Endogenous 24 nt short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), derived mostly from intergenic and repetitive genomic regions, constitute a major class of endogenous small RNAs in flowering plants. Accumulation of Arabidopsis thaliana 24 nt siRNAs requires the Dicer family member DCL3, and clear homologs of DCL3 exist in both flowering and non-flowering plants. However, the absence of a conspicuous 24 nt peak in the total RNA populations of several non-flowering plants has raised the question of whether this class of siRNAs might, in contrast to the ancient 21 nt microRNAs (miRNAs) and 21–22 nt trans-acting siRNAs (tasiRNAs), be an angiosperm-specific innovation. Analysis of non-miRNA, non-tasiRNA hotspots of small RNA production within the genome of the moss Physcomitrella patens revealed multiple loci that consistently produced a mixture of 21–24 nt siRNAs with a peak at 23 nt. These Pp23SR loci were significantly enriched in transposon content, depleted in overlap with annotated genes, and typified by dense concentrations of the 5-methyl cytosine (5 mC) DNA modification. Deep sequencing of small RNAs from two independent Ppdcl3 mutants showed that the P. patens DCL3 homolog is required for the accumulation of 22–24 nt siRNAs, but not 21 nt siRNAs, at Pp23SR loci. The 21 nt component of Pp23SR-derived siRNAs was also unaffected by a mutation in the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase mutant Pprdr6. Transcriptome-wide, Ppdcl3 mutants failed to accumulate 22–24 nt small RNAs from repetitive regions while transcripts from two abundant families of long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposon-associated reverse transcriptases were up-regulated. Ppdcl3 mutants also displayed an acceleration of leafy gametophore production, suggesting that repetitive siRNAs may play a role in the development of P. patens. We conclude that intergenic/repeat-derived siRNAs are indeed a broadly conserved, distinct class of small regulatory RNAs within land plants.
Very small RNAs (between ∼21 and ∼30 single-stranded bases) are a ubiquitous component of gene regulation in nearly all eukaryotic organisms. The small RNA repertoire of angiosperms (the flowering plants) is exceptionally diverse and includes conspicuous populations of 21 nt microRNAs, as well a diverse set of 24 nt short, interfering RNAs (siRNAs). The 24 nt siRNAs have well-documented roles in enforcing the silence of parasitic regions of the genome, but are not readily apparent in the small RNA populations of several lineages of ancient, non-flowering plants. We found numerous “hotspots” of small RNA production from the genome of the moss P. patens that produced a mix of 21–24 nt siRNAs. Except for their broad mix of sizes, these hotspots were reminiscent of the 24 nt siRNA loci of angiosperms: they tended to associate with decayed transposons, to avoid annotated genes, and to be densely modified with the epigenetic mark 5-methyl cytosine. Deletion of a P. patens Dicer gene abolished production of 22–24 nt siRNAs both from these loci and transcriptome-wide, especially from repetitive regions. We conclude that both microRNAs and intergenic/repeat-associated siRNAs are ancient small RNA regulators in plants, but that the sizes of the siRNAs themselves have drifted over time.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are ~22-nt small non-coding RNAs that regulate the expression of specific target genes in many eukaryotes. In higher plants, miRNAs are involved in developmental processes and stress responses. Sexual reproduction in flowering plants relies on pollen, the male gametophyte, to deliver sperm cells to fertilize the egg cell hidden in the embryo sac. Studies indicated that post-transcriptional processes are important for regulating gene expression during pollen function. However, we still have very limited knowledge on the involved gene regulatory mechanisms. Especially, the function of miRNAs in pollen remains unknown.
Using miRCURY LNA array technology, we have profiled the expression of 70 known miRNAs (representing 121 miRBase IDs) in Arabidopsis mature pollen, and compared the expression of these miRNAs in pollen and young inflorescence. Thirty-seven probes on the array were identified using RNAs isolated from mature pollen, 26 of which showed significant differences in expression between mature pollen and inflorescence. Real-time PCR based on TaqMan miRNA assays confirmed the expression of 22 miRNAs in mature pollen, and identified 8 additional miRNAs that were expressed at low level in mature pollen. However, the expression of 11 miRNA that were identified on the array could not be confirmed by the Taqman miRNA assays. Analyses of transcriptome data for some miRNA target genes indicated that miRNAs are functional in pollen.
In summary, our results showed that some known miRNAs were expressed in Arabidopsis mature pollen, with most of them being low abundant. The results can be utilized in future research to study post-transcriptional gene regulation in pollen function.
In eukaryotes, fertilization relies on complex and specialized mechanisms that achieve the precise delivery of the male gamete to the female gamete and their subsequent union [1–4]. In flowering plants, the haploid male gametophyte or pollen tube (PT)  carries two non-motile sperm cells to the female gametophyte (FG) or embryo sac  during a long assisted journey through the maternal tissues [7–10]. In Arabidopsis, typically one PT reaches one of the two synergids of the FG (Figure 1A) where it terminates its growth and delivers the sperm cells, a poorly understood process called pollen tube reception. Here, we report the isolation and characterization of the Arabidopsis mutant abstinence by mutual consent. Interestingly, pollen tube reception is impaired only when an amc pollen tube reaches an amc female gametophyte resulting in pollen tube overgrowth and completely preventing sperm discharge and the development of homozygous mutants. Moreover, we show that AMC is strongly and transiently expressed in both male and female gametophytes during fertilization and that AMC functions in gametophytes as a peroxin essential for protein import into peroxisomes. These findings show that peroxisomes play an unexpected key role in gametophyte recognition and implicate a diffusible signal emanating from either gametophytes that is required for pollen tube discharge.
Small non-coding RNAs (smRNAs) are known to have major roles in gene regulation in eukaryotes. In plants, knowledge of the biogenesis and mechanisms of action of smRNA classes including microRNAs (miRNAs), short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), and trans-acting siRNAs (tasiRNAs) has been gained mostly through studies with Arabidopsis. In recent years, high throughput sequencing of smRNA populations has enabled extension of knowledge from model systems to plants with larger, more complex genomes. Soybean (Glycine max) now has many genomics resources available including a complete genome sequence and predicted gene models. Relatively little is known, however, about the full complement of its endogenous smRNAs populations and the silenced genes.
Using Illumina sequencing and computational analysis, we characterized eight smRNA populations from multiple tissues and organs of soybean including developing seed and vegetative tissues. A total of 41 million raw sequence reads collapsed into 135,055 unique reads were mapped to the soybean genome and its predicted cDNA gene models. Bioinformatic analyses were used to distinguish miRNAs and siRNAs and to determine their genomic origins and potential target genes. In addition, we identified two soybean TAS3 gene homologs, the miRNAs that putatively guide cleavage of their transcripts, and the derived tasiRNAs that could target soybean genes annotated as auxin response factors. Tissue-differential expression based on the flux of normalized miRNA and siRNA abundances in the eight smRNA libraries was evident, some of which was confirmed by smRNA blotting. Our global view of these smRNA populations also revealed that the size classes of smRNAs varied amongst different tissues, with the developing seed and seed coat having greater numbers of unique smRNAs of the 24-nt class compared to the vegetative tissues of germinating seedlings. The 24-nt class is known to be derived from repetitive elements including transposons. Detailed analysis of the size classes associated with ribosomal RNAs and transposable element families showed greater diversity of smRNAs in the 22- and 24-nt size classes.
The flux of endogenous smRNAs within multiple stages and tissues of seed development was contrasted with vegetative tissues of soybean, one of the dominant sources of protein and oil in world markets. The smRNAs varied in size class, complexity of origins, and possible targets. Sequencing revealed tissue-preferential expression for certain smRNAs and expression differences among closely related miRNA family members.
A transcriptome analysis of male gametophyte development in Arabidopsis uncovers distinct temporal classes of gene expression and opens the door to detailed studies of the regulatory pathways involved.
The haploid male gametophyte generation of flowering plants consists of two- or three-celled pollen grains. This functional specialization is thought to be a key factor in the evolutionary success of flowering plants. Moreover, pollen ontogeny is also an attractive model in which to dissect cellular networks that control cell growth, asymmetric cell division and cellular differentiation. Our objective, and an essential step towards the detailed understanding of these processes, was to comprehensively define the male haploid transcriptome throughout development.
We have developed staged spore isolation procedures for Arabidopsis and used Affymetrix ATH1 genome arrays to identify a total of 13,977 male gametophyte-expressed mRNAs, 9.7% of which were male-gametophyte-specific. The transition from bicellular to tricellular pollen was accompanied by a decline in the number of diverse mRNA species and an increase in the proportion of male gametophyte-specific transcripts. Expression profiles of regulatory proteins and distinct clusters of coexpressed genes were identified that could correspond to components of gametophytic regulatory networks. Moreover, integration of transcriptome and experimental data revealed the early synthesis of translation factors and their requirement to support pollen tube growth.
The progression from proliferating microspores to terminally differentiated pollen is characterized by large-scale repression of early program genes and the activation of a unique late gene-expression program in maturing pollen. These data provide a quantum increase in knowledge concerning gametophytic transcription and lay the foundations for new genomic-led studies of the regulatory networks and cellular functions that operate to specify male gametophyte development.
Asymmetric cell division is a universal strategy to generate diverse cell types necessary for patterning and proliferation of all eukaryotes. The development of haploid male gametophytes (pollen grains) in flowering plants is a remarkable example in which division asymmetry governs the functional specialization and germline differentiation essential for double fertilization. The male gametophyte is patterned via two mitotic divisions resulting in three highly differentiated daughter cells at maturity, a vegetative cell and two sperm cells. The first asymmetric division segregates a unique male germ cell from an undetermined haploid microspore and is executed in an elaborate sequence of cellular events. However the molecular mechanisms governing the division asymmetry in microspores are poorly understood. Recently we studied the phenotype of sidecar pollen (scp) mutants in detail, and demonstrated a requirement of SCP for both the correct timing and orientation of microspore division. SCP is a microspore-specific member of the LOB/AS2 domain family (LBD27/ASL29) showing that a plant-specific regulator plays a key role in oriented division of polarized microspores. Identification of SCP will serve as a new platform to further explore the largely unknown molecular networks regulating division asymmetry in microspores that establishes the male germline in flowering plants.
sidecar pollen; microspore division; division asymmetry; male gametophyte development; male germline; LBD/ASL family protein
Low-oxygen (hypoxia) stress associated with natural phenomena such as waterlogging, results in widespread transcriptome changes and a metabolic switch from aerobic respiration to anaerobic fermentation. High-throughput sequencing of small RNA libraries obtained from hypoxia-treated and control root tissue identified a total of 65 unique microRNA (miRNA) sequences from 46 families, and 14 trans-acting small interfering RNA (tasiRNA) from three families. Hypoxia resulted in changes to the abundance of 46 miRNAs from 19 families, and all three tasiRNA families. Chemical inhibition of mitochondrial respiration caused similar changes in expression in a majority of the hypoxia-responsive small RNAs analysed. Our data indicate that miRNAs and tasiRNAs play a role in gene regulation and possibly developmental responses to hypoxia, and that a major signal for these responses is likely to be dependent on mitochondrial function.
Abiotic stress; Arabidopsis thaliana; deep sequencing; hypoxia; microRNA; mitochondria; trans-acting small interfering RNA
The Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) DOUBLE-STRANDED RNA BINDING (DRB) protein family consists of five members, DRB1 to DRB5. The biogenesis of two developmentally important small RNA (sRNA) species, the microRNAs (miRNAs) and trans-acting small interfering RNAs (tasiRNAs) by DICER-LIKE (DCL) endonucleases requires the assistance of DRB1 and DRB4 respectively. The importance of miRNA-directed target gene expression in plant development is exemplified by the phenotypic consequence of loss of DRB1 activity (drb1 plants).
Here we report that the developmental phenotype of the drb235 triple mutant plant is the result of deregulated miRNA biogenesis in the shoot apical meristem (SAM) region. The expression of DRB2, DRB3 and DRB5 in wild-type seedlings is restricted to the SAM region. Small RNA sequencing of the corresponding tissue of drb235 plants revealed altered miRNA accumulation. Approximately half of the miRNAs detected remained at levels equivalent to those of wild-type plants. However, the accumulation of the remaining miRNAs was either elevated or reduced in the triple mutant. Examination of different single and multiple drb mutants revealed a clear association between the loss of DRB2 activity and altered accumulation for both the elevated and reduced miRNA classes. Furthermore, we show that the constitutive over-expression of DRB2 outside of its wild-type expression domain can compensate for the loss of DRB1 activity in drb1 plants.
Our results suggest that in the SAM region, DRB2 is both antagonistic and synergistic to the role of DRB1 in miRNA biogenesis, adding an additional layer of gene regulatory complexity in this developmentally important tissue.
Small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) play key roles in plant development, growth and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. At least four classes of sRNAs have been well characterized in plants, including repeat-associated siRNAs (rasiRNAs), microRNAs (miRNAs), trans-acting siRNAs (tasiRNAs) and natural antisense transcript-derived siRNAs. Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) is one of the most important coniferous evergreen tree species in China. No sRNA from Chinese fir has been described to date.
To obtain sRNAs in Chinese fir, we sequenced a sRNA library generated from seeds, seedlings, leaves, stems and calli, using Illumina high throughput sequencing technology. A comprehensive set of sRNAs were acquired, including conserved and novel miRNAs, rasiRNAs and tasiRNAs. With BLASTN and MIREAP we identified a total of 115 conserved miRNAs comprising 40 miRNA families and one novel miRNA with precursor sequence. The expressions of 16 conserved and one novel miRNAs and one tasiRNA were detected by RT-PCR. Utilizing real time RT-PCR, we revealed that four conserved and one novel miRNAs displayed developmental stage-specific expression patterns in Chinese fir. In addition, 209 unigenes were predicted to be targets of 30 Chinese fir miRNA families, of which five target genes were experimentally verified by 5' RACE, including a squamosa promoter-binding protein gene, a pentatricopeptide (PPR) repeat-containing protein gene, a BolA-like family protein gene, AGO1 and a gene of unknown function. We also demonstrated that the DCL3-dependent rasiRNA biogenesis pathway, which had been considered absent in conifers, existed in Chinese fir. Furthermore, the miR390-TAS3-ARF regulatory pathway was elucidated.
We unveiled a complex population of sRNAs in Chinese fir through high throughput sequencing. This provides an insight into the composition and function of sRNAs in Chinese fir and sheds new light on land plant sRNA evolution.
Chinese fir; miRNA; rasiRNA; tasiRNA; Cunninghamia lanceolata
The epigenetic activity of transposable elements (TEs) can influence the regulation of genes; though, this regulation is confined to the genes, promoters, and enhancers that neighbor the TE. This local cis regulation of genes therefore limits the influence of the TE's epigenetic regulation on the genome. TE activity is suppressed by small RNAs, which also inhibit viruses and regulate the expression of genes. The production of TE heterochromatin-associated endogenous small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) in the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana is mechanistically distinct from gene-regulating small RNAs, such as microRNAs or trans-acting siRNAs (tasiRNAs). Previous research identified a TE small RNA that potentially regulates the UBP1b mRNA, which encodes an RNA–binding protein involved in stress granule formation. We demonstrate that this siRNA, siRNA854, is under the same trans-generational epigenetic control as the Athila family LTR retrotransposons from which it is produced. The epigenetic activation of Athila elements results in a shift in small RNA processing pathways, and new 21–22 nucleotide versions of Athila siRNAs are produced by protein components normally not responsible for processing TE siRNAs. This processing results in siRNA854's incorporation into ARGONAUTE1 protein complexes in a similar fashion to gene-regulating tasiRNAs. We have used reporter transgenes to demonstrate that the UPB1b 3′ untranslated region directly responds to the epigenetic status of Athila TEs and the accumulation of siRNA854. The regulation of the UPB1b 3′ untranslated region occurs both on the post-transcriptional and translational levels when Athila TEs are epigenetically activated, and this regulation results in the phenocopy of the ubp1b mutant stress-sensitive phenotype. This demonstrates that a TE's epigenetic activity can modulate the host organism's stress response. In addition, the ability of this TE siRNA to regulate a gene's expression in trans blurs the lines between TE and gene-regulating small RNAs.
The portion of the genome that does not encode for genes is often overlooked as a source of cellular regulatory information. Here, we demonstrate that regulatory information controlling expression and protein production from a gene called UBP1b is coming from a distant non-gene transposable element (TE). TEs are fragments of DNA that, unlike genes, are capable of duplicating themselves from one location in the genome to another, and occupy nearly half of the human genome. TEs are often referred to as “junk DNA,” as the study of cellular regulation and function is focused on genes. The regulation of TEs is distinct from genes, as a process termed epigenetic silencing heritably represses TE expression and activity. We have demonstrated that the epigenetic status (active versus silenced) of the Athila TE family regulates the UBP1b gene through the activity of a TE small RNA. The function of the UPB1b gene is to respond to and regulate cellular stress, and the epigenetic regulatory status of the Athila TE therefore modulates this stress response. This demonstrates that the epigenetic regulation of TEs can be a source of gene regulatory information, influencing a basic cellular function such as the stress response.
DOUBLE-STRANDED RNA BINDING (DRB) proteins have been functionally characterized in viruses, prokaryotes and eukaryotes and are involved in all aspects of RNA biology. Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) encodes five closely related DRB proteins, DRB1 to DRB5. DRB1 and DRB4 are required by DICER-LIKE (DCL) proteins DCL1 and DCL4 to accurately and efficiently process structurally distinct double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) precursor substrates in the microRNA (miRNA) and trans-acting small-interfering RNA (tasiRNA) biogenesis pathways respectively. We recently reported that DRB2 is also involved in the biogenesis of specific miRNA subsets.1 Furthermore, the severity of the developmental phenotype displayed by the drb235 triple mutant plant, compared with those expressed by either drb2, drb3 and drb5 single mutants, or double mutant combinations thereof, indicates that DRB3 and DRB5 function in the same non-canonical miRNA pathway as DRB2. Through the use of our artificial miRNA (amiRNA) plant expression vector, pBlueGreen2,3 we demonstrate here that unlike DRB2, DRB3 and DRB5 are not involved in the dsRNA processing stages of the miRNA biogenesis pathway, but are required to mediate RNA silencing of target genes of DRB2-associated miRNAs.
Arabidopsis; artificial miRNA; double-stranded RNA; double-stranded RNA binding protein; microRNA; non-canonical; RNA silencing
In flowering plants, gametogenesis generates multicellular male and female gametophytes. In the model system Arabidopsis, the male gametophyte or pollen grain contains two sperm cells and a vegetative cell. The female gametophyte or embryo sac contains seven cells, namely one egg, two synergids, one central cell and three antipodal cells. Double fertilization of the central cell and egg produces respectively a triploid endosperm and a diploid zygote that develops further into an embryo. The genetic control of the early embryo patterning, especially the initiation of the first zygotic division and the positioning of the cell plate, is largely unknown.
Here we report the characterization of a mutation, yaozhe (yao), that causes zygote arrest and misplacement of cell plate of the zygote, leading to early embryo lethality. In addition, gametophyte development is partially impaired. A small portion of the mutant embryo sacs are arrested at four-nucleate stage with aberrant nuclear positioning. Furthermore, the competence of male gametophytes is also compromised. YAO encodes a nucleolar protein with seven WD-repeats. Its homologues in human and yeast have been shown to be components of the U3 snoRNP complex and function in 18S rRNA processing. YAO is expressed ubiquitously, with high level of expression in tissues under active cell divisions, including embryo sacs, pollen, embryos, endosperms and root tips.
Phenotypic analysis indicated that YAO is required for the correct positioning of the first zygotic division plane and plays a critical role in gametogenesis in Arabidopsis. Since YAO is a nucleolar protein and its counterparts in yeast and human are components of the U3 snoRNP complex, we therefore postulate that YAO is most likely involved in rRNA processing in plants as well.
Different classes of small RNAs (sRNAs) refine the expression of numerous genes in higher eukaryotes by directing protein partners to complementary nucleic acids, where they mediate gene silencing. Plants encode a unique class of sRNAs, called trans-acting small interfering RNAs (tasiRNAs), which post-transcriptionally regulate protein-coding transcripts, as do microRNAs (miRNAs), and both sRNA classes control development through their targets. TasiRNA biogenesis requires multiple components of the siRNA pathway and also miRNAs. But while 21mer siRNAs originating from transgenes can mediate silencing across several cell layers, miRNA action seems spatially restricted to the producing or closely surrounding cells.
We have previously described the isolation of a genetrap reporter line for TAS3a, the major locus producing AUXIN RESPONS FACTOR (ARF)-regulating tasiRNAs in the Arabidopsis shoot. Its activity is limited to the adaxial (upper) side of leaf primordia, thus spatially isolated from ARF-activities, which are located in the abaxial (lower) side. We show here by in situ hybridization and reporter fusions that the silencing activities of ARF-regulating tasiRNAs are indeed manifested non-cell autonomously to spatially control ARF activities.
Endogenous tasiRNAs are thus mediators of a mobile developmental signal and might provide effective gene silencing at a distance beyond the reach of most miRNAs.
Pollen tubes deliver sperm after navigating through flower tissues in response to attractive and repulsive cues. Genetic analyses in maize and Arabidopsis thaliana and cell ablation studies in Torenia fournieri have shown that the female gametophyte (the 7-celled haploid embryo sac within an ovule) and surrounding diploid tissues are essential for guiding pollen tubes to ovules. The variety and inaccessibility of these cells and tissues has made it challenging to characterize the sources of guidance signals and the dynamic responses they elicit in the pollen tubes.
Here we developed an in vitro assay to study pollen tube guidance to excised A. thaliana ovules. Using this assay we discerned the temporal and spatial regulation and species-specificity of late stage guidance signals and characterized the dynamics of pollen tube responses. We established that unfertilized A. thaliana ovules emit diffusible, developmentally regulated, species-specific attractants, and demonstrated that ovules penetrated by pollen tubes rapidly release diffusible pollen tube repellents.
These results demonstrate that in vitro pollen tube guidance to excised A. thaliana ovules efficiently recapitulates much of in vivo pollen tube behaviour during the final stages of pollen tube growth. This assay will aid in confirming the roles of candidate guidance molecules, exploring the phenotypes of A. thaliana pollen tube guidance mutants and characterizing interspecies pollination interactions.
In plants, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) can trigger a silencing signal that may spread within a tissue to adjacent cells or even systemically to other organs. Movement of the signal is initially limited to a few cells, but in some cases the signal can be amplified and travel over larger distances. How far silencing initiated by other classes of plant small RNAs (sRNAs) than siRNAs can extend has been less clear. Using a system based on the silencing of the CH42 gene, we have tracked the mobility of silencing signals initiated in phloem companion cells by artificial microRNAs (miRNA) and trans-acting siRNA (tasiRNA) that have the same primary sequence. In this system, both the ta-siRNA and the miRNA act at a distance. Non-autonomous effects of the miRNA can be triggered by several different miRNA precursors deployed as backbones. While the tasiRNA also acts non-autonomously, it has a much greater range than the miRNA or hairpin-derived siRNAs directed against CH42, indicating that biogenesis can determine the non-autonomous effects of sRNAs. In agreement with this hypothesis, the silencing signals initiated by different sRNAs differ in their genetic requirements.
In fungi and metazoans, the SCF-type Ubiquitin protein ligases (E3s) play a critical role in cell cycle regulation by degrading negative regulators, such as cell cycle-dependent kinase inhibitors (CKIs) at the G1-to-S-phase checkpoint. Here we report that FBL17, an Arabidopsis thaliana F-box protein, is involved in cell cycle regulation during male gametogenesis. FBL17 expression is strongly enhanced in plants co-expressing E2Fa and DPa, transcription factors that promote S-phase entry. FBL17 loss-of-function mutants fail to undergo pollen mitosis II, which generates the two sperm cells in mature A. thaliana pollen. Nonetheless, the single sperm cell-like cell in fbl17 mutants is functional but will exclusively fertilize the egg cell of the female gametophyte, giving rise to an embryo that will later abort, most likely due to the lack of functional endosperm. Seed abortion can, however, be overcome by mutations in FIE, a component of the Polycomb group complex, overall resembling loss-of-function mutations in the A. thaliana cyclin-dependent kinase CDKA;1. Finally we identified ASK11, as an SKP1-like partner protein of FBL17 and discuss a possible mechanism how SCFFBL17 may regulate cell division during male gametogenesis.
Arabidopsis has three cytokinin receptors genes: CRE1, AHK2 and AHK3. Availability of plants that are homozygous mutant for these three genes indicates that cytokinin receptors in the haploid cells are dispensable for the development of male and female gametophytes. The triple mutants form a few flowers but never set seed, indicating that reproductive growth is impaired. We investigated which reproductive processes are affected in the triple mutants. Anthers of mutant plants contained fewer pollen grains and did not dehisce. Pollen in the anthers completed the formation of the one vegetative nucleus and the two sperm nuclei, as seen in wild type. The majority of the ovules were abnormal: 78% lacked the embryo sac, 10% carried a female gametophyte that terminated its development before completing three rounds of nuclear division, and about 12% completed three rounds of nuclear division but the gametophytes were smaller than those of the wild type. Reciprocal crosses between the wild type and the triple mutants indicated that pollen from mutant plants did not germinate on wild-type stigmas, and wild-type pollen did not germinate on mutant stigmas. These results suggest that cytokinin receptors in the sporophyte are indispensable for anther dehiscence, pollen maturation, induction of pollen germination by the stigma and female gametophyte formation and maturation.
cytokinin; cytokinin receptor; female gametophyte; male gametophyte; stigma
Species-preferential osmotic pollen tube burst and sperm discharge in maize involve induced opening of the pollen tube-expressed potassium channel KZM1 by the egg apparatus-derived defensin-like protein ZmES4.
In contrast to animals and lower plant species, sperm cells of flowering plants are non-motile and are transported to the female gametes via the pollen tube, i.e. the male gametophyte. Upon arrival at the female gametophyte two sperm cells are discharged into the receptive synergid cell to execute double fertilization. The first players involved in inter-gametophyte signaling to attract pollen tubes and to arrest their growth have been recently identified. In contrast the physiological mechanisms leading to pollen tube burst and thus sperm discharge remained elusive. Here, we describe the role of polymorphic defensin-like cysteine-rich proteins ZmES1-4 (Zea mays embryo sac) from maize, leading to pollen tube growth arrest, burst, and explosive sperm release. ZmES1-4 genes are exclusively expressed in the cells of the female gametophyte. ZmES4-GFP fusion proteins accumulate in vesicles at the secretory zone of mature synergid cells and are released during the fertilization process. Using RNAi knock-down and synthetic ZmES4 proteins, we found that ZmES4 induces pollen tube burst in a species-preferential manner. Pollen tube plasma membrane depolarization, which occurs immediately after ZmES4 application, as well as channel blocker experiments point to a role of K+-influx in the pollen tube rupture mechanism. Finally, we discovered the intrinsic rectifying K+ channel KZM1 as a direct target of ZmES4. Following ZmES4 application, KZM1 opens at physiological membrane potentials and closes after wash-out. In conclusion, we suggest that vesicles containing ZmES4 are released from the synergid cells upon male-female gametophyte signaling. Subsequent interaction between ZmES4 and KZM1 results in channel opening and K+ influx. We further suggest that K+ influx leads to water uptake and culminates in osmotic tube burst. The species-preferential activity of polymorphic ZmES4 indicates that the mechanism described represents a pre-zygotic hybridization barrier and may be a component of reproductive isolation in plants.
Sperm cells of animals and lower plants are mobile and can swim to the oocyte or egg cell. In contrast, flowering plants generate immobile sperm encased in a pollen coat to protect them from drying out and are transported via the pollen tube cell towards the egg apparatus to achieve double fertilization. Upon arrival the pollen tube tip bursts to deliver two sperm cells, one fusing with the egg cell to generate the embryo and the other fusing with the central cell to generate the endosperm. Here, we report the mechanisms leading to pollen tube burst and sperm discharge in maize. We found that before fertilization the defensin-like protein ZmES1-4 is stored in the secretory zone of the egg apparatus cells and that pollen tubes cannot discharge sperm in ZmES1-4 knock-down plants. Application of chemically synthesized ZmES4 leads to pollen tube burst within seconds in maize, but not in other plant species, suggesting this mechanism may be species specific. Finally, we identified the pollen tube-expressed potassium channel KZM1 as a target of ZmES4, which opens after ZmES4 treatment and probably leads to K+ influx and sperm release after osmotic burst.
MicroRNA (miR)390 cleaves the non-coding TAS3 precursor RNA for the production of tasiRNA-ARF, a group of an endogenous trans-acting small-interfering RNAs which cleave the transcripts of auxin response factor (ARF) 3/4. miR390-cleaved TAS3 RNA is polymerized and diced into tasiRNA-ARF by RNA-dependent RNA polymerase6 (RDR6) and Dicer-like4 (DCL4), respectively. tasiRNA-ARF-dependent post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) of ARF3/4 is involved in auxin-mediated polarity establishment in the development of aerial lateral organs, such as leaf and flower. To understand how auxin regulates ARF4 expression, we examined auxin responsiveness of miR390 expression, which comprises a regulatory step for the biogenesis pathway of tasiRNA-ARF (the tasiRNA-ARF pathway), in Arabidopsis thaliana lateral root (LR) development. The results of this study provide evidence that miR390 expression is sensitive to TIR1-dependent transcriptional regulation and auxin concentration, and also that mutual negative-regulation between the tasiRNA-ARF pathway and ARF4 modulates the spatiotemporal expression of ARF4. We propose that, together with auxin concentration sensing through miR390 transcription, the tasiRNA-ARF pathway mediates the auxin response and ARF4-mediated LR developmental processes.
Many flowering plants produce bicellular pollen. The two cells of the pollen grain are destined for separate fates in the male gametophyte, which provides a unique opportunity to study genetic interactions that govern guided single-cell polar expansion of the growing pollen tube and the coordinated control of germ cell division and sperm cell fate specification. We applied the Agilent 44 K tobacco gene chip to conduct the first transcriptomic analysis of the tobacco male gametophyte. In addition, we performed a comparative study of the Arabidopsis root-hair trichoblast transcriptome to evaluate genetic factors and common pathways involved in polarized cell-tip expansion.
Progression of pollen grains from freshly dehisced anthers to pollen tubes 4 h after germination is accompanied with > 5,161 (14.9%) gametophyte-specific expressed probes active in at least one of the developmental stages. In contrast, > 18,821 (54.4%) probes were preferentially expressed in the sporophyte. Our comparative approach identified a subset of 104 pollen tube-expressed genes that overlap with root-hair trichoblasts. Reverse genetic analysis of selected candidates demonstrated that Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 (CSD1), a WD-40 containing protein (BP130384), and Replication factor C1 (NtRFC1) are among the central regulators of pollen-tube tip growth. Extension of our analysis beyond the second haploid mitosis enabled identification of an opposing-dynamic accumulation of core regulators of cell proliferation and cell fate determinants in accordance with the progression of the germ cell cycle.
The current study provides a foundation to isolate conserved regulators of cell tip expansion and those that are unique for pollen tube growth to the female gametophyte. A transcriptomic data set is presented as a benchmark for future functional studies using developing pollen as a model. Our results demonstrated previously unknown functions of certain genes in pollen-tube tip growth. In addition, we highlighted the molecular dynamics of core cell-cycle regulators in the male gametophyte and postulated the first genetic model to account for the differential timing of spermatogenesis among angiosperms and its coordination with female gametogenesis.
Plant microRNAs (miRNAs) play key roles in the transcriptional responses to environmental stresses. However, the role of miRNAs in responses to insect herbivory has not been thoroughly explored. To identify herbivory-responsive miRNAs, we identified conserved miRNAs in the ecological model plant Nicotiana attenuata whose interactions with herbivores have been well-characterized in both laboratory and field studies.
We identified 59 miRNAs from 36 families, and two endogenous trans-acting small interfering RNAs (tasiRNA) targeted by miRNAs. We characterized the response of the precursor and mature miRNAs to simulated attack from the specialist herbivore Manduca sexta by quantitative PCR analysis and used ir-aoc RNAi transformants, deficient in jasmonate biosynthesis, to identify jasmonate-dependent and -independent miRNA regulation. Expression analysis revealed that groups of miRNAs and tasiRNAs were specifically regulated by either mechanical wounding or wounding plus oral secretions from M. sexta larvae, and these small RNAs were accumulated in jasmonate-dependent or -independent manners. Moreover, cDNA microarray analysis indicated that the expression patterns of the corresponding target genes were correlated with the accumulation of miRNAs and tasiRNAs.
We show that a group of miRNAs and tasiRNAs orchestrates the expression of target genes involved in N. attenuata’s responses to herbivore attack.
Anti-herbivore defense; Jasmonate; Manduca sexta; miRNA; Nicotiana attenuata; tasiRNA
Two sperm cells are required to achieve double fertilization in flowering plants (angiosperms). In contrast to animals and lower plants such as mosses and ferns, sperm cells of flowering plants (angiosperms) are immobile and are transported to the female gametes (egg and central cell) via the pollen tube. The two sperm cells arise from the generative pollen cell either within the pollen grain or after germination inside the pollen tube. While pollen tube growth and sperm behavior has been intensively investigated in model plant species such as tobacco and lily, little is know about sperm dynamics and behavior during pollen germination, tube growth and sperm release in grasses. In the March issue of Journal of Experimental Botany, we have reported about the sporophytic and gametophytic control of pollen tube germination, growth and guidance in maize.1 Five progamic phases were distinguished involving various prezygotic crossing barriers before sperm cell delivery inside the female gametophyte takes place. Using live cell imaging and a generative cell-specific promoter driving α-tubulin-YFP expression in the male germline, we report here the formation of the male germline inside the pollen grain and the sperm behaviour during pollen germination and their movement dynamics during tube growth in maize.
male gametophyte; generative cell; sperm; pollen tube; tubulin; fertilization; maize
The mutagenic activity of transposable elements (TEs) is suppressed by epigenetic silencing and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), especially in gametes that would transmit transposed elements to the next generation. In pollen from the model plant Arabidopsis, we show that TEs are unexpectedly reactivated and transpose, but only in the pollen vegetative nucleus, which accompanies the sperm cells but does not provide DNA to the fertilized zygote. TE expression coincides with down-regulation of the heterochromatin remodeler DECREASE IN DNA METHYLATION 1 and of most TE siRNAs. However, 21 nucleotide siRNA from Athila retrotransposons is generated in pollen and accumulates in sperm, indicating that siRNA from TEs activated in the vegetative nucleus can target silencing in gametes. We propose a conserved role for reprogramming in germline companion cells, such as nurse cells in insects and vegetative nuclei in plants, to reveal intact TEs in the genome and regulate their activity in gametes.
Pollen development in flowering plants requires strict control of the gene expression program and genetic information stability by mechanisms possibly including the miRNA pathway. However, our understanding of the miRNA pathway in pollen development remains limited, and the dynamic profile of miRNAs in developing pollen is unknown.
Using next-generation sequencing technology, we pyrosequenced small RNA populations from rice uninucleate microspores to tricellular pollen and control sporophytic tissues at the genome-wide level. We identified 292 known miRNAs, including members of all 20 families conserved in plants, and 75 novel miRNAs. Of the 292 known miRNAs, 202 were expressed, with 103 enriched, in developing pollen. More than half of these novel miRNAs displayed pollen-or stage-specific expression. Furthermore, analyzing the 367 miRNAs and their predicted targets indicated that correlation in expression profiles of pollen-enriched known miRNAs and their targets significantly differs from that of sporophyte-enriched known miRNAs and their targets in some functional terms, while novel miRNAs appeared to negatively regulate their targets. Importantly, gene ontology abundance analysis demonstrated chromatin assembly and disassembly was important in the targets of bicellular pollen-expressed novel miRNAs. Principal component analysis revealed pollen of all three stages was discriminated from sporophytes, largely because of the novel and non-conserved known miRNAs.
Our study, for the first time, revealed the differences in composition and expression profiles of miRNAs between developing pollen and sporophytes, with novel and non-conserved known miRNAs the main contributors. Our results suggest the important roles of the miRNA pathway in pollen development.
Gametophytic cytokinesis is essential for the development and function of the male and female gametophytes. We have previously described the isolation and characterisation of the gemini pollen 1 (gem1) that acts gametophytically to disturb asymmetric division and cytokinesis at pollen mitosis I in Arabidopsis. Here we describe the genetic and cytological analysis of an independent gametophytic mutant, gem2, with similar characteristics to gem1, but which maps to a different genetic locus. gem2 shows reduced genetic transmission through both male and female gametes and leads to the production of divided or twin-celled pollen. Developmental analysis revealed that gem2 does not affect karyokinesis at pollen mitosis I, but leads to repositioning of the cell plate and partial or complete failure of cytokinesis, resulting in symmetrical divisions or binucleate pollen grains respectively. Symmetrical divisions lead to altered pollen cell fate with both sister cells displaying vegetative cell fate. Moreover, we demonstrate that the predominant female defect in gem2 is a lack of cellularization of the embryo sac during megagametogenesis. GEM2 therefore defines an independent genetic locus that is involved in the correct specification of both male and female gametophytic cytokinesis.
gemini pollen; Arabidopsis thaliana; pollen mitosis I; gametophytic cytokinesis; cellularization