Arabidopsis Research Roundup: August 19th

This weeks Arabidopsis Research Roundup includes broad representation from Norwich Research Park with Caroline Dean, Enrico Coen and Cyril Zipfel each leading studies that focus respectively on the regulation of transcriptional state, auxin patterning that defines leaf shape or the molecular basis of the PAMP response.

Elsewhere Liam Dolan (Oxford) leads, and Malcolm Bennett (CPIB) is the principal UK contributor on studies that look into different aspects of the key molecular signals in either root hair or lateral root development.

Finally Richard Napier is a co-author on a study that better characterises the molecular basis of the well-used plant growth inhibitor MDCA.

Yang H, Howard M, Dean C (2016) Physical coupling of activation and derepression activities to maintain an active transcriptional state at FLC PNAS

Dame Caroline Dean and Martin Howard (JIC) lead this follow-on work from a paper highlighted in an ARR from the start of 2016. Here they use the FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) locus as a model to study the trans factors that control methylation state. They find a physical interaction between the H3K36 methyltransferase SDG8 (which promotes the active H3K36me3 mark) and the H3K27me3 demethylase ELF6 (which removes the silencing H3K27me3 mark). SDG8 also associated with RNA polymerase II and the PAF1 transcriptional regulatory complex. Therefore the authors suggest that the addition of active histone marks coincides with transcription at the locus whilst SDG8 and ELF6 exhibit co-dependent localisation to FLC chromatin. Therefore this interaction links activation and derepression and coordinates active transcription whilst preventing ectopic silencing.

Abley K, Sauret-Güeto S, Marée AF, Coen E (2016) Formation of polarity convergences underlying shoot outgrowths. Elife.

Open Access
Enrico Coen (JIC) is the corresponding author on this investigation that had generated models that predict locations of leaf outgrowth linked to auxin biosynthesis and transport. They use live imaging in wildtype and kanadi1kanadi2 mutants to show that the cellular polarity of the PIN1 auxin transporter is orientated so as to move auxin away from regions with high levels of biosynthesis. In turn, this moves auxin toward regions with high expression of AUX/LAX auxin importers. This data allows the generation of detailed models that describe the processes that control auxin-mediated tissue-patterning (and are impossible to describe in a single paragraph).

Couto D, Niebergall R, Liang X, Bücherl CA, Sklenar J, Macho AP, Ntoukakis V, Derbyshire P, Altenbach D, Maclean D, Robatzek S, Uhrig J, Menke F, Zhou JM, Zipfel C (2016) The Arabidopsis Protein Phosphatase PP2C38 Negatively Regulates the Central Immune Kinase BIK1 PLoS Pathog.

Open Access

Cyril Zipfel is the lead investigator on this study that links researchers at TSL with colleagues in China and Germany. The focus of this work is the cytoplasmic kinase BIK1, which is a target of several pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that are involved in the defence response, and the novel protein phosphatase PP2C38, which acts as a negative regulator of BIK1. Under non-inductive conditions PP2C38 prevents BIK1 activity but following pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMP) perception, it is phosphorylated and dissociates from BIK1, allowing full activity. This study provides another layer of detail into the complex central immune response that allows plants to response to a vast array of pathogenic microorganisms.

Goh T, Toyokura K, Wells DM, Swarup K, Yamamoto M, Mimura T, Weijers D, Fukaki H, Laplaze L, Bennett MJ, Guyomarc’h S (2016) Quiescent center initiation in the Arabidopsis lateral root primordia is dependent on the SCARECROW transcription factor Development.

Open Access

Malcolm Bennett and Darren Wells (CPIB) are authors on this international collaboration that links UK, Japanese, French and Dutch researchers. The essential role of the central organizer center (the quiescent center, QC) is well known in primary root meristem development but its role during lateral root (LR) formation remained unclear. LR formation is characterised by biphasic growth that involves early morphogenesis from the central stele and subsequent LR meristem formation. This study uses 3D imaging to demonstrate that LR QC cells originate from outer cell layers of early primordial, in a SCARECROW (SCR) dependent manner. Perturbing SCR function causes incorrect formation of the LR QC and prevents wildtype LR patterning. The manuscript also contains some excellent videos of growing LRs that are very informative.
AUX1-YFPKim CM, Dolan L (2016) ROOT HAIR DEFECTIVE SIX-LIKE Class I Genes Promote Root Hair Development in the Grass Brachypodium distachyon PLoS Genet. Open Access

This study comes from Liam Dolan’s lab at the University of Oxford and moves their research focus on root hair development from Arabidopsis into the grass Brachypodium distachyon. ROOT HAIR DEFECTIVE SIX-LIKE (RSL) class I basic helix loop helix genes are expressed in cells that develop root hair fate in Arabidopsis and this study indentifies 3 RSl1 genes in Brachypodium which, when ecoptically expressed, are sufficient for the development of root hairs in all cell files. The function of these RSL proteins is conserved as the Brachypodium versions are able to restore a wildtype phenotype to root hair-less Arabidopsis mutants. Even though root hair patterning is significantly different in Brachypodium and Arabidopsis, this study shows the role of the RSL genes is conserved.
Steenackers WJ, Cesarino I, Klíma P, Quareshy M, Vanholme R, Corneillie S, Kumpf RP, Van de Wouwer D, Ljung K, Goeminne G, Novak O, Zažímalová E, Napier RM, Boerjan WA, Vanholme B (2016) The allelochemical MDCA inhibits lignification and affects auxin homeostasis. Plant Physiology

Open Access

Richard Napier (Warwick) is the UK PI on this pan-European study that investigates the molecular basis behind the physiological role of the compound phenylpropanoid 3,4-(methylenedioxy)cinnamic acid (MDCA), which inhibits the phenylpropanoid pathway, important in lignin formation. MDCA causes inhibition of primary root growth and increase proliferation of lateral roots, not through lignin perturbation but due to a disruption in auxin homeostasis. MS analysis demonstrates that MDCA causes overall changes in auxin biosynthesis, conjugation and catabolism, similar to changes observed in mutants involved in the phenylpropanoid pathways. These result link auxin and phenylpropanoid biosynthesis pathways and provide a new explanation for the well demonstrated phytotoxic properties of MDCA.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: July 19th

There are six papers in this weeks Arabidopsis Research Roundup. Two of these include research on the stomatal patterning gene TMM. Firstly a White Rose consortium investigates the ancestral basis of stomatal patterning, whilst a Glasgow-based study investigates the relationship between patterning and the dynamics of guard cell opening. The GARNet committee is represented by work from Cardiff that looks at the relationship between seed size and shoot branching and also from Cambridge in research that studies meiotic recombination in genomic regions important for pathogen defense. Finally are two studies that look into aspects of root and shoot patterning and include co-authors from CPIB in Nottingham or the John Innes Centre.

Caine R, Chater CC, Kamisugi Y, Cuming AC, Beerling DJ, Gray JE, Fleming AJ (2016) An ancestral stomatal patterning module revealed in the non-vascular land plant Physcomitrella patens Development Open Access

This study is a collaboration between labs in Sheffield and Leeds, led by Andrew Fleming (Sheffield). They investigate the role that the signalling module comprised of Epidermal Patterning Factors (EPFs), ERECTA and TMM play during the evolution of stomatal patterning. This module is known to play an important role in Arabidopsis and in this study the authors show that the moss Physcomitrella patens contains homologs of each of the genes and that they perform the same function. When P.paten versions of these genes are transferred to equivalent Arabidopsis mutants they show conserved function demonstrating that this module is an example of an ancestral patterning system.

Andrew Fleming provides a brief audio description of this manuscript:

Papanatsiou M, Amtmann A, Blatt MR (2016) Stomatal spacing facilitates guard cell ion transport independent of the epidermal solute reservoir. Plant Physiol. Open Access

Mike Blatt and Anna Amtmann (University of Glasgow) are the co-supervisors for this study into the relationshop between ion transport in stomatal guard cells and their physical positioning within a leaf. They used a genetic approach to assess the effect of stomatal clustering, showing that too many mouths (tmm) mutant plants have reduced stomatal movements associated with alterations in K+ channel gating and coincident with a surprising reduction in the level of K+ ions in guard cells. These results underline the importance of stomatal spacing in this process but do not provide a full explanation into the alteration in K+ ion dynamics.

Sornay E, Dewitte W, Murray JAH (2016) Seed size plasticity in response to embryonic lethality conferred by ectopic CYCD activation is dependent on plant architecture Plant Signaling and Behaviour e1192741 Open Access


This research comes from the lab of GARNet PI Jim Murray (Cardiff) and investigates cell proliferation and growth within a developing seed. They previously have shown that targeting of D-type cyclin CYCD7;1 to the central cell and early endosperm can trigger nuclear divisions and ovule abortion, which leads to a smaller number of larger seed. In this study they show that development of larger seed in transgenic plants is influenced by the architecture of the mother, as plants with increased side branches, caused by pruning of the main stem, do not generate this phenotype. This is indicative of a close relationship between the amount of resources allocated to different parts of the plant and that a transgenic effect was altered by a different plant morphology. This should provide an important insight into future work that aims to define the effect of any particular transgenic alteration.

Choi K, Reinhard C, Serra H, Ziolkowski PA,, Underwood CJ,, Zhao X, Hardcastle TJ, Yelina NE, Griffin C, Jackson M, Mézard C, McVean G, Copenhaver GP,, Henderson IR (2016) Recombination Rate Heterogeneity within Arabidopsis Disease Resistance Genes. PLoS Genet. 12(7):e1006179. Open Access

GARNet advisory board member Ian Henderson (Cambridge) is the corresponding author of this study that involves contributions from the UK, US, Poland and France. They investigate genomic regions that show increased meiotic recombination, which is predicted to occur coincident with genes involved in pathogen defence given their requirement to adapt to new external challenges. This study focuses on NBS-LRR domain proteins that tend to physically cluster in the Arabidopsis genome. Interesting they discovered both hot and coldspots for meiotic recombination that associate with NBS-LRR clusters, the later often correlating with structural heterozygosity. In a more detailed dissection of 1000 crossovers in the RESISTANCE TO ALBUGO CANDIDA1 (RAC1) R hotspot, they discovered higher recombination frequencies associating with known sequence motifs important for the pathogen response, which were influenced by ecotype-specific factors. Ultimately the authors note that there is a complex relationship between regions of meiotic recombination, structural heterozygosity and the evolutionary pressures that occurs with host-pathogen relationships.

Orman-Ligeza B, Parizot B, de Rycke R, Fernandez A, Himschoot E, Van Breusegem F, Bennett MJ, Périlleux C, Beeckman T, Draye X (2016) RBOH-mediated ROS production facilitates lateral root emergence in Arabidopsis. Development Open Access


 Malcolm Bennett (CPIB) is the sole UK-based co-author on this study led by Belgian collaborators and investigates the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in auxin-regulated lateral root (LR) formation. They show that ROS can reactivate LR primordia and pre-branch sites, resulting in increased LR numbers. This occurs in both wildtype and in auxin mutants that have reduced numbers due to changes in auxin-mediated cell wall remodeling. ROS is deposited in the apoplast of emerging LR cells in a pattern that is coincident with the expression of the RESPIRATORY BURST OXIDASE HOMOLOGS (RBOH) genes. Concomitantly the altered expression of RBOH was shown to affect the development and emergence of LRs. This adds a further level of complexity to the current understanding of the signaling factors that converge to facilitate LR growth.


Shi B,, Zhang C, Tian C, Wang J,, Wang Q,, Xu T,, Xu Y, Ohno C, Sablowski R, Heisler MG, Theres K, Wang Y, Jiao Y (2016) Two-Step Regulation of a Meristematic Cell Population Acting in Shoot Branching in Arabidopsis. PLoS Genet. Open Access

This Chinese-led study includes Robert Sablowski (JIC) as a co-author and studies the factors that influence the development of axillary meristems. They use innovative live imaging to show that SHOOT MERISTEMLESS (STM) is continuously expressed and that this dependent on a leaf axil auxin minimum. Once STM expression is lost then the axil is unable to form a meristem even if STM is switched back later in development, indicating that cells undergo an irreversible developmental commitment. The expression domain of STM is under cell-type specific control of REVOLUTA (REV) DNA binding. Overall this study demonstrates that meristematic competence and initiation is dependent on differing levels of the key regulator STM.


Arabidopsis Research Report: May 26th

This weeks Arabidopsis Research Roundup includes six studies across a range of discplines. Firstly Alison Smith provides an excellent audio description of an investigation into the dynamics of night-time starch degradation.

Secondly three UK institutions (Durham, Exeter and Oxford Brookes) participate in a study of VAP27 membrane network proteins. Next a broad collaboration from CPIB in Nottingham then introduce a multi-scale model that helps describe Arabidopsis root development.

We also include two studies that involve collaborations with Korean researchers: Gary Loake is a contributor on a study that introduces plant RALF genes whilst Ian Henderson’s research group participates in a study into the function of the SWR1 complex in miRNA gene expression. Finally we highlight a new Plant Cell teaching tool put together by UK academics from Hull and Bristol.

Feike D, Seung D, Graf A, Bischof S, Ellick T, Coiro M, Soyk S, Eicke S, Mettler-Altmann T, Lu KJ, Trick M, Zeeman SC, Smith AM (2016) The starch granule-associated protein EARLY STARVATION1 (ESV1) is required for the control of starch degradation in Arabidopsis thaliana leaves Plant Cell Open Access

This UK and Swiss study is led by Alison Smith from the John Innes Centre and investigates starch degradation that occurs during nighttime. They developed a novel screen to identify an uncharacterized mutant called early starvation 1 (esv1) that more rapidly degraded starch so that it is exhausted earlier in the night. They found that ESV1 and the related LESV1 proteins associated with starch granules within the chloroplast stroma. The authors propose that these proteins influence the organisation of the starch granule matrix, facilitating access for starch-degrading enzymes. In addition they also show that this function appears to be conserved throughout all starch-synthesizing organisms.

Professor Smith provides an audio description of this paper:

Wang P, Richardson C, Hawkins TJ, Sparkes I, Hawes C, Hussey PJ (2016) Plant VAP27 proteins: domain characterization, intracellular localization and role in plant development. New Phytol. 210(4):1311-1326

This cell biology-focused study is a collaboration between the Universities of Exeter, Durham and Oxford Brookes and investigates vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated proteins (VAPs), which form part of the network that links the plasma membrane and ER. The Arabidopsis genome contains 10 VAP homologues (VAP27-1 to -10) split into 3 clades. Members of clades I and II localise to both ER as well as to ER/PM contact sites (EPCSs) whilst clade II members are only found at the PM, all discovered through transient expression experiments in tobacco. Interestingly the localisation to the EPCSs is associated with the cytoskeleton but does not require the presence of that underlying structure. These proteins are expressed in most cell types and when their levels are altered, plants show pleiotropic phenotypes. Overall this study shows that VAP27 proteins are required for ER-cytoskeleton interactions that are critical for normal plant development.

Muraro D, Larrieu A, Lucas M, Chopard J, Byrne H, Godin C, King J (2016) A multi-scale model of the interplay between cell signalling and hormone transport in specifying the root meristem of Arabidopsis thaliana. J Theor Biol. S0022-5193(16)30070-4


This investigation was performed at CPIB in Nottingham in collaboration with the Virtual Plant Project in Montpellier and is led by John King. The authors have developed a multi-scale computational model that allows the study of signalling networks that occurs during Arabidopsis root growth. This model was experimentally tested to investigate how it is affected by hormonal changes during root growth. The model was able to identify two novel mutants that significantly alter root length through perturbations in meristem size. In general this study demonstrates the value of multi-scale modeling as part of the process of evaluating the function of the components that define the formation of the root meristem.

Sharma A, Hussain A, Mun BG, Imran QM, Falak N, Lee SU, Kim JY, Hong JK, Loake GJ, Ali A, Yun BW (2016) Comprehensive analysis of plant rapid alkalization factor (RALF) genes Plant Physiol Biochem. 106:82-90

This Korean-led study includes a contribution from Gary Loake from the University of Edinburgh and is the first comprehensive investigation of Rapid alkalization factor (RALF) proteins across plant species. These RALF proteins are thought to be important signalling molecules in plant defense and development. This study provides information on gene structure, subcellular locations, conserved motifs, protein structure, protein-ligand interactions and promoter analysis across Arabidopsis, rice, maize and soybean. The RALF genes are phylogenetically divided into 7 clades and their mRNA upregulation following nitrosative and oxidative stresses suggests that they are function in responding to changes in cellular redox status. Overall this manuscript provides a valuable resource to prime future research into the role of RALF genes.

Choi K, Kim J, Müller SY, Oh M, Underwood C, Henderson I, Lee I (2016) Regulation of microRNA-mediated developmental changes by the SWR1 chromatin remodeling complex in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Physiol.

GARNet committee member Ian Henderson (Cambridge) is a contributor on this study that is led by researchers in Seoul, South Korea. In the last ARR, Vinod Kumar described work that looked into the role of the SWR1 chromatin-remodeling complex and this study provides an insight into the role of this same SWR1 complex on microRNA (miRNA)-mediated transcriptional control. In SWR1 complex mutants (arp6, sef, and pie1), deep sequencing revealed that many miRNA types and their target mRNAs are misregulated. This further establishes the role of the SWR1 complex in the control of nucleosome occupancy, likely by mediating the exchange of H2A isoforms, for a range of genes involved in the fine-tuning of numerous developmental processes.

Hubbard, K, Dodd, A. (2016). Rhythms of Life: The Plant Circadian Clock. Teaching Tools in Plant Biology: Lecture Notes.

Katherine Hubbard and Anthony Dodd have produced a teaching resource focused on the Circadian Clock as part of the increasingly comprehensive Plant Cell Teaching Tools. Most academics are looking to save time and this resource will allow them to do this and provides excellent coverage of the topic.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: February 17th

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Published on: February 16, 2016

This weeks Arabidopsis Research Roundup features papers that build upon the history of research in each featured lab. Firstly Gareth Jenkins from Glasgow continues to investigate mechanisms of UV-B signaling whilst Laila Moubayidin, now at the JIC, is involved in work that investigates the multiple factors that control root meristem size. Finally we present a three protocol papers that are featured in a new colelction of articles that focus on protocols that can be used to assess different environmental responses.

Findlay KM, Jenkins GI (2016) Regulation of UVR8 photoreceptor dimer/monomer photo-equilibrium in Arabidopsis plants grown under photoperiodic conditions. Plant Cell Environment Open Access
The research group led by Gareth Jenkins (Glasgow) continues their work on the plant response to UV in this study that investigates the binding patterns of the UVR8 protein. UVR8 mediates the plant response to UV-B light and the protein either exists in a monomeric (active) or dimeric (inactive) form. This study shows that UVR8 maintains dimer/monomer photo-equilibrium through diurnal photoperiods and that the REPRESSOR OF UV-B PHOTOMORPHOGENESIS 1 (RUP1) and RUP2 proteins are necessary for maintaining this equilibrium. Interestingly they show that the UVR8 balance is tipped toward the monomeric form in lower temperatures. This shows that the protein does not act as a simple switch to signal for changes in UV-B as its effect is influenced by environmental parameters outside of the light source.

Moubayidin L, Salvi E, Giustini L, Terpstra I, Heidstra R, Costantino P, Sabatini S (2016) A SCARECROW-based regulatory circuit controls Arabidopsis thaliana meristem size from the root endodermis Planta Open Access

Laila Moubayidin now works as a postdoc with Lars Ostergaard at the JIC but this work is the result of research conducted with Sabrina Sabatini in Rome. In this study they continue the labs investigation into the role of the SCARECROW (SCR) protein in the control of root meristem size. They show that SCR, from endodermal cells, sustains a gibberellic acid signal by regulating RGA REPRESSOR OF ga1-3 (RGA) protein stability. This in turn controls the activity of the cytokinin responsive transcription factor ARR1 at the root transition zone. This activity therefore maintains a balance of cell division and differentiation that maintains correct meristem size.

A new edition of ‘Methods in Molecular Biology’ focuses on ‘Environmental Responses in Plants and includes a number of papers featuring UK authors who work on Arabidopsis.

Hydrotropism: Analysis of the Root Response to a Moisture Gradient’ that features Malcolm Bennett from CPIB in Nottingham.

Monitoring Alternative Splicing Changes in Arabidopsis Circadian Clock Genes’ from the group of John Brown at the James Hutton in Dundee

Assessing the Impact of Photosynthetic Sugars on the Arabidopsis Circadian Clock’ from the lab of Alex Webb in Cambridge.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: February 9th

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Published on: February 9, 2016

It has been a quiet couple of weeks for newly published UK Arabidopsis Research but what might be lacking in quantity is made up for in quality! Firstly the PRESTA consortium use gene regulatory network analysis to identify a key component in the response to drought stress. Secondly is a paper featuring researchers from Rothamstead that identifies a new molecular participant in the control of RNA surveillance. Thirdly is a paper that investigates the function of aquaporins during lateral root emergence and includes researchers from Warwick and Nottingham. Finally is a study from Sheffield that investigates necrotropic and biotropic strategies employed by an ascomycete pathogen. It is also nice to observe that each of these papers are open access.

Bechtold U, Penfold CA, Jenkins DJ, Legaie R, Moore JD, Lawson T, Matthews JS, Vialet-Chabrand SR, Baxter L, Subramaniam S, Hickman R, Florance H, Sambles C, Salmon DL, Feil R, Bowden L, Hill C, Baker NR, Lunn JE, Finkenstadt B, Mead A, Buchanan-Wollaston V, Beynon JL, Rand DA, Wild DL, Denby KJ, Ott S, Smirnoff N, Mullineaux PM (2016) Time-series transcriptomics reveals that AGAMOUS-LIKE22 links primary metabolism to developmental processes in drought-stressed Arabidopsis Plant Cell http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/​10.​1105/​tpc.​15.​00910 Open Access

This Large Scale Biology article is the result of the PRESTA collaboration that is based at the Universities of Essex, Exeter and Warwick. The research plan of the PRESTA project is based upon the generation of large scale transcriptomic datasets and in this case they investigate changes in gene expression in plants subjected to drought stress. They identified over 1800 differentially expressed genes and the early changes coincided with a drop in carbon assimilation together with a late increase in foliar ABA content. Using Bayesian network modelling of differentially expressed transcription factors they identified the AGAMOUS-LIKE22 (AGL22) gene as a key component in this gene regulatory network. AGL22 had been previously found to play an important role in the change from vegetative to floral development but in this context it influences photosynthetic rates and lifetime water use.

Hématy K, Bellec Y, Podicheti R, Bouteiller N, Anne P, Morineau C, Haslam RP, Beaudoin F, Napier JA, Mockaitis K, Gagliardi D, Vaucheret H, Lange H, Faure JD (2016) The Zinc-Finger Protein SOP1 Is Required for a Subset of the Nuclear Exosome Functions in Arabidopsis PLoS Genetics 12(2):e1005817 Open Access

This Franco-US collaboration also includes a contribution from Johnathan Napier’s group at Rothamstead Research. They investigated the function of the essential Arabidopsis PASTICCINO2 (PAS2) gene by isolating three suppressors of pas2 mutants (termed sop mutants). PAS2 is involved in correct splicing so the sop mutants prevented degradation of mis-spliced pas2 mRNA species. The suppressor genes were either previously characterized as being involved with function of the exosome (SOP2/RRP4, SOP3/HEN2) or as a novel zinc-finger protein (SOP1) that colocalised with HEN2 in nucleoplasmic loci. The authors show additional evidence suggesting that the SOP proteins are involved in RNA quality control and introduce SOP1 as a novel component that is involved in nuclear RNA surveillance.

Reinhardt H, Hachez C, Bienert MD, Beebo A, Swarup K, Voss U, Bouhidel K, Frigerio L, Schjoerring JK, Bennett MJ, Chaumont F (2016) Tonoplast aquaporins facilitate lateral root emergence Plant Physiology. Open Access

This Belgian-led study includes lead-UK representation from Warwick (Lorenzo Frigerio)  and Nottingham (Malcolm Bennett) and investigates the role of tonoplast-localised aquaporin proteins during lateral root emergence. The AtTIP1;1, AtTIP1;2 and AtTIP2;1 are abundant aquaporin proteins and the triple tip mutant shows a reduction in lateral root (LR) number without having a shorter primary root. This effect is not due to a reduction of LR primordia but rather due to a defect in the elongation of emerging LR. The authors show that spatial and temporal variations of TIP isoform expression throughout the root correlates with the tip mutant phenotype. Surprisingly, native expression of TIP2:1, which is found only at the base of the LR, can restore wildtype LR emergence to the triple mutant, suggesting that aquaporin activity in this region is sufficient to set-off LR outgrowth.

Pétriacq P, Stassen JH, Ton J (2016) Spore density determines infection strategy by the plant-pathogenic fungus Plectosphaerella cucumerina Plant Physiology Open Access

Jurriaan Ton (Sheffield) is the lead researcher on this study that investigates the molecular factors that allow pathogens to switch between necrotropy and biotrophy, which elicit different response pathways within the infected plant. They used untargeted metabolomics to investigate the growth of the ascomycete pathogen Plectosphaerella cucumerina on Arabidopsis leaves. Higher spore densities activate a JA-dependent necrotropic defence response whilst lower spore numbers causes hemi-biotrophic SA-dependent responses. This change is reflected in the susceptibility of different Arabidopsis mutants to differing spore densities and allow the authors to conclude that P. cucumerina is able to gain an advantage over the host immunity by switching between different modes of infection.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: January 29th

This weeks Arabidopsis Research Roundup features a paper from David Baulcombe and Joe Ecker that further deciphers mechanisms of RNA silencing and is kindly discussed by postdoc Mat Lewsey in a short audio description. Elsewhere there are three studies that include researchers from CPIB in Nottingham. Leah Band contributes to a study that links environment sensing, cell death and auxin signaling whilst Ive De Smet leads a study that finds new proteins involved in cell division. Malcolm Bennett and John King take a modeling approach to describe auxin signaling via the GH3 protein family. Finally Frank Menke leads a study that provides more detail into Pattern Recognition Receptor (PRR) mediated immune signaling and then Jim Dunwell participates in a paper that describes a new method of analyzing GWAS data.

Lewsey MG, Hardcastle TJ, Melnyk CW, Molnar A, Valli A, Urich MA, Nery JR, Baulcombe DC, Ecker JR (2016) Mobile small RNAs regulate genome-wide DNA methylation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Open Access

Over the past few years RNA-mediated silencing has emerged a key mechanism for the control of gene expression. This study is a collaboration between the lab of Sir David Balcombe (Cambridge) and Joe Ecker at the SALK institute in California. Mat Lewsey, who is a British postdoc working with Professor Ecker, kindly provided a short audio description of the paper.

These groups have previously shown that sRNAs are highly mobile throughout the plant. This study shows that thousands of loci expressed in roots are dependent on mobile sRNAs generated from the shoot. They unpick the genetic basis of this response showing that it is largely dependent on the DOMAINS REARRANGED METHYLTRANSFERASES 1/2 (DRM1/DRM2) but not CHROMOMETHYLASE (CMT)2/3 DNA methyltransferases. They also show that mobile sRNAs are resposible for the silencing of TEs that are found in gene-rich regions, although this is not a physiologically important response in Arabidopsis, which contains a relatively small amount of transposon tissue. Interestingly they a show that sRNAs generated from different Arabidopsis ecotypes are able to move across graft junctions and can cause methylation in usually unmethylated regions.

PNASpicXuan W, Band LR, Kumpf RP, Van Damme D, Parizot B, De Rop G, Opdenacker D, Möller BK, Skorzinski N, Njo MF, De Rybel B, Audenaert D, Nowack MK, Vanneste S, Beeckman T (2016) Cyclic programmed cell death stimulates hormone signaling and root development in Arabidopsis. Science . 351(6271):384-7

This study is led by Tom Beeckman from Gent University and features Leah Band from CPIB in Nottingham. They reveal an exciting relationship between cell death in root cap cells and hormone signaling. The root cap is a protective tissue that overlies the Arabidopsis root tip and might be considered as an ‘inactive’ tissue. However this study shows that an auxin signal released from root cap cells sets the spacing of lateral organs along the root. As root cap cells move up the root they undergo programmed cell death, which in turn releases a pulse of auxin and establishes a pattern of lateral root formation. The authors suggest that this relationship might integrate external soil conditions so that lateral roots will develop to optimise uptake of water and nutrients. It is well known that an auxin signal simulates lateral root formation but this study provides an explanation as to the genesis of this signal and its integration with external environmental factors.

Yue K, Sandal P, Williams EL, Murphy E, Stes E, Nikonorova N, Ramakrishna P, Czyzewicz N, Montero-Morales L, Kumpf R, Lin Z, van de Cotte B, Iqbal M, Van Bel M, Van De Slijke E, Meyer MR, Gadeyne A, Zipfel C, De Jaeger G, Van Montagu M, Van Damme D, Gevaert K, Rao AG, Beeckman T, De Smet I (2016) PP2A-3 interacts with ACR4 and regulates formative cell division in the Arabidopsis root. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

This broad collaboration between US-UK and Belgian researchers is led by Tom Beeckman and Ive De Smet, who works at CPIB in Nottingham. In addition it includes a contribution from Cyril Zipfel at TSL. This study aimed to identify proteins that interact with the plasma membrane-localized receptor kinase ARABIDOPSIS CRINKLY 4 (ACR4), which plays a role in the control of cell division in the Arabidopsis root. They find that PROTEIN PHOSPHATASE 2A-3 (PP2A-3), a catalytic subunit of PP2A holoenzymes interacts with ACR4 and has a previous uncharacterised role in control of formative cell divisions. The authors show that the biochemical network that links ACR4 and PP2A-3 is regulated by phosphorylation.

Mellor N, Bennett MJ, King JR (2016) GH3-Mediated Auxin Conjugation Can Result in Either Transient or Oscillatory Transcriptional Auxin Responses. Bull Math Biol.

This paper led by Professor Malcolm Bennett and John King from CPIB is an example of the growing number of multi-disciplinary interactions between biologists and mathematicians. Here a model is developed that interrogates auxin signaling and homeostasis through the GH3 gene family. This includes a parameter that considers auxin transport via the LAX3 influx protein, which, together with the activity of GH3 proteins can facilitate a positive feedback loop that allows cells to response to excess auxin.

Mithoe SC, Ludwig C, Pel MJ, Cucinotta M, Casartelli A, Mbengue M, Sklenar J, Derbyshire P, Robatzek S, Pieterse CM, Aebersold R, Menke FL (2016) Attenuation of pattern recognition receptor signaling is mediated by a MAP kinase kinase kinase. EMBO Rep. Open Access

Frank Menke (TSL, Norwich) is the leader on this collaboration between UK, Dutch and Swiss researchers that investigates innate immunity signaling mediated via Pattern Recognition Receptors (PRRs). Tight control of this signalling is very important to prevent spurious activation of the immune response. These authors find that the differentially phosphorylated MKKK7 can interact with the FLS2 protein, which is key in the perception of bacterial flagellin. In turn MKKK7 attenuates the signalling of a downstream MAPK that contributes to defence-related gene expression. Therefore the show that the FLS2-MKKK7 signaling module is critical for control of innate immunity.

Wang SB, Feng JY, Ren WL, Huang B, Zhou L, Wen YJ, Zhang J, Dunwell JM, Xu S, Zhang YM (2016) Improving power and accuracy of genome-wide association studies via a multi-locus mixed linear model methodology. Sci Rep. Open Access

Professor Jim Dunwell (Reading) is a UK contributor to this largely Chinese publication that introduces a new method to analysis GWAS-style data. They propose an analysis based on random-SNP-effect MLM (RMLM) and a multi-locus RMLM (MRMLM) and using stimulations show that their new method can be powerful than conventional types of analysis. To test the method they analysed flowering time traits in Arabidopsis and detected more genes that were involved in the process.

For those interested in different-types of GWAS analysis, Professor David Salt introduced another new method during a recent ARR.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: December 18th

The final Arabidopsis Research Roundup of 2015 contains a bumper crop of papers that again highlights the diversity of research occuring in UK plant science. Justin Goodrich from the University of Edinburgh kindly provides an audio description of work that identifies a novel role for a member of a transposon gene family. Elsewhere are studies about a specific aspect of the biochemistry of crytochromes as well as confirmation of a role for DNA gyrases in Arabidopsis. Paul Dupree (Cambridge) leads a study into the mechanism of ascorbic acid production while Heather Knight is the UK representative in a study about cell wall composition. We also present an investigation into the mechanism and subsequent expression changes that occur following infection with different isolates of the Turnip Mosaic Potyvirus. Finally are two short studies from Ive de Smet (Nottingham) and Matt Jones (Essex).

Liang SC, Hartwig B, Perera P, Mora-García S, de Leau E, Thornton H, de Alves FL, Rapsilber J, Yang S, James GV, Schneeberger K, Finnegan EJ, Turck F, Goodrich J (2015) Kicking against the PRCs – A Domesticated Transposase Antagonises Silencing Mediated by Polycomb Group Proteins and Is an Accessory Component of Polycomb Repressive Complex 2. PLoS Genet. 11 e1005660. Open Access

Justin Goodrich (Edinburgh) is the lead of this collaborative study between UK, German and Australian researchers that investigates the role of the evolutionarily conserved Polycomb group (PcG) and trithorax group (trxG) genes during plant development. These homeotic genes influence gene expression by causing epigenetic chromatin changes, usually in the form of histone methylation. Previously the ANTAGONIST OF LIKE HETEROCHROMATIN PROTEIN1 (ALP1) gene was found to act as a genetic suppressor the Arabidopsis PcG gene, LIKE HETEROCHROMATIN PROTEIN1 (LHP1). In this study ALP1 is shown to genetically interact with members of these two gene families and its activity is necessary for the activation of several floral homeotic genes. Surprisingly the ALP1 gene is shown to encode for a transposase of the PIF/Harbinger class, which is conserved throughout land plants. The authors suspect that the transposase activity has been lost in the angiosperm lineage, where the gene obtained a novel function. Interestingly ALP1 can interact with the core PrC complex, which most notably participates in H3K27me3 methylation and therefore appears to act, along with other proteins such as EMBRYONIC FLOWER 1 (EMF1), as a plant-specific accessory component that controls histone modification. The authors speculate that this novel function might have arisen as a “means for the cognate transposon to evade host surveillance or for the host to exploit features of the transposition machinery beneficial for epigenetic regulation of gene activity”. Over the coming years it will be interesting to discover if other transposon-encoded genes share novel functions and this study represents an important lesson for researchers not to ignore transposon sequences as ‘junk’ DNA that they might feel can clutter up their analysis!

Justin Goodrich kindly provides an audio summary of this paper:

van Wilderen LJ, Silkstone G, Mason M, van Thor JJ, Wilson MT (2015) Kinetic studies on the oxidation of semiquinone and hydroquinone forms of Arabidopsis cryptochrome by molecular oxygen FEBS Open Bio. 5:885-892 Open Access

This study is a collaborative effort between researchers from Imperial College and the University of Essex, led by emeritus biochemistry Professor Michael Wilson and is an in vitro analysis of the oxidation of the Arabidopsis cryptochrome (CRY) photoreceptor in the presence and absence of an external electron donor. They show that a more complex model than previously thought is required to explain the mechanism by which the CRY-associated flavin molecule is oxidised. The authors propose that the final steps in this reaction require cooperative interaction between partners in a CRY homodimer or between separate CRY molecules.

Evans-Roberts KM, Mitchenall LA, Wall MK, Leroux J, Mylne JS, Maxwell A (2015) DNA Gyrase is the Target for the Quinolone Drug Ciprofloxacin in Arabidopsis thaliana. J Biol Chem. Open Access

Antony Maxwell from the Biological Chemistry department from the John Innes Centre is the UK academic lead on this UK-Australian study. This group has previously shown that Arabidopsis contains three proteins thought to function as DNA Gyrases (AtGYRA, ATGYRB1, ATGYRB2) although they could not provide direct evidence that are were involved in DNA supercoiling. This study moves the work on by identifying mutant plants that are resistant to the drug ciprofloxacin and contain a point mutation in AtGYRA. Furthermore ATGYRA heterologously expressed in insect cells has supercoiling activity. Therefore the authors unequivocally show that plants encode an organellar-targeted DNA gyrase that, like bacterial gyrases, is a  target for ciprofloxacin. This work has important consequences for our understanding of plant physiology and in the future development of novel herbicides.

Sawake S, Tajima N, Mortimer JC, Lao J, Ishikawa T, Yu X, Yamanashi Y, Yoshimi Y, Kawai-Yamada M, Dupree P, Tsumuraya Y, Kotake T (2015) KONJAC1 and 2 Are Key Factors for GDP-Mannose Generation and Affect l-Ascorbic Acid and Glucomannan Biosynthesis in Arabidopsis The Plant Cell

Paul Dupree (Cambridge) is the British lead on the UK-Japanese collaboration that investigates the role of the GDP-mannose pyrophosphorylase (GMPP), VITAMIN C DEFECTIVE1 (VTC1) enzyme in catalysis of the rate-limiting step in the production of ascorbic acid (AsA). They identify two novel pyrophosphorylase-like proteins, KONJAC1 (KJC1) and KJC2 that stimulate VTC1. Mutant analysis showed that these proteins are necessary for normal growth that coincides with control of AsA production via stimulating GMPP activity. Yeast 2 Hybrid  analysis is indicative of a direct interactin between KJC and VTC1 proteins. In future, it will be interesting to investigate the role of these proteins in plants that are more relevant to human consumption of AsA.

Sorek N, Szemenyei H, Sorek H, Landers A, Knight H, Bauer S, Wemmer DE, Somerville CR (2015) Identification of MEDIATOR16 as the Arabidopsis COBRA suppressor MONGOOSE1. PNAS

Heather Knight (Durham) is the sole UK representative on this manuscript that is led by the lab of Chris Somerville from the University of California. In this work the authors identified suppressors of the Arabidopsis cobra mutant, which have defects in cellulose formation. The appropriately named mongoose (mon1) mutant partially restored cellulose levels and also restored the esterification ratio of pectin to wild-type levels. MON1 was cloned to the MEDIATOR16 (MED16)/ SENSITIVE TO FREEZING6 (SFR6) locus and single mon1 mutants are resistant to cellulose biosynthesis inhibitors. Concomitantly, transcriptome analysis demonstrated that a set of ‘cell wall’ genes are misregulated in mon1/med16/sfr6, including two encoding pectin methylesterase inhibitors. Overall the authors suggest that cellulose biosynthesis is closely linked to esterification levels of pectin and offer a number of possible explanations for this functional relationship.

Sánchez F, Manrique P, Mansilla C, Lunello P, Wang X, Rodrigo G, López-González S, Jenner C, González-Melendi P, Elena SF, Walsh J, Ponz F (2015) Viral Strain-Specific Differential Alterations in Arabidopsis Developmental Patterns Mol Plant Microbe Interact.

The UK contributor to this Spanish-led study is Carol Jenner, who at the time was a research fellow at the University of Warwick. This study highlights the morphological changes that occur in Arabidopsis plants infected by different isolates of Turnip mosaic virus (TuMW). The UK1 and JPN1 versions of TuMW were shown to have highest levels of sequence divergence in the P3 cistron and following the generation and use of viral chimeras, it is this region that was identified as the major viral determinant of plant developmental changes. However when the P3 gene was constitutively expressed in Arabidopsis it did not cause any development effects, which highlights the importance of performing infection studies in a whole-plant context. Latterly the authors performed transcriptomic and interactomic analysis, showing that infection with the most severe UK1 strain primarily causes changes, perhaps unsurprisingly, in genes involved in transport and in the stress response.

Czyzewicz N, De Smet I (2015) The Arabidopsis thaliana CLAVATA3/EMBRYO-SURROUNDING REGION 26 (CLE26) peptide is able to alter root architecture of Solanum lycopersicum and Brassica napus. Plant Signal Behav

This work was performed in the lab of Ive De Smet, who is a BBSRC research fellow at the University of Nottingham. In this short communication they show that overexpression of the Arabidopsis AtCLE26 peptide is able to induce architectural change in the agriculturally important crops, Brassica napus and Solanum lycopersicum. Having previously shown that AtCLE26 is similarly active in Arabidopsis, Brachypodium and Triticum, these experiments further demonstrate that small peptide signaling plays an important role in root development across plant lineages.

Litthauer S1, Battle MW1, Jones MA (2015) Phototropins do not alter accumulation of evening-phased circadian transcripts under blue light. Plant Signal Behav.

Matt Jones (Essex) leads this accompanying study to the more substantial project previously published in Plant Journal. This manuscript reports that phototropin photoreceptors are not involved in the nuclear accumulation of evening-phased circadian transcripts. In addition they show that even in phototropin mutants, the rhythms of nuclear clock transcript accumulation are maintained under fluctuating light regimes.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: July 20th

There is a bumper crop of publications in high quality journals in this weeks UK Arabidopsis Research Roundup, including manuscripts in PNAS, Nature Communications, PLoS Genetics , PloS One and Plant Physiology. Malcolm Bennett, Alex Webb and Anthony Hall lead a major collaborative effort that links the circadian clock with lateral root formation whilst Ottoline Leyser (SLCU) and Mike Bevan (JIC) participate in a similarly broad consortium in a study linking organ size and MAPK signaling. Liam Dolan’s group from Oxford looks at mechanisms of tip-growth across the plant kingdoms whilst elsewhere three members of faculty at the University of Birmingham are involved in two papers looking at the regulation of meiosis. Finally there are two US-led studies that include significant contributions from UK-based researchers, including Matthew Jones from the University of Essex.


Voß U, Wilson MH, Kenobi K, Gould PD, Robertson FC, Peer WA, Lucas M, Swarup K, Casimiro I, Holman TJ, Wells DM, Péret B, Goh T, Fukaki H, Hodgman TC, Laplaze L, Halliday KJ, Ljung K, Murphy AS, Hall AJ, Webb AA, Bennett MJ (2015) The circadian clock rephases during lateral root organ initiation in Arabidopsis thaliana Nature Communication 6:7641.

Once again Malcolm Bennett (CPIB) leads a multi-Institute collaboration that includes Alex Webb (Cambridge) and current GARNet board member Anthony Hall (Liverpool). This is also an extremely international effect with groups from the UK, USA, Sweden, Japan, Spain and France. The science looks at lateral root stems cells and how the circadian clock is rephased during LR emergence. They show that the clock controls auxin levels and auxin-related genes. The conclusion is that the circadian clock acts to gate auxin signalling during LR development to facilitate organ emergence and adds to a growing portfolio of evidence that suggest the circadian clock might act in a cell autonomous manner. Anthony Hall, James Locke and Peter Gould currently have a grant that is looking at this phenomenon in Arabidopsis root cells.


Johnson KL, Ramm S, Kappel C, Ward S, Leyser O, Sakamoto T, Kurata T, Bevan MW, Lenhard M (2015) The Tinkerbell (Tink) Mutation Identifies the Dual-Specificity MAPK Phosphatase INDOLE-3-BUTYRIC ACID-RESPONSE5 (IBR5) as a Novel Regulator of Organ Size in Arabidopsis PLoS One.10(7):e0131103.

Ottoline Leyser, Sally Ward (Sainsbury lab, Cambridge) and Mike Bevan (JIC) are the UK contributors to this joint UK-German-Japanese-Australian collaboration. This study follows a screen for plants with reduced organ size and introduces a novel allele of the dual-specificity MAPK phosphatase INDOLE-3-BUTYRIC ACID-RESPONSE5 (IBR5), named Tinkerbell (tink). This mutation reveals that IBR5 is a novel regulator of organ size by changing the growth rate in petals and leaves although this occurs independent of the previously characterised KLU pathway. The authors use microarray data to suggest an additional role for TINK/IBR5 during male gametophyte development. Ultimately they conclude that IBR5 might influence organ size through auxin and TCP growth regulatory pathways.


Tam TH, Catarino B, Dolan L (2015) Conserved regulatory mechanism controls the development of cells with rooting functions in land plants Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Liam Dolan’s lab at the University of Oxford is a world leader in the study of root hair development. Previously it has been shown the group XI basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor (LOTUS JAPONICUS ROOTHAIRLESS1-LIKE (LRL) regulates root hair growth in Arabidopsis, Lotus or rice. This study investigates the equivalent proteins in the moss Phycomitrella patens and show that they are involved in an auxin signaling pathway that promotes cell outgrowth albeit via a different set of signaling intermediates. Overall the authors show that a core auxin network that supports cellular ‘tip-growth’ exists throughout land plant lineages even though the specificity of this signaling has diverged over the course of the ~420million years that separates angiosperms and mosses.


Varas J, Sánchez-Morán E, Copenhaver GP, Santos JL, Pradillo M (2015) Analysis of the Relationships between DNA Double-Strand Breaks, Synaptonemal Complex and Crossovers Using the Atfas1-4 Mutant. PLoS Genet.11(7): e1005301.

The work led by Monica Pradillo at the University of Madrid includes a contribution from Eugenio Sanchez-Moran from the University of Birmingham. This work focuses on the hetero-trimeric Chromatin Assembly Factor 1 (CAF-1), which is a histone chaperone that assembles acetylated histones H3/H4 onto newly synthesized DNA. In Arabidopsis the CAF1 complex is composed of the FAS1, FAS2 and MSI1 proteins. Atfas1 mutant plants are less fertility, have a higher number of double stranded breaks (DSB) and show a higher gene conversion frequency. The authors investigate how DSBs can influence meiotic recombination and synaptonemal complex (SC) formation by genetic analysis of Atfas1-containing double mutants. Ultimately their experiments provide new insights into the relationships between different recombinase proteins in Arabidopsis. Overall an increase in the number of DSBs does not translate to an increase in the number of crossovers (COs) but instead in a higher GC frequency. The authors provide different theories to explain this mechanism, including the possible existence of CO homeostasis in plants.


Lambing C, Osman K, Nuntasoontorn K, West A, Higgins JD, Copenhaver GP, Yang J, Armstrong SJ, Mechtler K, Roitinger E, Franklin FC (2015) Arabidopsis PCH2 Mediates Meiotic Chromosome Remodeling and Maturation of Crossovers PLoS Genetics 11(7):e1005372

The University of Birmingham is the lead Instiution in this study that also investigates regulation of meiosis. The groups of Chris Franklin and Sue Armstrong collaborate with US and Austrian partners to study the organization of meiotic chromosomes during prophase I. Using structured illumination microscopy (SIM) they show that dynamic changes in chromosome axis is coincident with synaptonemal complex (SC) formation and depletion of the ASY1 protein, which requires the function of the PCH2 ATPase. Using a pch2 mutant the authors are able to tease apart different aspects of ‘crossover’ (CO) biology and that the pch2 defect occurs precisely during CO maturation, not during designation. In addition, CO distribution is also affected in some chromosome regions showing that failure to deplete ASY1 can result in downstream events that include disruption of CO patterning.


Jones MA, Hu W, Litthauer S, Lagarias JC, Harmer S (2015) A Constitutively Active Allele of Phytochrome B Maintains Circadian Robustness in the Absence of Light Plant Physiology.

Matthew Jones (University of Essex) is the primary author of this work that comes from a collaboration from his time in the lab of Stacey Harmer in UC Davis. Since 2012 Matthew has been a lecturer at the University of Essex where he continues with work of this nature. In this study they introduce a constitutively active allele of the PHYB photoreceptor that is able to phenoopy red-light input into the circadian clock. In these mutants the pace of the clock is insensitive to light-intensity and this response is dependant on its PHYB nuclear localisation. Finally they show that fine tuning of PHYB signalling requires PHYC and overall they conclude that nuclear phytocrome signalling is necessary for sustaining clock function under red light.


Chakravorty D, Gookin TE, Milner M, Yu Y, Assmann SM (2015) Extra-Large G proteins (XLGs) expand the repertoire of subunits in Arabidopsis heterotrimeric G protein signalling Plant Physiol.

Sally Assman from Penn State University leads this study that includes a contribution from Matthew Milner who now works at NIAB. The number of proposed G protein subunits is greatly reduced in diploid plant genomes yet this study shows that a family of Arabidopsis GPA-related proteins (XLG1-3) can increase the repertoire of potential G proteins interactions by interacting with beta and gamma subunits. The authors propose they have uncovered a new plant-specific paradigm in cell signaling.

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