Arabidopsis Research Roundup: Oct 28th

This latest Arabidopsis Research Roundup is rather GARNet-focused as members of the current Advisory Board lead three of the featured papers. Firstly we present a study into mechanisms that control meiotic recombination, which also includes a short audio-description from the lead author Dr Ian Henderson. Secondly we introduce a paper that identifies the function of a novel gene in the control of male fertility and thirdly, a study of a translation control-factor that is involved in regulation of cell size and ovule development. In addition we introduce some highly collaborative work that looks into the role of SUMO proteases in SA signaling. Finally there is a methods paper that presents a new protocol for measurement of cellulose content in Arabidopsis stems.

Yelina N, Lambing C, Hardcastle T, Zhao X, Santos B, Henderson I (2015) DNA methylation epigenetically silences crossover hot spots and controls chromosomal domains of meiotic recombination in Arabidopsis Genes & Dev. 29: 2183-2202

GARNet advisory board member Ian Henderson leads this study that assesses how methylation state influences the chromosomal regions that undergo meiotic recombination. It was previously known that highly-methylated regions, such as centromeres, do not often undergo recombination. This work naturally extends that knowledge by using RNA-directed DNA methylation to show that methylation of local euchromatic regions also have reduced recombination levels. Equally they show that global reductions in CG methylation, such as in met1 mutants, cause wide-scale alterations in recombination remodeling. Use of recombination mutants shows that these changes are due to the redistribution of interfering crossovers. Overall they confirm that DNA methylation is critical in establishing domains of meiotic recombination.

In this short audio file, Dr Henderson explains the main features of this paper.

Visscher AM, Belfield EJ, Vlad D, Irani N, Moore I, Harberd NP (2015) Overexpressing the Multiple-Stress Responsive Gene At1g74450 Reduces Plant Height and Male Fertility in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS One.;10(10):e0140368.

Ian Moore and Nick Harberd (Oxford), who is also on the GARNet Advisory Board,  present this investigation of five unknown genes that had been previously identified from global expression studies as playing a role in multiple stress-responses. These are somewhat unimaginatively identified by their ‘At’ numbers and even though they are each responsive to multiple stresses, mutants with a T-DNA insertion in any of these genes have no change in phenotype compared to wildtype plants. In contrast, overexpression of At1g74450, but no other of the tested genes, resulted in stunted growth and reduced male fertility. As the stress-response is often manifested by alterations in male gametophyte development, this work introduces the function of a gene that may provide an important link between multiple environmental factors, fertility and plant growth. In future the authors hope to provide further insight into the function of At1g74450.

Bush M, Crowe N, Zheng T, Doonan J (2015) The RNA helicase, eIF4A-1, is required for ovule development and cell size homeostasis in Arabidopsis Plant J.

John Doonan, another GARNet board member, leads this collaborative work between Aberystwyth and Norwich. They investigate the function of the RNA helicase/ATPase eIF4A-1 that is involved in the initiation of mRNA translation. Arabidopsis contains two isoforms of this genes and the knockdown eif4a-1 mutant displays a range of altered phenotypes that includes a reduction in the amount of mitotic cells in the root meristem. This change skews the relationship between cell size and cell cycle progression. Concomitantly several cell cycle-regulated genes have reduced expression in this mutant. Each of the eIF4A isoforms plays an important role in plant fertility as although single eif4a-1 mutants display some defects in ovule development, double eif4a1eif4a2 mutants cannot be isolated.

Bailey M, Srivastava A, Conti L, Nelis S, Zhang C, Florance H, Love A, Milner J, Napier R, Grant M, Sadanandom A (2015) Stability of small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) proteases OVERLY TOLERANT TO SALT1 and -2 modulates salicylic acid signalling and SUMO1/2 conjugation in Arabidopsis thaliana J Exp Bot.

This study of the SUMO proteases OVERLY TOLERANT TO SALT1 and -2 (OTS) is a real pan-UK collaboration that features researchers from six institutions, led by Ari Sadanandom at Durham. The OTS proteins have been previously linked to salicylic acid (SA) signaling and this manuscript shows that in addition to containing higher level of SA, ots1ots2 double mutants are more resistant to virulent Pseudomonas syringae. This is in part linked to an upregulation of the SA biosynthetic gene ICS1. In wildtype plants SA promotes degradation of OTS1/2, which indicates that these proteins are involved in a positive feedback loop that ensures a higher SA response, which increases the efficacy of certain defence responses. However de novo synthesis of OTS1/2 will be antagonistic to SA biosynthesis and provides a brake to prevent the over-accumulation of SA-responses.

Kumar M, Turner S (2015) Protocol: a medium-throughput method for determination of cellulose content from single stem pieces of Arabidopsis thaliana Plant Methods. 11:46.

Simon Turner (Manchester) is the lead author of this paper that presents a new method for determining cellulose content from Arabidopsis stems. This protocol is an adaptation of a previous method and uses aspiration rather than centrifugation for recovery of liquids throughout the procedure. This increases the throughout of the method and improves its potential usage as a screening protocol to identify mutants with altered cell wall composition.

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