Arabidopsis Research Roundup: August 8th

This weeks Arabidopsis Roundup contains a wide breadth of UK research. Firstly the lab of Jurriaan Ton undertakes a global analysis into the role of methylation in the immune response. Jurriaan kindly provides a short audio description of this work. Secondly Dame Caroline Dean’s lab further add to our understanding of the vernalisation response in Arabidopsis. Thirdly is work from Rothamstead that evaluates the fatty acid composition of the seed aleurone while fourthly is a study from Durham and Oxford Brookes that introduces a novel regulator of autophagy. Finally is a study that adds clarity to the phenotypic effects resulting from ascorbic acid deficiency.

López Sánchez A, H M Stassen J, Furci L, Smith LM, Ton J (2016) The role of DNA (de)methylation in immune responsiveness of Arabidopsis Plant Journal Open Access

Jurriaan Ton is the corresponding for study from the University of Sheffield that looks into the role of reversible methylation on the Arabidopsis immune response. Methylation is a well known regulator of gene expression and in this research the authors attempt to interrogate its effect on the immune response. Hypo-methylated mutants are more resistant, whilst hyper-methylated mutants are more suspectible to the biotrophic pathogen Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis (Hpa). Downstream gene expression changes in these methylation mutants focus at the level of cell-wall modification and salicylic acid (SA)-responses. Oppositely the hypo-methylated mutant nrpe1 is more suspective to the necrotrophic pathogen Plectosphaerella cucumerina whilst the hyper-methylated ros1 mutant is resistant to this organism. The Ton-lab has been involved in the discovery of the exciting phenomon of transgenerational acquired resistance, and both nrpe1 and ros1 fail to develop this response against Hpa. Global gene expression shows that either NRPE1 or ROS1 influence about 50% of the gene expression changes that occur following Hpa infection. Finally since less than 15% of genes with altered gene expression reside close to NRPE1 or ROS1, the authors are able to propose that much of this regulation is due to methylation effects that act in trans- throughout the genome.

Jurriaan kindly provides a comprehensive description of this work:

Qüesta JI, Song J, Geraldo N, An H, Dean C (2016) Arabidopsis transcriptional repressor VAL1 triggers Polycomb silencing at FLC during vernalization Science. 353(6298):485-8


Dame Caroline Dean (John Innes Centre) is the lead author of this manuscript that builds upon the portfolio of work from her lab aimed at characterising the vernalization response. This work again uses the FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) gene as a model to study the factors that allow gene-silencing mediated by Polycomb silencing complexes. The authors find that a single intragenic point mutation prevents nucleation of the homeodomain-Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PHD-PRC2) to this region, a process that involves the transcriptional repressor VAL1. In the wildtype FLC locus the localisation of VAL1 promotes transcriptional silencing through histone deacylation through interaction with the conserved apoptosis- and splicing-associated protein (ASAP) complex. This study adds an additional layer of molecular complexity to the process of regulating the FLC locus and provides insight into the important role for primary sequence-specific targeting during gene silencing.

Bryant F, Munoz-Azcarate O, Kelly AA, Beaudoin F, Kurup S, Eastmond PJ (2016) Acyl carrier protein DESATURASE 2 and 3 are responsible for making omega-7 fatty acids in the aleurone Plant Physiology Open Access

Peter Eastmond (Rothamstead) leads this work that investigates the components that determine seed fatty acid content. Specifically Omega-7 monounsaturated fatty acids (ω-7s) are enriched in the aleurone of Arabidopsis seeds so this study used a Multiparent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross population to identify a QTL linked to ω-7 content that includes the ACYL-ACYL CARRIER PROTEIN DESATURASE1 (AAD1) and AAD3 genes. AAD family members possess both stearoyl- and palmitoyl-ACP Δ9 desaturase activity and aad3 mutants show a significant reduction in ω-7 content, which is common with mutants in other AAD family members. In addition the authors show that the FATTY ACID ELONGASE1 protein is required for accumulation of long-chain ω-7s in the aleurone. Overall this research provides new insight into the pathway that produces ω-7s in the aleurone, indicating that these genes might represent a target for future strategies to alter seed fatty acid content.

Wang P, Richardson C, Hawes C, Hussey PJ.(2016) Arabidopsis NAP1 Regulates the Formation of Autophagosomes Current Biology


This is collaborative effort between the labs of Patrick Hussey (Durham) and Chris Hawes (Oxford Brookes) investigates the role of the NAP1 protein, which is a member of the SCAR/WAVE complex, on the formation of autophagosomes. These organelles are induced by certain stress conditions and fewer are produced in nap1 mutants after starvation stress. This also corresponds to wildtype NAP1 localisation. Concomitantly nap1 mutants, as well as mutants of other members of SCAR/WAVE complex, are more suspectible to nitrogen starvation and is less tolerant to salt stress. The best characterised role of the SCAR/WAVE complex is during ARP2/3-mediated actin nucleation yet this study demonstrates an addition function as a regulatory of autophagy.

Lim B, Smirnoff N, Cobbett CS, Golz JF (2016) Ascorbate-Deficient vtc2 Mutants in Arabidopsis Do Not Exhibit Decreased Growth Front Plant Sci. 7:1025 Open Access

Nick Smirnoff (Exeter) is a co-author on the Australian-led research into Arabidopsis vtc mutants, which have a significant reduction in ascorbate-acid levels. Ascorbate is synthesized via the L-galactose pathway, the first enzyme of which is encoded by the paralogs VITAMIN C2 (VTC2) and VTC5. This study characterises the growth of a vtc2 T-DNA mutant that has a 30% reduction in ascorbate levels. Surprisingly this does not result in any signficant phenotypic and they suggest that a previously characterised growth reduction in other vtc2 mutant alleles is likely due to unknown genetic lesions.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: July 27th

Each of the papers in this Arabidopsis Research Roundup involves the response to different stimuli. Giles Johnson at Manchester provides an audio description of work that has discovered a novel mechanism of cold sensing whilst Gordon Simpson and John Brown from Dundee are contributors to work that has interrogated the sugar signaling pathway. Finally is a study from Warwick that has identified novel loci involved in ABA signaling and seed vigour.

Dyson BC, Miller MA, Feil R, Rattray N, Bowsher C, Goodacre R, Lunn JE, Johnson GN (2016) FUM2, a cytosolic fumarase, is essential for acclimation to low temperature in Arabidopsis thaliana Plant Physiology

Open Access


Giles Johnson (Manchester) is the corresponding author on this UK-German collaboration that looks at the mechanisms by which plants sense the low temperatures that cause significant phenotypic changes. GC-MS showed that fumarate is a key component in the cold tolerance response and that the activity of the FUM2 enzyme is responsible for accumulation of fumaric acid. Plants that lack FUM2 activity show significant alteration in gene expression and metabolite profile following a cold treatment and in particularly are unable to acclimate photosynthesis at lower temperatures. Therefore this study introduces a novel component of the temperature sensing apparatus, which might have broad significance for attempts to develop crops with an improved cold response.

Giles kindly provides an audio description of this work, which includes an overview into cold acclimation of photosynthesis. This includes an excellent ‘stress-ball’ analogy! (Apologies for pen-clicks :/).


Carvalho RF, Szakonyi D, Simpson CG, Barbosa IC, Brown JW, Baena-González E, Duque P (2016) The Arabidopsis SR45 Splicing Factor, a Negative Regulator of Sugar Signaling, Modulates SNF1-Related Protein Kinase 1 (SnRK1) Stability The Plant Cell


Gordon Simpson and John Brown (James Hutton Institute) are contributors to this Portuguese-led study that investigates the role of the SR45 splicing factor in sugar signaling. In sr45-1 mutants they show that glucose-feeding causes increased levels of the energy-sensing SNF1-Related Protein Kinase 1 (SnRK1) yet without increasing its gene expression. Concomitantly the hypersensitivity of sr45-1 mutants is rescued in plants with reduced levels of SnRK1. The authors discovered that the mechanistic link between these genes involves SR45-1 regulating the alternative splicing of the 5PTase13 gene, which encodes an inositol polyphosphate 5-phosphatase that interacts with SnRK1 in vivo. In wildtype plants 5PTase13 modulates proteasomal-mediated degradation of SnRK1 and therefore a perturbation of this process in sr45-1 explains this defect in sugar-sensing.

Morris K, Barker GC, Walley PG, Lynn JR, Finch-Savage WE (2016) Trait to gene analysis reveals that allelic variation in three genes determines seed vigour. New Phytol. Open Access

Bill Finch-Savage is the corresponding author on this study from the Warwick University that uses Brassica oleracea natural variation to identify novel loci involved in seed vigour. The discovered QTL was termed Speed of Germination (SOG1) and contained two genes, BoLCVIG2, a homologue of the alternative-splicing regulator (AtPTB1) and BoLCVIG1, which has unknown function. Transfer of these alleles into Arabdopsis causes alterations in seed germination, which is also observed in mutants of the equivalent Arabidopsis genes (At3g01060, At3g01150). Furthermore an additional discovered QTL encodes the Reduced ABscisic Acid 1 (RABA1) gene, which influences ABA content and seed vigour. Therefore this mapping strategy has discovered three genes that promote seed vigour resulting from alterations in ABA content and sensitivity.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: October 20th

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Published on: October 20, 2015

There are just three research papers in this weeks Arabidopsis Roundup but they each represent important projects from established groups. Firstly is a significant output from the Edinburgh SynthSys Centre that documents their analysis of the Arabidopsis circadian clock. Secondly an international collaborative effort looks into the molecular signaling pathways that control the physiological response to increasing CO2 levels and thirdly a paper that uncovers a novel plant-specific molecular mechanism that controls the biogenesis of certain siRNAs. Finally we highlight a major review concerning the importance of Arabidopsis research over the past 50 years.

Flis A, Fernández AP, Zielinski T, Mengin V, Sulpice R, Stratford K, Hume A, Pokhilko A, Southern MM, Seaton DD, McWatters HG, Stitt M, Halliday KJ, Millar AJ (2015) Defining the robust behaviour of the plant clock gene circuit with absolute RNA timeseries and open infrastructure. Open Biol. 5(10). pii: 150042.

This study of the Arabidopsis circadian clock, impressive in its breadth, is led by faculty members from the University of Edinburgh SynthSys Synthetic Biology Centre. The team measured RNA profiles of clock genes in plants grown with or without exogenous sucrose or from wildtype or mutant soil growth plants. They found surprisingly robust patterns of expression together with some novel genetic behaviours. In addition they discovered major differences in the absolute expression of certain clock genes, ranging from 50 up to 1500 copies/ cell. Importantly this information is freely-available within the BioDare repository and it is hoped that this will benefit future attempts at modeling the circadian clock.

Chater C, Peng K, Movahedi M, Dunn JA, Walker HJ, Liang YK, McLachlan DH, Casson S, Isner JC, Wilson I, Neill SJ, Hedrich R, Gray JE, Hetherington AM (2015) Elevated CO2-Induced Responses in Stomata Require ABA and ABA Signaling Curr Biol. pii: S0960-9822(15)01092-1.

This broad collaboration between UK, German and Chinese researchers is led by Alistair Hetherington (Bristol) and Julie Gray (Sheffield) and looks into the molecular events that respond to changing levels of CO2, specifically in guard cells. The new findings in this manuscript show that reduction in stomatal density in response to higher [CO2] relies on the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), adding a new element to this signaling pathway. In addition they show that the ABA response pathway is also involved in this process and that, following genetic analysis, the CO2 response is mediated via this hormone pathway. However it is unclear whether this is due to ABA increasing CO2 sensitivity in this system or whether CO2 acts specifically in guard cells to increase ABA biosynthesis. A plants response to CO2 is ancestral in evolutionary terms so the authors suggest that this link with ABA signaling is similarly ancient.


Zhai J, Bischof S, Wang H, Feng S, Lee TF, Teng C, Chen X, Park SY, Liu L, Gallego-Bartolome J, Liu W, Henderson IR, Meyers BC, Ausin I, Jacobsen SE (2015) A One Precursor One siRNA Model for Pol IV-Dependent siRNA Biogenesis. Cell. 163(2):445-55

GARNet Advisory Board member Ian Henderson is an author in this rare plant-focused paper in Cell, in work that results from his post-doc with Steve Jacobson at UCLA. The manuscript describes a novel mode of action surrounding the plant-specific RNA Polymerase IV (Pol IV). RNAs generated from the activity of Pol IV play an important role in RNA-directed DNA methylation. Intriguingly the authors found that Pol IV transcripts are surprisingly short, just 30 to 40 nt and are similarly adundant to the siRNAs that they subsequently form. The Pol IV RNAs exhibit transcriptional start points similar to those generated by Pol II, which might indicate there are similar mechanisms that control their activity. In addition they find that methylated DNA plays a role in locally reinforcing the silencing reaction. Overall this indicates that the transcripts produced by Pol IV go through a unique “one precursor, one siRNA” model, although the physiological significance of this remains opaque. Another paper on this topic is presented in ELife by the lab of Craig Pikaard.


Provart et al (2015) 50 years of Arabidopsis research: highlights and future directions New Phytol.

Also worth noting this week is a Tansley Review in New Phytologist, which coincides with 50 years since the inaugural Arabidopsis Conference held in 1965. This review has been written by a number of senior Arabidopsis researchers, although no-one from the UK, to discuss the many important findings that have resulted from work on our favourite organism.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: August 21st.

There are a wide array of topics included in this weeks Arabidopsis Research Roundup, ranging from studies on stomatal density, thylakoid transport, metabolic flux analysis, mutant detection and root development. We feature unlinked studies from three researchers from the University of Oxford Plant Science (Paul Jarvis, Lee Sweetlove and Nick Harberd), whilst the papers from Julie Gray and Brian Forde share the broad theme that investigates different mechanisms that might be used to improve nitrogen uptake, either by modifying the expression of a single gene involved in root development or by altering stomatal density.

Hepworth C, Doheny-Adams T, Hunt L, Cameron DD, Gray JE (2015) Manipulating stomatal density enhances drought tolerance without deleterious effect on nutrient uptake New Phytol.

Julie Gray (University of Sheffield) is an expert on both stomatal biology and on the potential for manipulating stomatal density to improve crop production. In this study drought tolerance and soil water retention were measured in four Arabidopsis mutants with defects in epidermal patterning and stomatal density. Nutrient uptake was measured by mass flow of 15N. Plants with less stomata had reduced transpiration and were drought-tolerant yet interestingly showed little reduction in shoot N concentrations, especially when water availability is restricted. In contrast, plants with extra stomata could take up more N except when access to water was reduced. Therefore the authors show that by altering stomatal density they can generate plants that are drought resistance yet maintain nutrient uptake or generate plants with enhancing nutrient uptake is conditions with plentiful water.

Trösch R, Töpel M, Flores-Pérez Ú, Jarvis P (2015) Genetic and Physical Interaction Studies Reveal Functional Similarities between ALB3 and ALB4 in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol.

This German, Swedish and UK collaboration is led by Paul Jarvis at the University of Oxford and broadly investigates thylakoid protein targeting. The ALB3 complex has previously been shown to target light harvesting complex proteins (LHCP) to the thylakoid. A related Arabidopsis protein, ALB4, had been proposed to interact not the LHCPs but rather with the ATP synthase complex. However this study shows that ALB3 and ALB4 have some overlapping roles in addition to their specific functions and that they can engage with a similar set of interactor proteins to bring their substrates to the thylakoid membrane.

Cheung CY, Ratcliffe RG, Sweetlove LJ (2015) A method of accounting for enzyme costs in flux balance analysis reveals alternative pathways and metabolite stores in an illuminated Arabidopsis leaf Plant Physiol.

Lee Sweetlove (Oxford University) leads this study that looks at the Flux Balance Analysis (FBA) of plant metabolism across several metabolic pathways by attaching ‘flux weighting factors’ to allow for the variable intrinsic cost of supporting each flux. This model has been applied to the Arabidopsis leaf exposed to different light regimes to explore the flexibility of the network in meeting its metabolic requirements. The authors discover interesting trade-offs between use of different carbon storage forms and in the variable consumption of ATP and NADPH by different metabolic pathways.

Belfield EJ, Brown C, Gan X, Jiang C, Baban D, Mithani A, Mott R, Ragoussis J, Harberd NP (2014) Microarray-based optimization to detect genomic deletion mutations Genom Data Dec;2:53-54

GARNet Advisory Board member Nick Harberd (Oxford University) leads this short communication that highlights the development of a tool for detection of genomic deletion mutants in Arabidopsis. Using a NimbleGen whole genome custom tiling array they successfully identify five mutants with deletion ranging from 4bp to 5kb and therefore introduce a powerful tool for analysing this type of genetic lesion in Arabidopsis and other plant species with well-constructed genomes.

Yu C, Liu Y, Zhang A, Su S, Yan A, Huang L, Ali I, Liu Y, Forde BG, Gan Y (2015) MADS-box Transcription Factor OsMADS25 Regulates Root Development through Affection of Nitrate Accumulation in Rice PLoS One

Brian Forde (Lancaster University) is the UK lead on this Chinese collaboration that focuses on nitrate accumulation and how it regulates root development in rice. This occurs via a MADS-box transcription factor OsMADS25 that, when overexpressed in Arabidopsis, promotes primary and lateral root development. Altered expression of this gene also affects root development in transgenic rice and includes significant changes in nitrate accumulation. Therefore this gene might prove to be an important target for future attempts to improve plant growth in regions with altered nitrate concentrations.

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