Arabidopsis Research Roundup: July 18th

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Published on: July 18, 2017

This weeks Arabidopsis Research Roundup includes four studies from around the UK. Firstly is a systems-level study of the drought response that includes Alessandra Devoto from RHUL as a co-author. Secondly Anne Osbourn’s group at the JIC investigates sesterterpenoid biosynthesis across plant species. Thirdly Paul Jarvis from Oxford University adds to this groups portfolio of research on the mechanisms that control thylakoid import. Finally Patrick Gallois (University of Manchester) provides further insight into the regulation of programmed cell death.

Kim JM, To TK et al (2017) Acetate-mediated novel survival strategy against drought in plants Nature Plants http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/10.1038/nplants.2017.97

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Alessandra Devoto (Royal Holloway) is an co-author of this Japanese-led study that investigates the system-wide alterations that plants make in response to drought stress. They demonstrate that the histone deacetylase HDA6 is the primary regulator of an epigenetic switch that leads to a metabolic flux conversion from glycolysis into acetate synthesis. This in turn stimulates the jasmonate signaling pathway that causes increased drought tolerance. Importantly the authors show that this critical survival response is evolutionarily conserved through monocots and dicots.

Alessandra discusses this paper on the GARNet YouTube channel

Huang AC, Kautsar SA, Hong YJ, Medema MH, Bond AD, Tantillo DJ, Osbourn A (2017) Unearthing a sesterterpene biosynthetic repertoire in the Brassicaceae through genome mining reveals convergent evolution. PNAS http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/10.1073/pnas.1705567114

Open Access

Anne Osbourn (JIC) leads this study in which her group works with collaborators from Cambridge, Wageningen and UC Davis to perform a cross-species genome-wide analysis of sesterterpenoid biosynthesis. They use a novel search algorithm to identify paired enzymatic components that comprise sesterterpene synthases (STS). These enzymes were transiently overexpressed in tobacco leaves, resulting in the formation of fungal-like sesterterpenes, suggestive of convergent evolution of plant and fungal STS. This study illuminates possible future strategies for the beneficial use of sesterterpenes through metabolic and protein engineering

Bédard J, Trösch R, Wu F, Ling Q, Flores-Pérez Ú, Töpel M, Nawaz F, Jarvis P (2017) New Suppressors of the Chloroplast Protein Import Mutant tic40 Reveal a Genetic Link between Protein Import and Thylakoid Biogenesis. Plant Cell. http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/10.1105/tpc.16.00962 Open Access

Paul Jarvis (Oxford University) leads this global collaboration that focuses on the chloroplast protein import protein Tic40. A suppressor screen identified two novel regulators of Tic40, ALB4 and STIC2 that they postulate are involved in the thylakoid targeting of a subset of proteins and that their influence becomes more important in the absence of Tic40.

Cai YM, Yu J, Ge Y, Mironov A, Gallois P (2017) Two proteases with caspase-3-like activity, cathepsin B and proteasome, antagonistically control ER-stress-induced programmed cell death in Arabidopsis. New Phytol.

http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/10.1111/nph.14676 Open Access

Patrick Gallois is the corresponding author on this study that originates at the University of Manchester. They attempt to establish a role for cathepsin B and proteasome subunit PBA1 in the control of programmed cell death (PCD) and whether their functions interest with those of caspase-3. They reveal a complex system of regulation where aspects of PCD are differentially impacted by each of these proteins. They propose the role of cathepsin B might occur late in PCD following tonoplast rupture.

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: February 20th

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Published on: February 19, 2017

This weeks Arabidopsis Research Roundup begins with two papers that look at endogenous and exogenous causes of cell proliferation. Firstly Mike Bevan (JIC) leads a team that looks into the role of controlled protein degradation in this process whilst secondly, Peter Etchells from Durham is a co-author on a study that investigates how nematode pathogens stimulate cell proliferation at the site of infection.

Thirdly is work featuring Cyril Zipfel and colleagues from TSL that looks at how autophosphorylation controls the activity of calcium dependent protein kinases. Fourthly is a broad collaboration led by Richard Mott (UCL) that uses genomic structural variation to identify novel loci. Next Simon Turner from the University of Manchester phylogenetically defines the RALK peptide lineages across plant species. Finally researchers at the University of York conduct a structural analysis of the Arabidopsis AtGSTF2 glutathione transferase.

Dong H, Dumenil J, Lu FH, Na L, Vanhaeren H, Naumann C, Klecker M, Prior R, Smith C, McKenzie N, Saalbach G, Chen L, Xia T, Gonzalez N, Seguela M, Inze D, Dissmeyer N, Li Y, Bevan MW (2017) Ubiquitylation activates a peptidase that promotes cleavage and destabilization of its activating E3 ligases and diverse growth regulatory proteins to limit cell proliferation in Arabidopsis.

Genes Dev. http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/10.1101/gad.292235.116

Open Access

Mike Bevan (John Innes Centre) is the corresponding author of this study that also includes researchers from labs in Belgium, Germany and China. They investigate a fundamental determinant of organ shape, the pattern of cell proliferation that leads to final cell size. They show that two RING E3 ligases activate the DA1 peptidase that in turn affects the stabilization and activity of a range of other proteins including the transcription factors TEOSINTE BRANCED 1/CYCLOIDEA/PCF 15 (TCP15) and TCP22. Overall this results in continued cell proliferation and repression of endoreduplication, which ultimately serves to regulate the timing of the transition from cell proliferation to organ differentiation.

Mike discusses the science surrounding this paper on the GARNet YouTube channel.

Guo X,, Wang J, Gardner M, Fukuda H, Kondo Y, Etchells JP, Wang X, Mitchum MG. Identification of cyst nematode B-type CLE peptides and modulation of the vascular stem cell pathway for feeding cell formation. PLoS Pathog. http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1006142

Open Access

Peter Etchells (University of Durham) is a co-author on this US-led study that looks at the effect of nematode-delivered CLE-like peptides on cell growth and how that impacts parasitism. This study has identified a new class of peptides from nematodes that are similar to the plant B-type CLE-like peptide TDIF (tracheary element differentiation inhibitory factor). They show that the nematodes alter the activity of the TDIF-TDR (TDIF receptor)-WOX4 signaling module during infection, whose endogenous function acts during procambial meristem cell proliferation. A variety of mutants involved in this process show reduced infection and leading to the hypothesis that WOX4 is a potential target for nematode CLEs. When exogenous nematode CLE peptides are added to Arabidopsis roots they cause massive cell proliferation. This demonstrates that this response is clearly important for the establishment of nematode infection, usually in cambial cell files.

Bender KW, Blackburn RK, Monaghan J, Derbyshire P, Menke FL, Zipfel C, Goshe MB, Zielinski RE, Huber SC (2017) Autophosphorylation-based calcium (Ca2+) sensitivity priming and Ca2+/Calmodulin inhibition of Arabidopsis thaliana Ca2+-dependent protein kinase 28 (CPK28) J Biol Chem.


Cyril Zipfel (The Sainsbury Lab) features for a second consecutive week on the Arabidopsis research roundup, this time as a co-author in a study that investigates the role of autophosphorylation in the regulation of calcium (Ca2+) dependent protein kinases (CPKs). In addition they evaluated the role of Calmodulin (CaM) on the activity of CPKs, something that had been previously overlooked. Indeed they show that CPK28 is a CaM-binding protein and that autophosphorylation causes increased activity, especially in low Ca2+ concentrations. Therefore this research provides a mechanistic insight into how a cell might respond to low levels of Ca2+.

Imprialou M, Kahles A, Steffen JG, Osborne EJ, Gan X, Lempe J, Bhomra A, Belfield E, Visscher A, Greenhalgh R, Harberd NP, Goram R, Hein J, Robert-Seilaniantz A, Jones J, Stegle O, Kover P, Tsiantis M, Nordborg M, Rätsch G, Clark RM, Mott R Genomic Rearrangements in Arabidopsis Considered as Quantitative Traits. Genetics. http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/10.1534/genetics.116.192823

Open Access

Richard Mott (UCL) is corresponding author on this paper includes authors from throughout the UK, Europe and the US. They provide a new analysis of Arabidopsis populations that relies on the genome structural variation. They treat these structural variants as quantitative traits and subsequently map genetically in the same way as in a gene expression study. When a structural variant locus is linked to a genotype at a distant locus then it is designated as a site of transposition. Remarkably they show 25% of the structural variants can be assigned to the transposition events. This method of assessing structural variant loci is amendable to sequencing at low-coverage and this study identified loci that might be involved in germination and resistant to pathogens. Overall they find that genes within structural variants are more likely to be silenced and that this novel analysis technique is particularly useful when mapping transposition events.

Campbell L, Turner SR1(2017) A Comprehensive Analysis of RALF Proteins in Green Plants Suggests There Are Two Distinct Functional Groups. Front Plant Sci. http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/10.3389/fpls.2017.00037

Open Access

This study from the lab of Simon Turner (University of Manchester) analyse Rapid Alkalinization Factor (RALFs) cysteine-rich peptides from across 51 plant species. They infer that these plant RALFs originate from four major clades in which the majority of the variation exists in the mature peptide sequence, indicative of clade-specific activities. Clade IV accounts for a third of the total peptides yet these lack a number of sequence features thought to be important for RALF function, which leads the authors to speculate that this clade should be thought of as containing RALF-related peptides instead of regular RALFs. Further experimental work is needed in order to define the true nature of the functional relationship between Clades I-III and Clade IV.

Ahmad L, Rylott EL, Bruce NC, Edwards R, Grogan G (2016) Structural evidence for Arabidopsis glutathione transferase AtGSTF2 functioning as a transporter of small organic ligands. FEBS Open Bio. http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/10.1002/2211-5463.12168

Open Access

This paper links plant science and structural biology in a study that was undertaken at the University of York. Plant Glutathione transferases (GSTs) have multiple roles including in the detoxification of xenobiotics as well as in various non-catalytic roles. In this work the structure of the Arabidopsis AtGSTF2 is revealed in tandem with a variety of non-catalytic partners including indole-3-aldehyde, camalexin, the flavonoid quercetrin and its non-rhamnosylated analogue quercetin. These are thought to bind to AtGSTF2 by hydrophobic interactions at either one or two symmetrical binding sites. The authors speculate that this non-catalytic binding might have a possible role in ligand transport.

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: July 11th

After a conference break the Arabidopsis Research Roundup returns with an outstanding selection of papers from UK (and mostly Scotland-based) researchers. Firstly Levi Yant provides an audio description of work that has identified important loci for adaption to harsh environments. Secondly John Doonan leads a multi-national group investigating the role of eiF4A phosphorylation within proliferating cells. Next two Scottish-based studies both investigate aspects of light signalling on different scales: a Glasgow-based consortium dissects the UVR8 signaling module while the role of phytochrome on global carbon allocation is studied by Karen Halliday’s group in Edinburgh. The final paper also involves significant Scottish involvement with Piers Hemsley at Dundee together with Simon Turner at Manchester investigating the role of s-acylation in the activity of the cellulose synthase complex.

Arnold BJ, Lahner B, DaCosta JM, Weisman CM, Hollister JD, Salt DE, Bomblies K, Yant L (2016) Borrowed alleles and convergence in serpentine adaptation. PNAS Open Access

New investigator at the John Innes Centre, Levi Yant, is the corresponding author on this study that also includes contributions from the labs of Kristen Bomblies and current GARNet Chairman David Salt. This investigation uses GWAS techniques to identify loci in Arabidopsis Arenosa that are important for growth on serpentine barrens, which are characterised by drought, mineral paucity and high levels of heavy metals. They showed that polygenic multi-trait genomic locations are important for serpentine adaptation. The authors reassessed previous independent datasets and showed that 11 loci have been identified across these studies and are therefore good candidates as drivers of convergent evolution. This study provides evidence that certain A.arenosa alleles have been introgressed from A.lyrata and that these may facilitate adaptation to a multi-hazard environment.

Levi kindly provides a short audio description of this work, that also touches on ionomics and data reuse!

Bush MS, Pierrat O, Nibau C, Mikitova V, Zheng T, Corke FM, Vlachonasios K, Mayberry LK, Browning KS, Doonan JH (2016) eIF4A RNA Helicase Associates with Cyclin-Dependent Protein Kinase A in Proliferating Cells and is Modulated by Phosphorylation Plant Physiol. Open Access

Growth of phospho-null or phospho-mimetic mutants of eif4a1

John Doonan (Aberystwyth) is the leader of this wide collaboration of UK, US, Czech, Greek and Chinese researchers that investigate the interaction of the eIF4A RNA helicase with cyclin-dependent protein kinase A (CDKA). This interaction only occurs in proliferating cells where CDKA acts by phosphorylating specific amino acids on eIF4A. Throughout in vivo and in vitro experiments using phospho-null and phosphor-mimetic version of eIF4A, the authors show that phosphorylation acts to downregulate eIF4A activity, subsequently altering the efficacy of translation.


Heilmann M, Velanis CN, Cloix C, Smith BO, Christie JM, Jenkins GI (2016) Dimer/monomer status and in vivo function of salt-bridge mutants of the plant UV-B photoreceptor UVR8. Plant J Open Access

This exclusively University of Glasgow study is led by John Christie and Gareth Jenkins. Dimeric UVR8 is a UV photoreceptor that after UV-B interaction dissociates into monomers, which interact with COP1 to begin signal transduction. The UVR8 dimer develops through the formation of salt-bridges between individual UVR8 proteins. In this study the details of the dimerization are dissected, showing that several salt-bridge amino acids are necessary for the multiple functions of both the UVR8 dimer and monomer. Interestingly the authors show that UVR8 with conservative mutations of Asp96 and Asp107 to Asn96 and Asn107 are unable to form dimers yet retain wildtype responses to UV-B. This shows that monomeric UVR8 has the ability to normally initiate a signal transduction pathway and complicates our understanding of the in vivo role of the UVR8 dimer.

Phy mutants have reduced biomass. Taken from:

Yang D, Seaton DD, Krahmer J, Halliday KJ (2016) Photoreceptor effects on plant biomass, resource allocation, and metabolic state. PNAS 113(27):7667-72

Karen Halliday (Edinburgh) is the corresponding author on this investigation into the broader impact of Arabidopsis phytochromes on carbon allocation and biomass production. Even though phytochrome mutants have reduced CO2 uptake they overaccumulate resources into sucrose and starch and show altered day:night growth rates. Overall this leads to reduced growth coincident with reduced expression of CELLULOSE SYNTHASE-LIKE genes. The authors demonstrate that phytochromes play a significant role in the control of biomass allocation and that they additionally differentially respond to external stresses. Evolutionarily this indicates that modification of phytochrome expression might be an important mechanism for responding to changing environments.

Kumar M, Wightman R, Atanassov I, Gupta A, Hurst CH, Hemsley PA, Turner S (2016) S-Acylation of the cellulose synthase complex is essential for its plasma membrane localization. Science. 353(6295):166-9

Simon Turner (Manchester) and Piers Hemsley (James Hutton Institute, University of Dundee) lead this research which amalgamates the work from their individual labs and assesses the role of S-acylation on the activity of cellulose synthase complex (CSC). They show that core subunits of the CSC, cellulose synthase A (CESA) proteins, require s-acylation for their localisation to the plasma membrane, which is necessary for their in vivo activity. The authors estimate that a CSC might contain over 100 S-acyl groups, which could significantly alter its hydrophobicity and its interactions within the membrane environment.

CES localisation: Taken from

Arabidopsis Research Roundup: Oct 28th

This latest Arabidopsis Research Roundup is rather GARNet-focused as members of the current Advisory Board lead three of the featured papers. Firstly we present a study into mechanisms that control meiotic recombination, which also includes a short audio-description from the lead author Dr Ian Henderson. Secondly we introduce a paper that identifies the function of a novel gene in the control of male fertility and thirdly, a study of a translation control-factor that is involved in regulation of cell size and ovule development. In addition we introduce some highly collaborative work that looks into the role of SUMO proteases in SA signaling. Finally there is a methods paper that presents a new protocol for measurement of cellulose content in Arabidopsis stems.

Yelina N, Lambing C, Hardcastle T, Zhao X, Santos B, Henderson I (2015) DNA methylation epigenetically silences crossover hot spots and controls chromosomal domains of meiotic recombination in Arabidopsis Genes & Dev. 29: 2183-2202

GARNet advisory board member Ian Henderson leads this study that assesses how methylation state influences the chromosomal regions that undergo meiotic recombination. It was previously known that highly-methylated regions, such as centromeres, do not often undergo recombination. This work naturally extends that knowledge by using RNA-directed DNA methylation to show that methylation of local euchromatic regions also have reduced recombination levels. Equally they show that global reductions in CG methylation, such as in met1 mutants, cause wide-scale alterations in recombination remodeling. Use of recombination mutants shows that these changes are due to the redistribution of interfering crossovers. Overall they confirm that DNA methylation is critical in establishing domains of meiotic recombination.

In this short audio file, Dr Henderson explains the main features of this paper.

Visscher AM, Belfield EJ, Vlad D, Irani N, Moore I, Harberd NP (2015) Overexpressing the Multiple-Stress Responsive Gene At1g74450 Reduces Plant Height and Male Fertility in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS One.;10(10):e0140368.

Ian Moore and Nick Harberd (Oxford), who is also on the GARNet Advisory Board,  present this investigation of five unknown genes that had been previously identified from global expression studies as playing a role in multiple stress-responses. These are somewhat unimaginatively identified by their ‘At’ numbers and even though they are each responsive to multiple stresses, mutants with a T-DNA insertion in any of these genes have no change in phenotype compared to wildtype plants. In contrast, overexpression of At1g74450, but no other of the tested genes, resulted in stunted growth and reduced male fertility. As the stress-response is often manifested by alterations in male gametophyte development, this work introduces the function of a gene that may provide an important link between multiple environmental factors, fertility and plant growth. In future the authors hope to provide further insight into the function of At1g74450.

Bush M, Crowe N, Zheng T, Doonan J (2015) The RNA helicase, eIF4A-1, is required for ovule development and cell size homeostasis in Arabidopsis Plant J.

John Doonan, another GARNet board member, leads this collaborative work between Aberystwyth and Norwich. They investigate the function of the RNA helicase/ATPase eIF4A-1 that is involved in the initiation of mRNA translation. Arabidopsis contains two isoforms of this genes and the knockdown eif4a-1 mutant displays a range of altered phenotypes that includes a reduction in the amount of mitotic cells in the root meristem. This change skews the relationship between cell size and cell cycle progression. Concomitantly several cell cycle-regulated genes have reduced expression in this mutant. Each of the eIF4A isoforms plays an important role in plant fertility as although single eif4a-1 mutants display some defects in ovule development, double eif4a1eif4a2 mutants cannot be isolated.

Bailey M, Srivastava A, Conti L, Nelis S, Zhang C, Florance H, Love A, Milner J, Napier R, Grant M, Sadanandom A (2015) Stability of small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) proteases OVERLY TOLERANT TO SALT1 and -2 modulates salicylic acid signalling and SUMO1/2 conjugation in Arabidopsis thaliana J Exp Bot.

This study of the SUMO proteases OVERLY TOLERANT TO SALT1 and -2 (OTS) is a real pan-UK collaboration that features researchers from six institutions, led by Ari Sadanandom at Durham. The OTS proteins have been previously linked to salicylic acid (SA) signaling and this manuscript shows that in addition to containing higher level of SA, ots1ots2 double mutants are more resistant to virulent Pseudomonas syringae. This is in part linked to an upregulation of the SA biosynthetic gene ICS1. In wildtype plants SA promotes degradation of OTS1/2, which indicates that these proteins are involved in a positive feedback loop that ensures a higher SA response, which increases the efficacy of certain defence responses. However de novo synthesis of OTS1/2 will be antagonistic to SA biosynthesis and provides a brake to prevent the over-accumulation of SA-responses.

Kumar M, Turner S (2015) Protocol: a medium-throughput method for determination of cellulose content from single stem pieces of Arabidopsis thaliana Plant Methods. 11:46.

Simon Turner (Manchester) is the lead author of this paper that presents a new method for determining cellulose content from Arabidopsis stems. This protocol is an adaptation of a previous method and uses aspiration rather than centrifugation for recovery of liquids throughout the procedure. This increases the throughout of the method and improves its potential usage as a screening protocol to identify mutants with altered cell wall composition.

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