Arabidopsis Research Roundup: May 5th

There are a bumper crop of papers in this edition of the Arabidopsis Research Roundup. First from the University of Manchester is a paper that identifies a protein involved in plant programmed cell death. Secondly are two papers from the University of Bristol that highlight the role of viruses in the reflectivity of plant leaves and an assessment of the growth parameters of Arabidopsis on different soil-types. Thirdly are three papers from University of Edinburgh that either use CRISPR-Cas technology to develop virus-research plants, investigate the relationship between photoperiod and metabolism or present a method for assessment of protein S-nitrosylation. Fourthly is a paper that includes a contribution from the University of Leeds that investigates the evolutionary and functional relationship of the WOX gene family. Finally is a study that highlights the role of the AUGMIN complex during microtubule activity that includes a contribution from the University of Leicester.

In addition, although not involving Arabidopsis, we should mention an exciting study from Gerben van Ooijen (Edinburgh) that has discovered a conserved circadian mechanism based on magnesium rhythms that is linked to energy expenditure.

Ge Y, Cai YM, Bonneau L, Rotari V, Danon A, McKenzie EA, McLellan H, Mach L, Gallois P (2016) Inhibition of cathepsin B by caspase-3 inhibitors blocks programmed cell death in Arabidopsis. Cell Death Differ. Open Access

The corresponding author of this paper is Patrick Gallois from the University of Manchester and includes contributions from Hazel McLellan in Dundee almongside Chinese and Austrian collaborators. This study investigates the role of caspase proteins on control of programmed cell death in plants. This research area has been hindered by the apparent lack of plant caspase orthologues despite pharmacological evidence that proteins with caspase activity are active in plants. The authors use a labeled caspase-3 inhibitor to identify the Arabidopsis Cathepsin B3 (AtCathB3) protein as having caspase activity, which was verified using recombinant proteins during in vitro enzyme assays. AtCathepsinB1,2,3 triple mutant plants demonstrate a reduction in PCD induced by different stresses and explains why caspase inhibitors are effective tools for studying PCD in plants. The core Cathepsin B protein is evolutionarily conserved suggesting that an ancestral pathway exists that controls PCD, the details of which require further study.

Maxwell DJ, Partridge JC, Roberts NW, Boonham N, Foster GD (2016) The Effects of Plant Virus Infection on Polarization Reflection from Leaves. PLoS One. 11(4):e0152836 10.1371/journal.pone.0152836 Open Access

Gary Foster’s research group at the University of Bristol collaborate with others at the University of York and in Australia for this study that investigates how plant viruses may modify gene expression to benefit their own transmission. They show that Potato virus Y and Cucumber mosaic virus (CMW), which both are transmitted by aphids, significantly reduce the amount of polarised light that is reflected from abaxial leaf surfaces of tobacco plants particularly when compared to the effects caused by non-insect vectored viruses. However this effect was not shown in Arabidopsis leaves infected by a variety of differently transmitted viruses. Interestingly ECERIFERUM6 (CER6) transcripts accumulate to higher levels following infection with insect vectored viruses and as this gene is involved in cuticle wax synthesis the authors suggest that induced changes in cuticle composition might be key in understanding how viruses encourage predation by their insect vectors. Finally the authors discuss the overall adaptive significance of these results.

Drake T, Keating M, Summers R, Yochikawa A, Pitman T, Dodd AN (2016) The Cultivation of Arabidopsis for Experimental Research Using Commercially Available Peat-Based and Peat-Free Growing Media. PLoS One. 11(4):e0153625 10.1371/journal.pone.0153625 Open AccessPeatPic

GARNet committee member Anthony Dodd, also from the University of Bristol, leads this study into the growth of Arabidopsis on peat-free media, which was motivated by the unsustainable use of peat-based composts. They found that biomass accumulation and seed yield were reduced on peat-free media and that some types of this media was more suspectible to fungal contamination. Overall vegetative phenotypic parameters were similar between plants grown on peat-based or peat-free media, indicating that this type of media will be appropriate for future analysis. However the seed yield was usually reduced, indicating that experiments looking at post-phase change phenotypes might not be as comparable between plants growth on media with different amount of peat.

Pyott DE, Sheehan E, Molnar A (2016) Engineering of CRISPR/Cas9-mediated potyvirus resistance in transgene-free Arabidopsis plants Mol Plant Pathol.

Attila Molnar (Edinburgh) is the corresponding author on this study that uses the transformative technology CRISPR/Cas9 to engineer Arabidopsis plants that are resistant to potyvirus infection. This is achieved by targeting the genes encoding the translation initiation factor eIF(iso)4E that had been previously identified as being critical for viral establishment. Importantly they subsequently selected transgene-free plants that have no phenotypic changes when compared to wildtype growth under standard conditions. As the potyvirus Turnip Mosaic Virus is an important pathogen for vegetable crops this is potentially an extremely powerful technique for generating virus-resistance food crops.

Flis A, Sulpice R, Seaton DD, Ivakov AA, Liput M, Abel C, Millar AJ, Stitt M (2016) Photoperiod-dependent changes in the phase of core clock transcripts and global transcriptional outputs at dawn and dusk in Arabidopsis Plant Cell Environ.

This German–led study aims to connect the expression of photoperiod-length responsive circadian clock-regulated genes with those involved in metabolic processes such as starch degradation and includes a contribution from Professor Andrew Miller from the Edinburgh SynthSys Centre. The authors assess global gene expression by transcript profiling at photoperiods ranging from 4-18 hours and found that changes in transcript abundance at dawn throughout these photoperiods were as large as changes seen in individual experiments when comparing dawn and dusk. These complex interactions revealed coordinated regulation of key metabolic processes and begins to demonstrate how metabolism is linked to photoperiod.

Homem RA, Le Bihan T, Yu M, Loake GJ (2016) Identification of S-Nitrosothiols by the Sequential Cysteine Blocking Technique Methods Mol Biol. 1424:163-74.

This paper from the lab of Gary Loake (Edinburgh) describes the methods they use to investigate the role of protein S-nitrosylation in the immune responses of Arabidopsis. These are based on a modification of the biotin-switch technique, which they term sequential cysteine blocking.

Dolzblasz A, Nardmann J, Clerici E, Causier B, van der Graaff E, Chen J, Davies B, Werr W, Laux T (2016) Stem cell regulation by Arabidopsis WOX genes Mol Plant. S1674-2052(16)30029-6

This German-led study includes work from the lab of Brendan Davies at the University of Leeds and investigates the role of the WUSCHEL-RELATED HOMEOBOX (WOX) transcription factor gene family during stem cell development and maintenance. Most members of the WUS-clade can largely substitute for WUSCHEL activity in the shoot meristem, which is absolutely dependent on a conserved WUS-box motif that is critical for the interaction with TOPLESS co-repressors. In contrast to the WUS clade, the WOX13 and WOX9 clades cannot substitute for WUS activity. The indicates that WOX control of shoot and floral meristem relies on certain currently not-fully-understood attributes of the WUS-clade of proteins.

Oh SA, Jeon J, Park HJ, Grini PE, Twell D, Park SK (2016) Analysis of gemini pollen 3 mutant suggests a broad function of AUGMIN in microtubule organization during sexual reproduction in Arabidopsis Plant J.

David Twell (Leicester) is an author on his Korean-led study that reports on the identification of the new gem3 mutant, which displays defects in gametophytic development. Mutant plants exhibits disrupted cell division during male meiosis, at pollen mitosis I and throughout female gametogenesis. Gem3 is a hypomorphic allele of the AUGMIN subunit 6 gene, which is a component of Augmin complex responsible for microtubule (MT) nucleation in acentrosomal cells. In the gem3 mutant, the authors show that MT arrays are incorrectly distributed, likely causing the gametophyte-specific phenotypes and demonstrating a broad role for the augmin complex during sexual reproduction in flowering plants

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: April 1st.

This weeks Arabidopsis Research Roundup contains an eclectic mix of investigations. Firstly is a study from Peter Unwin that investigates the molecular factors that control interactions between plants and nematode parasites. Secondly is a study led by John Christie that investigates the factors that control hypocotyl curvature. Thirdly is a fascinating proof-of-concept synbio-style study from Rothamstead Research where an algal gene is transferred into Arabidopsis in the hope of developing a phytomediation-based solution to heavy metal contamination. Fourthly is a study from David Bass that catalogues protist species that feed on leaf-microorganisms whilst finally John Carr heads a study that compares RNA-dependent RNA polymerases from Arabidopsis and Potato.

Eves-van den Akker S, Lilley CJ, Yusup HB, Jones JT, Urwin PE (2016) Functional C-terminally encoded plant peptide (CEP) hormone domains evolved de novo in the plant parasite Rotylenchulus reniformis. Mol Plant Pathol.

This study is a collaboration between researchers at the Universities of Dundee and Leeds, led by Peter Unwin. The focus of the paper is the interaction of Plant-Parasitic Nematodes (PPNs) with their plant hosts. PPNs stimulate redifferentiation of vascular tissues to form ‘feeding structures’ that benefit the parasite. This process is mediated by a diverse family of effector proteins termed C-terminally Encoded Peptide plant hormone mimics (CEPs). This study investigates the CEPs from the nematode Rotylenchulus reniformis and suggests that these peptides evolved de novo in this organism. They show that the activity of a synthetic peptide corresponding to RrCEPs causes a reduction in primary root elongation whilst upregulating a set of genes including the nitrate transporter AtNRT2.1. The authors propose that CEPs evolved in R. reniformis to allow sustained biotrophy by upregulating a specific set of feeding-responsive genes and by limiting the size of the feeding site produced. This study represents an exciting introduction to a currently under-researched area within plant-pathogen interactions.

Sullivan S, Hart JE, Rasch P, Walker CH, Christie JM (2016) Phytochrome A Mediates Blue-Light Enhancement of Second-Positive Phototropism in Arabidopsis. Front Plant Sci. 7:290 Open AccessFrontiersPHOT1

John Christie (Glasgow) is the corresponding author on this investigation into the role of the blue-light receptor phototropin 1 (phot1) during hypocotyl phototropism. Curvature of this organ is enhanced by treatment by red-light mediated by the phytochromeA receptor. However this study shows that pre-treatment with blue-light can also enhance this hypocotyl curvature although this did not occur at higher light intensities. In addition phototropic enhancement was also lacking when PHOT1 is expressed only in the hypocotyl epidermis. Therefore the study shows that the phyA impact on phot1 signaling is restricted to low light intensities and in tissues other than the epidermis.

Zhong Tang, Yanling Lv, Fei Chen, Wenwen Zhang, Barry P. Rosen, and Fang-Jie Zhao (2016) Arsenic Methylation in Arabidopsis thaliana Expressing an Algal Arsenite Methyltransferase Gene Increases Arsenic Phytotoxicity J. Agric. Food Chem. Open Access ArsM

This synthetic biology-focused study is led by Fang-Jie Zhao at Rothamstead Research. The authors take an algal gene (arsM) that allows the transformation of inorganic arsenic to a more volatile methylated version. The biological activity of this enzyme was successfully transferred to two different Arabidopsis ecotypes. However interestingly these transgenic plants became more sensitive to arsenic in growth media suggesting that the new methylated arsenic intermediate is more phytotoxic than inorganic arsenic. Therefore this study demonstrates a negative consequence of this project that attempted to engineer arsenic tolerance in plants. Once again this demonstrates that nature rarely acts predictably and any great ideas usually need to be tested in vivo.

Ploch S, Rose L, Bass D, Bonkowski M (2016) High Diversity Revealed in Leaf Associated Protists (Rhizaria: Cercozoa) of Brassicaceae J Eukaryot Microbiol.

After a fantastic opening line in the abstract, ‘The largest biological surface on earth is formed by plant leaves’, this study includes the work of David Bass from the Natural History Museum in London. They investigate the abundance of protists that associate with leaf-inhabiting microorganisms, the “phyllosphere microbiome“. Their findings demonstrate that protists should be considered an important part of the diversity of plant-interacting microbial organisms.

Hunter LJ, Brockington SF, Murphy AM, Pate AE, Gruden K, MacFarlane SA, Palukaitis P, Carr JP (2016) RNA-dependent RNA polymerase 1 in potato (Solanum tuberosum) and its relationship to other plant RNA-dependent RNA polymerases Sci Rep. 6:23082 Open Access

John Carr (Cambridge) is the UK-lead on this collaboration with Slovenian and Korean researchers. They primarily investigate the role of the RDR1 RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RDRs) in potato. In Arabidopsis the RDR1 gene contributes to basal viral resistance but potato plants deficient in StRDR1 do not show altered susceptibility to three different plant viruses. In addition they perform a phylogenetic analysis on the RDR genes and identify a novel RDR7 gene that is only found in Rosids (but not Arabidopsis.

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: Sept 11th

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Published on: September 11, 2015

After a slow couple of weeks the Arabidopsis Research Roundup returns with some publications in high profile journals. None more so than the widely reported study from the University of York that highlights Arabidopsis plants which are able to grow on TNT-contaminated soils. Three other broadly cell biology-based studies from the JIC, Cardiff and Nottingham look at cell wall composition, vascular patterning and polyadenylation respectively. Finally a study from the James Hutton Institute presents an improved tool for identification of DNA-binding proteins in plants.

Johnston EJ, Rylott EL, Beynon E, Lorenz A, Chechik V, Bruce NC (2015) Monodehydroascorbate reductase mediates TNT toxicity in plants Science. 349 1072-1075

The most highly reported manuscript of this week comes from Neil Bruce’s group at the University of York. This publication in Science discusses the use of plants in the removal of historic pollution from TNT-based explosions. TNT phytotoxicity results from the creation of a reactive oxygen species in the mitochondria, a reaction catalyzed by monodehydroascorbate reductase6 (MDHAR6). The authors show that an Arabidopsis mdhar6 mutant is tolerance to TNT with no significant reduction in biomass. This discovery may very well contribute toward the remediation of contaminated sites with plants. This paper has been also reported widely in the general media including at Wired or Reuters.

Seguela-Arnaud M, Smith C, Uribe MC, May S, Fischl H, McKenzie N, Bevan MW (2015) The Mediator complex subunits MED25/PFT1 and MED8 are required for transcriptional responses to changes in cell wall arabinose composition and glucose treatment in Arabidopsis thaliana. BMC Plant Biol. 5;15(1):215

Mike Bevan at the JIC leads this work, which also includes GARNet board member Sean May that investigates the control of cell wall deposition. The Arabidopsis hsr8-1 mutant has an arabinose deficiency that prevents correct hypocotyl elongation due to a cell wall defect. This mutant is rescued by mutations in the Mediator transcription complex indicating that they have some specificity for genes involved in cell wall composition. This suppression alters gene expression is several glucose-induced genes, including cell wall enzymes and those involved in flavonoid and glucosinolate biosynthetic pathways.

Randall RS, Miyashima S, Blomster T, Zhang J, Elo A, Karlberg A, Immanen J, Nieminen K, Lee JY, Kakimoto T, Blajecka K, Melnyk CW, Alcasabas A, Forzani C, Matsumoto-Kitano M, Mähönen AP, Bhalerao R, Dewitte W, Helariutta Y, Murray JA

AINTEGUMENTA and the D-type cyclin CYCD3;1 regulate root secondary growth and respond to cytokinins Biol Open. bio.013128.

The aim of this multi-national collaboration led by GARNet PI Jim Murray (Cardiff)  and Yrjo Helariutta (SLCU) was to reset some established dogma which held that the AINTEGUMENTA (ANT) was epistatic to the D-type cycling CYCD3;1 in the control of vascular patterning. However this study shows that in the vascular cambium of Arabidipsis roots both genes respond to cytokinin and are required for proper root thickening. In addition this mechanism is maintained in the roots of poplar, suggesting a common regulatory mechanism.

Kappel C, Trost G, Czesnick H, Ramming A, Kolbe B, Vi SL, Bispo C, Becker JD, de Moor C, Lenhard M (2015) Genome-Wide Analysis of PAPS1-Dependent Polyadenylation Identifies Novel Roles for Functionally Specialized Poly(A) Polymerases in Arabidopsis thaliana PLoS Genet.11(8):e1005474

Corneila De Moor is a lecturer in the RNA biology group at the University of Nottingham, School of Pharmacy. However she is involved with this German-led study that looks at nuclear poly(A) polymerase (PAPS) in Arabidopsis. The three PAPS in Arabidopsis are functional specialised and this study investigates the transcriptional profile of altered poly(A) lengths to show that the PAPS1 protein is preferentially involved in ribosome biogenesis and redox homeostasis. This suggests that expression levels are strongly linked to poly(A) tail length and that relative activities of the PAPS isoforms are used as an endogenous mechanism to co-ordinately modulate plant gene expression.

Motion GB, Howden AJ, Huitema E, Jones S (2015) DNA-binding protein prediction using plant specific support vector machines: validation and application of a new genome annotation tool Nucleic Acids Res.

Edgar Huitema is the plant science lead on this collaboration with computer scientists at the James Hutton Institute that introduces a new genome analysis tool that aims to functional annotate protein products. The focus of the study is on DNA-binding proteins and this new support vector machine model more accurately predicts this type of protein than generic versions. The model was developed in Arabidopsis but when turned to the tomato genome it annotated 36 currently uncharacterised proteins. This model is publically available and the authors hope that it will be used in combination with existing tools to increase annotation levels of DNA-binding proteins

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: May 27th

This weeks Arabidopsis Research Roundup sees a small number of high quality publications driven by UK-based researchers together with a couple of collaborative efforts that highlight the international aspect of research. Topics include two greatly different descriptions of how a plant responds to attack, an investigation into the intersection of vesicle and potassium transport as well as descriptions of auxin and sugar signaling.

Sarris PF, Duxbury Z, Huh SU, Ma Y, Segonzac C, Sklenar J, Derbyshire P, Cevik V, Rallapalli G, Saucet SB, Wirthmueller L, Menke FL, Sohn KH, Jones JD (2015) A Plant Immune Receptor Detects Pathogen Effectors that Target WRKY Transcription Factors. Cell 161, p1089-1100

Jonathan Jones at the Sainsbury lab collaborated with his ex-PhD student Kee Hoon Sohn (now at Massey University in NZ) to produce this high profile publication in Cell. Professor Jones’s group has been in the vanguard of research into the response to bacterial pathogens and this paper adds a further layer of understanding as they show that the plant uses a bacteria’s own ‘attack mechanism’ against itself. Many bacterial effector proteins target WRKY DNA-binding protein domains in order to interfere with transcription. This work shows that the plant defence factor RRS1 also contains a WRKY domain, enabling it to ‘sense’ when the bacteria is in the cell and act as a decoy that makes the bacteria subsequently open to attack.


Jaouannet M, Morris JA, Hedley PE, Bos JI (2015) Characterization of Arabidopsis Transcriptional Responses to Different Aphid Species Reveals Genes that Contribute to Host Susceptibility and Non-host Resistance. PLos Pathogens 11: e1004918.

The group of Jorunn Bos at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee looked at a different aspect of the defence response whereby they investigated transcriptional responses to aphid predation on Arabidopsis. Host and non-host responses to aphids show a high degree of overlap in expression but interestingly the host response included repressive of genes involved in metabolism and oxidative response. This type of study will pave the way for the future development of aphid control strategies in crop plants and once again highlights the utility of Arabidopsis as a model system.


Zhang B, Karnik R, Wang Y, Wallmeroth N, Blatt MR, Grefen C (2015) The Arabidopsis R-SNARE VAMP721 Interacts with KAT1 and KC1 K+ Channels to Moderate K+ Current at the Plasma Membrane Plant Cell [Epub]

Control of potassium channels is the focus of this work from Mike Blatt’s lab at the University of Glasgow. They identify a subset of SNARE proteins (that are involved in vesicle trafficing) that control K+ channels, albeit in an unconventional manner. The vesicle-associated membrane proteins 721 (VAMP721) is able to target vesicles as well as supressing the actitivty of the K+ channels KAT1 and KC. This leads to a model whereby different subsets of SNARE proteins opposingly effect K+ channel activity alongside having an effect on vesicular transport.


Panoli A, Martin MV, Alandete-Saez M, Simon M, Neff C, Swarup R, Bellido A, Yuan L, Pagnussat GC, Sundaresan V. (2015) Auxin Import and Local Auxin Biosynthesis Are Required for Mitotic Divisions, Cell Expansion and Cell Specification during Female Gametophyte Development in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS One. 10:e0126164.

The primary interest of Ranjan Swarup’s group at the University of Nottingham is in hormone signalling and root development yet he is included as a collaborator in this publication led from UC-Davies that focusses on auxin signalling during female gametophyte development. The paper shows that the YUCCA family of the auxin biosynthetic genes are asymmetrically expressed during embryo sac development and that the AUX1 and LAX1 auxin influx carriers are expressed only at both the micropylar pole of the embryo sac and in adjacent cells of the ovule. In addition aux1lax1lax2 triple mutants show numerous gametophytic developmental defects.  Given the importance of auxin in most aspects of plant development, this paper highlights the specific manner in which auxin is required for mitotic divisions, cell expansion and patterning during embryo sac development.


Zheng L, Shang L, Chen X, Zhang L, Xia Y, Smith C, Bevan MW, Li Y, Jing HC (2015) TANG, Encoding a Symplekin_C Domain-contained Protein, Influences Sugar Responses in Arabidopsis Plant Physiol [Epub]

Mike Bevan at the JIC is a collaborator on this Chinese driven project that investigates Arabidopsis tang1 mutants. These plants are hypersensitive to sugar amd following a classic map-based cloning approach, the TANG1 gene was found to encode a novel protein with a predicted Symplekin tight junction protein C-terminal. As TANG1 is ubquitiously expressed and has little effect on known sugar signalling pathways, the precise in vivo role of the protein remains somewhat opaque even though it is clearly an important player in the response to sugar in Arabidopsis.

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