Arabidopsis Research Round-up

Back after our Christmas/New Year break, here’s a catch-up of the some of the new Arabidopsis papers to be published before Christmas. Today’s round-up features new work by scientists from the Universities of York, Leicester, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Leeds, and from the institutes Rothamsted Research and the James Hutton Institute.


Though it has been known for some time that the transcription factor PHYTOCHROME INTERACTING FACTOR4 (PIF4) regulates the growth response of Arabidopsis thaliana to elevated ambient temperature by activating hormonal modules, it is not known how, exactly, temperature regulates PIF4 activity. Using a forward genetic approach, this group of German researchers – with the help of Seth J. Davis from the University of York – provide evidence to suggest that seedling growth in response to elevated temperature is transcriptionally regulated by the DE-ETIOLATED 1 (DET1)-CONSTITUTIVE PHOTOMORPHOGENIC 1 (COP1)-ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL 5 (HY5)-dependent photomorphogensis pathway.


Working with Korean and American colleagues, David Twell from the University of Leicester was involved in this fascinating study of the mos7-5 mutant line of Arabidopsis thaliana. mos7-5  mutants experience ovule and pollen abortion in MOS7/mos7-5 heterozygous plants, and preglobular statge lethality in homozygous mos7-5 seeds. This study shoes that MOS7 is localized to the nuclear membrane but associated with the spindle apparatus during postmeiotic mitosis; in MOS7/mos7-5 heterozygotes, abortion is accompanied by a failure of spindle formation, cell fate specification and phragmoplast activity. These findings provide an important advance on current knowledge for plant scientists, but because the regulation of mitosis is highly conserved between plants and animals, it could be significant for animal researchers too.


Led by a French team, this J Ex Bot paper included work by Yassin Refahi of the Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge. Using Arabidopsis, the group studied the relationship between day length, the size of the shoot apical meristem, and the robustness of phyllotactic patterns. Among several patterns identified was the overall finding that robustness of the phyllotactic pattern is not optimal in the wild type plant, suggesting that it is regulated by day length; a new example of the link between plant patterning and its environment.


This Frontiers in Plant Science paper advances our basic understanding of the transcriptional effects of short-term sulphur starvation and re-supply in Arabidopsis thaliana; in turn this could have significance down the line for crop improvement. An international collaboration including Malcolm Hawkesford from Rothamsted Researchused a combination of transcriptomics and metabolomics analysis to not only identify the differential expression of 21 transcription factors in response to sulphur levels, but also to predict their downstream gene targets.


Gary Loake from the University of Edinburgh was involved in this Plant Cell paper, in which the mostly Chinese team identify that FRIGIDA – a scaffold protein involved in the recruitment of chromatin modifiers that cause epigenetic changes to regulate flowering genes – is degraded in a proteasome-mediated mechanism. The proteolysis mechanism is induced by WRKY34 and is dependent upon CULLIN3A.


Led by the Brady lab at UC Davis, this Nature paper also involved the work of Cambridge-based theoretical biophysicist, Sebastian Ahnert. The paper presents a novel protein–DNA network model showing the interactions between Arabidopsis thaliana transcription factors and secondary cell wall metabolite genes. This model allowed the group to develop and validate new hypotheses about secondary cell wall gene regulation under abiotic stress.


In terms of immunity, plants may respond very differently to phloem-feeding insects (PFIs) compared to chewing insects. Here, Christine Foyer from the University of Leeds, and Susan Verrall and Robert Hancock from the James Hutton Institute, provide a comprehensive transcriptomic analysis of Arabidopis thaliana when infested withMyzus persicae, Bemisa tabaci or Brevicoryne brassicae. Though an increase in transcripts associated with WRKY transcription factor genes is a common feature of PFI infestation, there is significant divergeance in secondary metabolism depending on the species of PFI. Nevertheless, this research suggests that plants recognize and respond to perturbations in the cell wall during PFI infestation.

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