The capacity to synthesize betalains has arisen in diverse phylogenetic lineages across the Caryophyllales, and because betalainic plants often grow in deserts, sand dunes, or salt marshes, it is likely that these pigments confer adaptive advantages. However, possible functional roles of foliar betalains remain largely unexplored and are difficult to test experimentally. We adopted a novel approach to examine putative photoprotective roles of betalains in leaves for which chloroplast function has been compromised by salinity.Responses of l-DOPA-treated red shoots of Disphyma australe to high light and salinity were compared with those of naturally red- and green-leafed morphs. Betalain content and tyrosinase activity were measured, and Chl fluorescence profiles and H2O2 production were compared under white, red or green light.Green leaves lacked tyrosinase activity, but when supplied with exogenous l-DOPA they produced five betacyanins. Both the naturally red and l-DOPA-induced red leaves generated less H2O2 and showed smaller declines in photosystem II quantum efficiency than did green leaves when exposed to white or green light, although not when exposed to red light.Light screening by epidermal betalains effectively reduces the propensity for photoinhibition and photo-oxidative stress in subjacent chlorenchyma. This may assist plant survival in exposed and saline environments.
The plant hormone auxin regulates numerous aspects of plant growth and development. Early auxin response genes mediate its genomic effects on plant growth and development. Discovered in 1987, SMALL AUXIN UP RNAs (SAURs) are the largest family of early auxin response genes. SAUR functions have remained elusive, however, presumably due to extensive genetic redundancy. However, recent molecular, genetic, biochemical, and genomic studies have implicated SAURs in the regulation of a wide range of cellular, physiological, and developmental processes. Recently, crucial mechanistic insight into SAUR function was provided by the demonstration that SAURs inhibit PP2C.D phosphatases to activate plasma membrane (PM) H+-ATPases and promote cell expansion. In addition to auxin, several other hormones and environmental factors also regulate SAUR gene expression. We propose that SAURs are key effector outputs of hormonal and environmental signals that regulate plant growth and development.
The non-protein amino acid, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) rapidly accumulates in plant tissues in response to biotic and abiotic stress, and regulates plant growth. Until now it was not known whether GABA exerts its effects in plants through the regulation of carbon metabolism or via an unidentified signalling pathway. Here, we demonstrate that anion flux through plant aluminium-activated malate transporter (ALMT) proteins is activated by anions and negatively regulated by GABA. Site-directed mutagenesis of selected amino acids within ALMT proteins abolishes GABA efficacy but does not alter other transport properties. GABA modulation of ALMT activity results in altered root growth and altered root tolerance to alkaline pH, acid pH and aluminium ions. We propose that GABA exerts its multiple physiological effects in plants via ALMT, including the regulation of pollen tube and root growth, and that GABA can finally be considered a legitimate signalling molecule in both the plant and animal kingdoms.
Land plants develop filamentous cells—root hairs, rhizoids, and caulonemata—at the interface with the soil. Members of the group XI basic helix–loop–helix (bHLH) transcription factors encoded by LOTUS JAPONICUS ROOTHAIRLESS1-LIKE (LRL) genes positively regulate the development of root hairs in the angiosperms Lotus japonicus, Arabidopsis thaliana, and rice (Oryza sativa). Here we show that auxin promotes rhizoid and caulonema development by positively regulating the expression of PpLRL1 and PpLRL2, the two LRL genes in the Physcomitrella patens genome. Although the group VIII bHLH proteins, AtROOT HAIR DEFECTIVE6 and AtROOT HAIR DEFECTIVE SIX-LIKE1, promote root-hair development by positively regulating the expression of AtLRL3 in A. thaliana, LRL genes promote rhizoid development independently of PpROOT HAIR DEFECTIVE SIX-LIKE1 and PpROOT HAIR DEFECITVE SIX-LIKE2 (PpRSL1 and PpRSL2) gene function in P. patens. Together, these data demonstrate that both LRL and RSL genes are components of an ancient auxin-regulated gene network that controls the development of tip-growing cells with rooting functions among most extant land plants. Although this network has diverged in the moss and the angiosperm lineages, our data demonstrate that the core network acted in the last common ancestor of the mosses and angiosperms that existed sometime before 420 million years ago.
In the last decade, great progress has been made in clarifying the main determinants of anthocyanin accumulation in grape berry skin. However, the molecular details of the fine variation among cultivars, which ultimately contributes to wine typicity, are still not completely understood. To shed light on this issue, the grapes of 170 F1 progeny from the cross ‘Syrah’×’Pinot Noir’ were characterized at the mature stage for the content of 15 anthocyanins during four growing seasons. This huge data set was used in combination with a dense genetic map to detect genomic regions controlling the anthocyanin pathway both at key enzymatic points and at particular branches. Genes putatively involved in fine tuning the global regulation of anthocyanin biosynthesis were identified by exploring the gene predictions in the QTL (quantitative trait locus) confidence intervals and their expression profile during berry development in offspring with contrasting anthocyanin accumulation. New information on some aspects which had scarcely been investigated so far, such as anthocyanin transport into the vacuole, or completely neglected, such as acylation, is provided. These genes represent a valuable resource in grapevine molecular-based breeding programmes to improve both fruit and wine quality and to tailor wine sensory properties according to consumer demand.
Plants have evolved elaborate mechanisms for sensing and responding to sub-optimal environmental conditions. Abiotic stresses caused by these conditions trigger a wide range of local and long-distance signals which must be co-ordinated and integrated into whole-plant processes, such as development, in order for the plant to respond properly and survive. Several hormones function as key regulators of stress tolerance, connecting local stimuli to systemic responses. Cytokinin is a hormone well known for its role in numerous aspects of growth and development, although abundant evidence also indicates that cytokinin functions in stress responses as well. At present, a full understanding of the effects of cytokinin on plant resistance to stress is lacking, possibly as a result of the complex interactions between cytokinin and stress signalling. Current knowledge of the physiological relationship between cytokinin and abiotic stress, based on measurements of cytokinin levels under stress conditions and the effects of cytokinin treatment on stress tolerance, has been examined here. A pattern of transcriptional regulation of stress-related genes by cytokinin in different plant species has also been identified. In addition, research regarding the role of specific cytokinin signalling components in a variety of stress responses is presented. We discuss what this body of research collectively implies with regard to cross-talk between cytokinin and abiotic stress tolerance.
Until now, researchers believed farming was 'invented' some 12,000 years ago in an area that was home to some of the earliest known human civilizations. A new discovery offers the first evidence that trial plant cultivation began far earlier -- some 23,000 years ago.
Boea hygrometrica resurrection plants require a period of acclimation by slow soil-drying in order to survive a subsequent period of rapid desiccation. The molecular basis of this observation was investigated by comparing gene expression profiles under different degrees of water deprivation. Transcripts were clustered according to the expression profiles in plants that were air-dried (rapid desiccation), soil-dried (gradual desiccation), rehydrated (acclimated) and air-dried after acclimation. Although phenotypically indistinguishable, it was shown by principal component analysis that the gene expression profiles in rehydrated, acclimated plants resemble those of desiccated plants more closely than those of hydrated acclimated plants. Enrichment analysis based on gene ontology was performed to deconvolute the processes that accompanied desiccation tolerance. Transcripts associated with autophagy and α-tocopherol accumulation were found to be activated in both air-dried, acclimated plants and soil-dried non-acclimated plants. Furthermore, transcripts associated with biosynthesis of ascorbic acid, cell wall catabolism, chaperone-assisted protein folding, respiration and macromolecule catabolism were activated and maintained during soil-drying and rehydration. Based on these findings, we hypothesize that activation of these processes leads to the establishment of an optimal physiological and cellular state that enables tolerance during rapid air-drying. Our study provides a novel insight into the transcriptional regulation of critical priming responses to enable survival following rapid dehydration in B. hygrometrica.
Integrating carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and sulfur (S) metabolism is essential for the growth and development of living organisms. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play key roles in regulating nutrient metabolism in plants. However, how plant miRNAs mediate crosstalk between different nutrient metabolic pathways is unclear. In this study, deep sequencing of Arabidopsis thaliana small RNAs was used to reveal miRNAs that were differentially expressed in response to C, N, or S deficiency. Comparative analysis revealed that the targets of the differentially expressed miRNAs are involved in different cellular responses and metabolic processes, including transcriptional regulation, auxin signal transduction, nutrient homeostasis, and regulation of development. C, N, and S deficiency specifically induced miR169b/c, miR826 and miR395, respectively. In contrast, miR167, miR172, miR397, miR398, miR399, miR408, miR775, miR827, miR841, miR857, and miR2111 are commonly suppressed by C, N, and S deficiency. In particular, the miRNAs that are induced specifically by a certain nutrient deficiency are often suppressed by other nutrient deficiencies. Further investigation indicated that the modulation of nutrient-responsive miRNA abundance affects the adaptation of plants to nutrient starvation conditions. This study revealed that miRNAs function as important regulatory nodes of different nutrient metabolic pathways.
Public opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) remains strong. By contrast, studies demonstrate again and again that GM crops make a valuable contribution to the development of a sustainable type of agriculture. The discrepancy between public opinion and the scientific evidence requires an explanation. We argue that intuitive expectations about the world render the human mind vulnerable to particular misrepresentations of GMOs. We explain how the involvement of particular intuitions accounts for the popularity, persistence, and typical features of GM opposition and tackle possible objections to our approach. To conclude, we discuss the implications for science education, science communication, and the environmental movement.
Sexual reproduction in flowering plants offers a number of remarkable aspects to developmental biologists. First, the spore mother cells – precursors of the plant reproductive lineage – are specified late in development, as opposed to precocious germline isolation during embryogenesis in most animals. Second, unlike in most animals where meiosis directly produces gametes, plant meiosis entails the differentiation of a multicellular, haploid gametophyte, within which gametic as well as non-gametic accessory cells are formed. These observations raise the question of the factors inducing and modus operandi of cell fate transitions that originate in floral tissues and gametophytes, respectively. Cell fate transitions in the reproductive lineage imply cellular reprogramming operating at the physiological, cytological and transcriptome level, but also at the chromatin level. A number of observations point to large-scale chromatin reorganization events associated with cellular differentiation of the female spore mother cells and of the female gametes. These include a reorganization of the heterochromatin compartment, the genome-wide alteration of the histone modification landscape, and the remodeling of nucleosome composition. The dynamic expression of DNA methyltransferases and actors of small RNA pathways also suggest additional, global epigenetic alterations that remain to be characterized. Are these events a cause or a consequence of cellular differentiation, and how do they contribute to cell fate transition? Does chromatin dynamics induce competence for immediate cellular functions (meiosis, fertilization), or does it also contribute long-term effects in cellular identity and developmental competence of the reproductive lineage? This review attempts to review these fascinating questions.
Special Issue: Chromatin and epigenetics at the nexus between cell division, differentiation and development
Andres Zurita's insight:
It is now approximately 40 years since chromatin studies changed drastically with the first visualization of ‘nu bodies’, that we now know as nucleosomes. The ‘beads on a string’ that appeared in electron micrographs (Olins and Olins, 1974) showed the structural units of chromatin and provided the foundation for a field that has been expanding ever since then. One of the major advances in chromatin studies has been the identification of numerous connections between nucleosome organization, including the plethora of histone post-translational modifications, and gene function. Studies in an apparently different field, development of multicellular organisms, have also revealed that developmental transitions and organogenesis are strictly dependent on the establishment, maintenance and modification of highly regulated gene expression patterns. Therefore, efforts to learn about chromatin organization and function, gene expression and developmental transitions converge, contributing to provide a complete picture. In this Special Issue on ‘Chromatin and epigenetics at the nexus between cell division, differentiation and development’ we have gathered articles from leading scientists in their fields discussing a broad spectrum of topics relating chromatin structure and function with developmental transitions: the special organization and functional properties of centromeres and telomeres, genome maintenance and integrity, nucleosome remodeling and modification complexes, histone dynamics, epigenetic memory and chromatin during gametophyte development.
Circadian clocks are endogenous timers that enable plants to synchronize biological processes with daily and seasonal environmental conditions in order to allocate resources during the most beneficial times of day and year. The circadian clock regulates a number of central plant activities, including growth, development, and reproduction, primarily through controlling a substantial proportion of transcriptional activity and protein function. This review examines the roles that alleles of circadian clock genes have played in domestication and improvement of crop plants. The focus here is on three groups of circadian clock genes essential to clock function in Arabidopsis thaliana: PSEUDO-RESPONSE REGULATORs, GIGANTEA, and the evening complex genes EARLY FLOWERING 3, EARLY FLOWERING 4, and LUX ARRHYTHMO. Homologous genes from each group underlie quantitative trait loci that have beneficial influences on key agricultural traits, especially flowering time but also yield, biomass, and biennial growth habit. Emerging insights into circadian clock regulation of other fundamental plant processes, including responses to abiotic and biotic stresses, are discussed to highlight promising avenues for further crop improvement.
A global perspective on water management predominates in high-level policy discussions. This has the advantage that over-arching issues can be highlighted and international resources mobilized. But water issues arise from local conditions and can only be resolved by people and institutions with local authority and responsibility. High-level policies can only have meaningful impact if they are informed by and responsive to local and regional contexts. In keeping with the principle of subsidiarity, high-level policy-making should support local and regional interests, efforts, and policies.
One of the many ways that climate change may affect human health is by altering the nutrient content of food crops. However, previous attempts to study the effects of increased atmospheric CO2on crop nutrition have been limited by small sample sizes and/or artificial growing conditions. Here we present data from a meta-analysis of the nutritional contents of the edible portions of 41 cultivars of six major crop species grown using free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) technology to expose crops to ambient and elevated CO2 concentrations in otherwise normal field cultivation conditions. This data, collected across three continents, represents over ten times more data on the nutrient content of crops grown in FACE experiments than was previously available. We expect it to be deeply useful to future studies, such as efforts to understand the impacts of elevated atmospheric CO2 on crop macro- and micronutrient concentrations, or attempts to alleviate harmful effects of these changes for the billions of people who depend on these crops for essential nutrients.
Plants live in a social environment, with interactions among neighbours a ubiquitous aspect of life. Though many of these interactions occur in the soil, our understanding of how plants alter root growth and the patterns of soil occupancy in response to neighbours is limited. This is in contrast to a rich literature on the animal behavioural responses to changes in the social environment. For plants, root behavioural changes that alter soil occupancy patterns can influence neighbourhood size and the frequency or intensity of competition for soil resources; issues of fundamental importance to understanding coexistence and community assembly. Here we report a large comparative study in which individuals of 20 species were grown with and without each of two neighbour species. Through repeated root visualization and analyses, we quantified many putative root behaviours, including the extent to which each species altered aspects of root system growth (e.g. rooting breadth, root length, etc.) in response to neighbours. Across all species, there was no consistent behavioural response to neighbours (i.e. no general tendencies towards root over-proliferation nor avoidance). However, there was a substantial interspecific variation showing a continuum of behavioural variation among the 20 species. Multivariate analyses revealed two novel and predominant root behavioural strategies: (i) size-sensitivity, in which focal plants reduced their overall root system size in response to the presence of neighbours, and (ii) location-sensitivity, where focal plants adjusted the horizontal and vertical placement of their roots in response to neighbours. Of these, size-sensitivity represents the commonly assumed response to competitive encounters—reduced growth. However, location sensitivity is not accounted for in classic models and concepts of plant competition, though it is supported from recent work in plant behavioural ecology. We suggest that these different strategies could have important implications for the ability of a plant to persist in the face of strong competitors, and that location sensitivity may be a critical behavioural strategy promoting competitive tolerance and coexistence.
Deep rooting is a very important trait for plants’ drought avoidance, and it is usually represented by the ratio of deep rooting (RDR). Three sets of rice populations were used to determine the genetic base for RDR. A linkage mapping population with 180 recombinant inbred lines and an association mapping population containing 237 rice varieties were used to identify genes linked to RDR. Six quantitative trait loci (QTLs) of RDR were identified as being located on chromosomes 1, 2, 4, 7, and 10. Using 1 019 883 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), a genome-wide association study of the RDR was performed. Forty-eight significant SNPs of the RDR were identified and formed a clear peak on the short arm of chromosome 1 in a Manhattan plot. Compared with the shallow-rooting group and the whole collection, the deep-rooting group had selective sweep regions on chromosomes 1 and 2, especially in the major QTL region on chromosome 2. Seven of the nine candidate SNPs identified by association mapping were verified in two RDR extreme groups. The findings from this study will be beneficial to rice drought-resistance research and breeding.
Previous studies have indicated that hormonal control is essential for plant root growth. The root of the carrot is an edible vegetable with a high nutritional value. However, molecular mechanisms underlying hormone-mediated root growth of carrot have not been illustrated. Therefore, the present study collected carrot root samples from four developmental stages, and performed transcriptome sequencing to understand the molecular functions of plant hormones in carrot root growth. A total of 160,227 transcripts were generated from our transcriptome, which were assembled into 32,716 unigenes with an average length of 1,453 bp. A total of 4,818 unigenes were found to be differentially expressed between the four developmental stages. In total, 87 hormone-related differentially expressed genes were identified, and the roles of the hormones are extensively discussed. Our results suggest that plant hormones may regulate carrot root growth in a phase-dependent manner, and these findings will provide valuable resources for future research on carrot root development.
Plant genomes encode numerous small secretory peptides (SSPs) whose functions have yet to be explored. Based on structural features that characterize SSP families known to take part in postembryonic development, this comparative genome analysis resulted in the identification of genes coding for oligopeptides potentially involved in cell-to-cell communication. Because genome annotation based on short sequence homology is difficult, the criteria for the de novo identification and aggregation of conserved SSP sequences were first benchmarked across five reference plant species. The resulting gene families were then extended to 32 genome sequences, including major crops. The global phylogenetic pattern common to the functionally characterized SSP families suggests that their apparition and expansion coincide with that of the land plants. The SSP families can be searched online for members, sequences and consensus (http://bioinformatics.psb.ugent.be/webtools/PlantSSP/). Looking for putative regulators of root development, Arabidopsis thaliana SSP genes were further selected through transcriptome meta-analysis based on their expression at specific stages and in specific cell types in the course of the lateral root formation. As an additional indication that formerly uncharacterized SSPs may control development, this study showed that root growth and branching were altered by the application of synthetic peptides matching conserved SSP motifs, sometimes in very specific ways. The strategy used in the study, combining comparative genomics, transcriptome meta-analysis and peptide functional assays in planta, pinpoints factors potentially involved in non-cell-autonomous regulatory mechanisms. A similar approach can be implemented in different species for the study of a wide range of developmental programmes.
It is the plant’s autotrophic photosynthetic abilities that allow it to survive in its original location without the need to move its whole life, but it is continuously exposed to changes in environmental conditions, which at times can be very severe. To tackle the many environmental challenges directly, plants have evolved several environmental sensing systems and physiological mechanisms of adaptation (Taiz et al. 2015). Such environmental factors include light, temperature, gravity, water, nutrients, heavy metals, salt, herbivore insects and animals, and pathogens. In nature, plants may face any of those multiple factors at the same one time.
About 10% of a plant’s genome is devoted to generating the protein machinery to synthesize, remodel, and deconstruct the cell wall. High-throughput genome sequencing technologies have enabled a reasonably complete inventory of wall-related genes that can be assembled into families of common evolutionary origin. Assigning function to each gene family member has been aided immensely by identification of mutants with visible phenotypes or by chemical and spectroscopic analysis of mutants with ‘invisible’ phenotypes of modified cell wall composition and architecture that do not otherwise affect plant growth or development. This review connects the inference of gene function on the basis of deviation from the wild type in genetic functional analyses to insights provided by modern analytical techniques that have brought us ever closer to elucidating the sequence structures of the major polysaccharide components of the plant cell wall.
Light from the sun contains far-red, visible and ultra violet (UV) wavelength regions. Almost all plant species have been evolved under the light environment. Interestingly, several photoreceptors, expressing both in shoots and roots, process the light information during the plant life cycle. Surprisingly, Arabidopsis root apices express besides the UVR8 UV-B receptor, also root-specific UV-B sensing proteins RUS1 and RUS2 linked to the polar cell–cell transport of auxin. In this mini-review, we focus on reactive oxygen species (ROS) signaling and possible roles of pectins internalized via endocytic vesicle recycling system in the root-specific UV-B perception and ROS homeostasis.
Chromatin plays a central role in orchestrating gene regulation at the transcriptional level. However, our understanding of how chromatin states are altered in response to environmental and developmental cues, and then maintained epigenetically over many cell divisions, remains poor. The floral repressor gene FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) in Arabidopsis thaliana is a useful system to address these questions. FLC is transcriptionally repressed during exposure to cold temperatures, allowing studies of how environmental conditions alter expression states at the chromatin level. FLC repression is also epigenetically maintained during subsequent development in warm conditions, so that exposure to cold may be remembered. This memory depends on molecular complexes that are highly conserved among eukaryotes, making FLC not only interesting as a paradigm for understanding biological decision-making in plants, but also an important system for elucidating chromatin-based gene regulation more generally. In this review, we summarize our understanding of how cold temperature induces a switch in the FLC chromatin state, and how this state is epigenetically remembered. We also discuss how the epigenetic state of FLC is reprogrammed in the seed to ensure a requirement for cold exposure in the next generation.
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