and expression analyses revealed a series of structural genes of the nicotine pathway, forming a regulon, under the control of jasmonate-responsive ERF transcription factors. The duplication of NAD and polyamine metabolic pathways and the subsequent recruitment of duplicated primary metabolic genes into the nicotine biosynthesis regulon were suggested to be the drivers for pyridine and pyrrolidine ring formation steps early in the pathway. Transcriptional regulation by ERF and cooperatively acting MYC2 transcription factors are corroborated with frequent occurrence of cognate cis-regulatory elements of the factors in the promoter regions of the downstream structural genes. The allotetraploid tobacco has homologous clusters of ERF genes on different chromosomes, which are possibly derived from two ancestral diploids and include either nicotine-controlling ERF189 or ERF199. A large chromosomal deletion was found within one allele of the nicotine-controlling NICOTINE2 locus, which is part of one of the ERF gene clusters, and which has been used to breed tobacco cultivars with a low-nicotine trait.
Evolution of carbon concentrating mechanisms appears complex. In the case of C4 photosynthesis an enabling mutation is thought to have formed an initial C4 cycle, which is then selected for flux and finally, high expression of photorespiratory genes is lost (summarized in Bräutigam and Gowik, 2016). However, in the case of CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism) photosynthesis, we suggest that evolution directly acts on a low flux pathway already in place for amino acid metabolism. We thus propose a true continuum from C3 to CAM plants.
The Venus flytrap Dionaea muscipula captures insects and consumes their flesh. Prey contacting touch-sensitive hairs trigger traveling electrical waves. These action potentials (APs) cause rapid closure of the trap and activate secretory functions of glands, which cover its inner surface. Such prey-induced haptoelectric stimulation activates the touch hormone jasmonate (JA) signaling pathway, which initiates secretion of an acidic hydrolase mixture to decompose the victim and acquire the animal nutrients. Although postulated since Darwin’s pioneering studies, these secretory events have not been recorded so far. Using advanced analytical and imaging techniques, such as vibrating ion-selective electrodes, carbon fiber amperometry, and magnetic resonance imaging, we monitored stimulus-coupled glandular secretion into the flytrap. Trigger-hair bending or direct application of JA caused a quantal release of oxidizable material from gland cells monitored as distinct amperometric spikes. Spikes reminiscent of exocytotic events in secretory animal cells progressively increased in frequency, reaching steady state 1 d after stimulation. Our data indicate that trigger-hair mechanical stimulation evokes APs. Gland cells translate APs into touch-inducible JA signaling that promotes the formation of secretory vesicles. Early vesicles loaded with H+ and Cl− fuse with the plasma membrane, hyperacidifying the “green stomach”-like digestive organ, whereas subsequent ones carry hydrolases and nutrient transporters, together with a glutathione redox moiety, which is likely to act as the major detected compound in amperometry. Hence, when glands perceive the haptoelectrical stimulation, secretory vesicles are tailored to be released in a sequence that optimizes digestion of the captured animal.
Plants produce diverse specialized metabolites (SMs), but the genes responsible for their production and regulation remain largely unknown, hindering efforts to tap plant pharmacopeia. Given that genes comprising SM pathways exhibit environmentally dependent co-regulation, we hypothesized that genes within a SM pathway would form tight associations (modules) with each other in co-expression networks, facilitating their identification. To evaluate this hypothesis, we used 10 global co-expression datasets, each a meta-analysis of hundreds to thousands of experiments, across eight plant species to identify hundreds of co-expressed gene modules per dataset. In support of our hypothesis, 15.3-52.6% of modules contained two or more known SM biosynthetic genes, and module genes were enriched in SM functions. Moreover, modules recovered many experimentally validated SM pathways, including all six known to form biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs). In contrast, bioinformatically predicted BGCs (i.e. those lacking an associated metabolite) were no more co-expressed than the null distribution for neighboring genes. These results suggest that most predicted plant BGCs are not genuine SM pathways and argue that BGCs are not a hallmark of plant specialized metabolism. We submit that global gene co-expression is a rich, largely untapped resource for discovering the genetic basis and architecture of plant natural products.
The formation of symbiotic nodule cells in Medicago truncatula is driven by successive endoreduplication cycles and transcriptional reprogramming in different temporal waves including the activation of more than 600 cysteine-rich NCR genes expressed only in nodules. We show here that the transcriptional waves correlate with growing ploidy levels and have investigated how the epigenome changes during endoreduplication cycles. Differential DNA methylation was found in only a small subset of symbiotic nodule-specific genes, including more than half of the NCR genes, whereas in most genes DNA methylation was unaffected by the ploidy levels and was independent of the genes’ active or repressed state. On the other hand, expression of nodule-specific genes correlated with ploidy-dependent opening of the chromatin as well as, in a subset of tested genes, with reduced H3K27me3 levels combined with enhanced H3K9ac levels. Our results suggest that endoreduplication-dependent epigenetic changes contribute to transcriptional reprogramming in the differentiation of symbiotic cells.
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