Arabidopsis Research Roundup: January 22nd 2016

A mixed selection of research in this UK Arabidopsis Roundup. Firstly a study from Stefan Kepinski and Mark Estelle that adds another layer of understanding to the regulation of the auxin response. Enrique Lopez-Juez leads a study into signaling between the nucleus and chloroplast while Tracey Lawson contributes to an investigation into role of starch metabolism in guard cells. Fran Maathuis and co-worker looks at differences in vacuolar transport between Arabidopsis ecotypes while Alan Marchant is involved in a study of cell wall pectins. Finally William Amos has uses the 1001genomes project to investigate heterozygote instability (HI).

Wang R, Zhang Y, Kieffer M, Yu H, Kepinski S, Estelle M (2016) HSP90 regulates temperature-dependent seedling growth in Arabidopsis by stabilizing the auxin co-receptor F-box protein TIR1. Nat Commun. 5;7:10269. Open Access

Stefan Kepinski (Leeds) is the UK lead on this collaboration with Mark Estelle from UCSD and it continues their previous work that investigates the much-studied auxin receptor TIR1. Arabidopsis seedlings grown at 29C show auxin-dependent hypocotyl elongation although the molecular mechanism behind this response has remained opaque. In this study they show that in high temperatures TIR1 accumulates in a manner dependent on the molecular chaperone, HSP90. In addition HSP90 and the co-chaperone SGT1 directly interact with TIR1. Inhibition of HSP90 results in degradation of the TIR1 and causes a range of auxin-mediated growth processes at both high and low temperatures. This study adds another level of complexity to the molecular basis of the auxin response.

Hills AC, Khan S, López-Juez E (2015) Chloroplast Biogenesis-Associated Nuclear Genes: Control by Plastid Signals Evolved Prior to Their Regulation as Part of Photomorphogenesis. Front Plant Sci. 10;6:1078. Open Access

The work comes exclusively from the lab of Enrique Lopez-Juez at Royal Holloway and investigates at the expression of photosynthesis-associated nuclear genes (PhANGs). This expression is dependent on light as well as plastid-to-nucleus “biogenic” communication signals and causes the assembly of photosynthesis component chloroplasts. The authors investigate the factors that control the activity of the Lhcb promotor in the light and the dark, both in angiosperms and gymnosperms. They propose that suppression of PhANG responses has contributed to the evolution of light-controlled chloroplast biogenesis.

Horrer D, Flütsch S, Pazmino D, Matthews JS, Thalmann M, Nigro A, Leonhardt N, Lawson T, Santelia D (2015) Blue Light Induces a Distinct Starch Degradation Pathway in Guard Cells for Stomatal Opening. Current Biology
Graphical Abstract
Tracey Lawson (University of Essex) is the UK lead on this UK-French-Swiss study that uses the stomatal guard cell experimental system to investigate the role of carbon metabolism in the response to blue light. Interestingly guard cells differ from other leave tissues in that they contain starch at the end of the night. However this starch store is rapidly degraded within 30minutes of light and is important for stomatal opening and subsequent biomass production. This starch degradation involves action of two enzymes, β-amylase 1 (BAM1) and α-amylase 3 (AMY3) that do not function during night time starch degradation in other tissues. This process is coordinated by blue light signalling and correlates with the activity of a plasma membrane ATPase. This study adds yet another level of our understanding into the mechanism of stomatal opening. See image for a proposed model of this process (from Cell Press).

Hartley TN, Maathuis FJ (2015) Allelic variation in the vacuolar TPK1 channel affects its calcium dependence and may impact on stomatal conductance. FEBS Lett. 90(1):110-7

Fran Maathuis (University of York) is the leader on this study that assesses the transport properties of two different vacuolar-localised AtTPK1 alleles identified for a study of natural variation in Arabidopsis. They use patch-clamping the interrogate the difference between these proteins from Lansberg (Ler) and Kas-2 ecotypes, when they showed different levels of Ca(2+) dependence. This coincided with lower water loss in either the presence of absence of ABA and higher Ler AtTPK1 activity at similar cytoplasmic [Ca]. The authors present a model that helps to explain their findings.

Dumont M, Lehner A, Vauzeilles B,, Malassis J, Marchant A, Smyth K, Linclau B, Baron A, Mas Pons J, Anderson CT, Schapman D, Galas L, Mollet JC, Lerouge P (2015) Plant cell wall imaging by metabolic click-mediated labelling of rhamnogalacturonan II using azido 3-deoxy-D-manno-oct-2-ulosonic acid. Plant Journal.

The majority of the authors on this Technical Advance are from French institutions but also includes UK plant scientist Alan Marchant (University of Southampton). They investigate the chemistry of Arabidopsis and tobacco cell walls, specifically looking at the incorperation of 3-deoxy-D-manno-oct-2-ulosonic acid (Kdo), a monosaccharide that is only found the cell wall pectin rhamnogalacturonan-II (RG-II). They show that RG-II is found in the primary cell wall including within the root elongation zone. Finally they show that monitoring of Kdo is an effective way to study the synthesis and redistribution of RG-II during root growth.

Amos W (2015) Heterozygosity increases microsatellite mutation rate. Biol Lett. Open Access

This study is led by Professor William Amos who is based in the Zoology department at Cambridge. He is not usually a plant science researcher but used the excellent 1001genome project to investigate heterozygote instability (HI) in Arabidopsis. He looked at AC microsatellite sequences from over 1100 genome sequences and used rare alleles as a surrogate for more recent mutations, ultimately showing that rare alleles are more likely to occur at locus-population combinations with higher heterozygosity even when all populations carry exactly the same number of alleles. This shows that local heterozygosity causes more mutations and represents a positive feedback loop.

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.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: July 11th

A couple of weeks since the last update as it’s been quiet for UK Arabidopsis Research publications. However we now see a variety of publications that address some important questions in different signaling pathways. Firstly a multinational collaboration performs a genome-wide analysis of DELLA binding, followed by two studies looking different aspects of light signaling, specifically the link with the production of protective carotenoids and also with the tight control of protein degradation. Elsewhere there is the description of a systems biology approach developed to aid the definition of signaling pathways in non-model organisms and finally a commentary piece about some work on Arabidopsis Arenosa.


Genome Wide Binding Site Analysis Reveals Transcriptional Coactivation of Cytokinin-Responsive Genes by DELLA Proteins (2015) Marín-de la Rosa N, Pfeiffer A, Hill K, Locascio A, Bhalerao RP, Miskolczi P, Grønlund AL, Wanchoo-Kohli A, Thomas SG, Bennett MJ, Lohmann JU, Blázquez MA, Alabadí D PLoS Genet. 11(7):e1005337.

The Centre for Integrative Biology in Nottingham and Rothamstead Plant Science partner with groups from Sweden, Germany, Spain and Saudi Arabia in this truly international collaboration. They investigate the role of DELLA proteins in the relay of environmental cues to multiple transcriptional circuits. The primary experimentation in this study uses ChIP-Seq to analyse the DNA-binding sites of one DELLA protein. Perhaps as expected the DELLA protein binds multiple promotor regions yet with a particular enrichment in regions upstream of cytokinin-regulated genes, where they interact with type-B ARABIDOPSIS RESPONSE REGULATOR (ARR) proteins. The biological relevance of this mechanism is underpinned by the requirement for both DELLAs and B-type ARRs in the control of root growth and photomorphogenesis.


Regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis by shade relies on specific subsets of antagonistic transcription factors and co-factors (2015) Bou-Torrent J, Toledo-Ortiz G, Ortiz-Alcaide M, Cifuentes-Esquivel N, Halliday KJ, Martinez-Garcia JF, Rodriguez-Concepcion M Plant Physiol.

Karen Halliday at the University of Edinburgh is part of this UK-Spanish team that studied the regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis via a light signaling module formed by PIF1 and HY5. In shade conditions, PIF proteins signal for a decrease in carotenoid accumulation, thus saving the plant unneeded energy consumption. The PIF1 response focusses on the phytoene synthase (PSY) biosynthetic gene and is antagonised by the PAR1 transcriptional co-factor. However this is not a universal response carried out by known antagonisers of PIF1 function, demonstrating that carotenoid biosynthesis is finely regulated by a precise subset of regulatory proteins.


High-level expression and phosphorylation of phytochrome B modulates flowering time in Arabidopsis (2015) Hajdu A, Ádám É, Sheerin DJ, Dobos O, Bernula P, Hiltbrunner A,, Kozma-Bognár L, Nagy F Plant Journal

Professor Ferenc Nagy has dual appointments in Edinburgh and in Hungary and this output results from work performed in Hungary. This study looks at control of flowering via phytochrome B signalling, which has been previously shown to rely on the degradation of the CONSTANS (CO) protein that in turn delays flowering by attenuating FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) expression. Therefore phyB mutants show accelerated flowering, yet this is unexpectedly also true following PHYB overexpression. The novelty of this study comes from showing that PHYB overexpression induces FT without affecting CO transcription but rather acts by causing accumulation of the CO protein, due to an affect on a COP1-ubiquitin ligase complex. This article adds further detail to the already complex relationship between light signaling, the circadian clock, protein degradation and de novo transcription in the control of flowering in Arabidopsis.


Inferring orthologous gene regulatory networks using interspecies data fusion (2015) Penfold CA, Millar JB, Wild DL. Bioinformatics. 31(12):i97-i105.

This study was led by David Wild from Warwick Systems Biology Centre. The authors have used two related Bayesian approaches to network inference that allow Gene Regulatory Networks (GRN) to be jointly inferred in, or leveraged between, several related species, for example between Arabidopsis and related crop species. Inferring gene function is achieved with more accuracy when GRNs are compared between species rather than attempting to use stand alone inference. The manuscript uses data from the yeast S.pombe but the broader principles could be applied to other experimental systems.


The High Life: Alpine Dwarfism in Arabidopsis (2015) Bomblies K Plant Physiol. 168(3):767.

This commentary piece about high altitude growth of Arabidopsis aernosa is the first published work from Kristen Bomblies since she moved her lab to the John Innes Centre from Havard (together with the lab of Levi Yant). Having these two talented young researchers relocate to the UK is be great for UK plant science so I sure everyone in the community wishes them all the best. Watch Kristen talk about her work at a New Phytologist conference from 2014.

Levi Yant also has two postdoctoral posts currently available in his lab.


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