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.


Brassica Research Report: 2015

The Arabidopsis Research Roundup has been put to bed for 2015 so in the leadup to the Christmas we’ll take a look at some of the papers that have been published in 2015 by UK researchers working ondifferent plants.
Today we focus on Brassica species and by looking at papers from throughout 2015 this selection touches on a broad selection of research areas. Chronologically first is a study from Nottingham University that looks at the ability of Brassica rapa to take up specific elements, such as Zn, Ca and Mg. Secondly is a study that documents the parameters that make different cultivars of Brassica napus useful in biorefining. Thirdly we highlight where Brassica oleracea has been used both in preference to, and alongside Arabidopsis in a study that investigates meiotic recombination. Next is a study that investigates the relationship between leaf colour and insect herbivory. Finally we highlight a recent publication from the John Innes Centre that demonstrates the ability to generate gene-edited B.oleracea.
The varieties of Brassica

Blasco B, Graham NS, Broadley MR (2015) Antioxidant response and carboxylate metabolism in Brassica rapa exposed to different external Zn, Ca, and Mg supply.
J Plant Physiol. 176:16-24
Martin Broadley and Neil Graham from Nottingham University lead this study that investigates antioxidant response and carboxylate metabolism in Brassica rapa. The authors looked at these parameters in the presence of varying amounts of zinc, calcium or magnesium in experiments that aimed to simulate the response to deficiency or toxicity of these elements. Plants grown with high concentrations of these elements showed increased shoot biomass, hydrogen peroxide, total ascorbate and increasing activity of enzymes involved in removal of antioxidants. This indicates that B.rapa is particularly sensitive to high levels of these elements. The information provided in this study represents important baseline measurements that will aid the future characterisation of B.rapa TILLING lines, generated by the RevGenUK service at the JIC.


Wood IP, Wellner N, Elliston A, Wilson DR, Bancroft I, Waldron KW (2015) Effect of Brassica napus cultivar on cellulosic ethanol yield. Biotechnol Biofuels. 8:99. Open Access
Keith Waldron (Institute of Food Research, JIC) leads this collaboration with the University of York that investigates how the sugar composition of Brassica napus alters its ability to be used as a source for biorefining. They found significant differences in the saccharification and fermentation yields after the processing of straw obtained from 17 different B.napus cultivars. Surprisingly glucan-rich straw was not correlated with higher saccharification or ethanol yields but rather the non-cellulosic components were more reliable indicators of substrate quality, with the amount of pectins and arabinogalactans having the greatest impact on saccharification. Ultimately this study finds that pectin concentration is most likely to determine to effectiveness of the cultivar in the production of bioethanol. This is important information for the future development of different dicot species for use in this aspect of biorefining.


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 Open Access

Immunolocalisation of proteins during meiotic recombination in Brassica.
Immunolocalisation of proteins during meiotic recombination in Brassica.

Chris Franklin (Birmingham) is the leader on the UK-US-Austrian collaboration that looks at the role of the PCH2 protein during meiotic recombination. Although much of this study uses Arabidopsis mutant plants, the initial immunoprecipitations that led to identification of novel factors were performed using pollen mother cells from Brassica oleracea. Subsequently some important imaging also takes place in B.oleracea. The authors use structured illumination microscopy (SIM) to investigation the localisation of synaptonemal complex formation during meiosis and the close relationship between Arabidopsis and B.oleracea allowed the authors to use to same reagents fo these experiments. This paper was featured in an Arabidopis Research Roundup earlier in the year.


Green JP, Foster R, Wilkins L, Osorio D, Hartley SE (2015) Leaf Colour as a Signal of Chemical Defence to Insect Herbivores in Wild Cabbage (Brassica oleracea). PLoS One 10(9):e0136884 Open Access

This collaboration between York and Sussex Universitites is led by Sue Hartley and Daniel Osorio and look into the role that leaf colour plays in the defence response in wild cabbage. This aspect of plant physiology has been proposed as being important in defence against insect herbivory but this is the first instance where real data from wild populations has been obtained on this topic. The authors found that variation in leaf colour and brightness corresponded to particular glucosinolate levels as well as of the ability of certain herbivores to colonise the leaves. As might be predicted, leaves with lower levels of glucosinolate coincided with faster growth rates of lepidopteran larvae. However in a controlled experiment neither adult butterflies or adult aphids showed a preference for leaves of different colours. This therefore might suggest that although in the field herbivores may benefit from colonising leaves with lower defence chemicals (and an altered colour), the adults do not have the ability to select for these particular leaves, indicating that selection of leaves is either down to chance or other uninvestigated parameters.


Lawrenson T, Shorinola O, Stacey N, Li C, Østergaard L, Patron N, Uauy C, Harwood W (2015) Induction of targeted, heritable mutations in barley and Brassica oleracea using RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease Genome Biol. 16:258. Open Access

An example of successfully gene edited Brassica. From Genome Biology
An example of successfully gene edited Brassica. From Genome Biology

This is a collaboration between Wendy Harwood, Cristobal Uauy, Nicola Patron and Lars Ostargaard from the John Innes Centre and the Sainsbury Lab in Norwich. Over the past few years, CRISPR-Cas technology has been presented as important technology to be used in the future generation of gene edited crops. However only a few studies have been published to date where this technology has been effectively used. This paper describes the use of CRISPR-Cas to generate specific mutations in both barley and Brassica oleracea. Across both species they identified targeted mutations in 10%-25% of the first generation plants although interestingly they were also able to identify B.oleracea mutants in the T0 generation. They also observed off-target activity in both species even though the designed guide RNAs contains mismatches with the incorrectly edited sequences.
This is important work demonstrating that this type of gene editing can be used to rapidly generate stable mutants in crop species. The creation of mutants in off-target genes is a potential concern from a regulatory perspective although can be viewed as a positive factor for targeting multigene families that do not have appropriate identical target sequences.

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