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1.  Knockout of Multiple Arabidopsis Cation/H+ Exchangers Suggests Isoform-Specific Roles in Metal Stress Response, Germination and Seed Mineral Nutrition 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47455.
Cation/H+ exchangers encoded by CAX genes play an important role in the vacuolar accumulation of metals including Ca2+ and Mn2+. Arabidopsis thaliana CAX1 and CAX3 have been previously shown to differ phylogenetically from CAX2 but the physiological roles of these different transporters are still unclear. To examine the functions and the potential of redundancy between these three cation transporters, cax1/cax2 and cax2/cax3 double knockout mutants were generated and compared with wild type and cax single knockouts. These double mutants had equivalent metal stress responses to single cax mutants. Both cax1 and cax1/cax2 had increased tolerance to Mg stress, while cax2 and cax2/cax3 both had increased sensitivity to Mn stress. The cax1/cax2 and cax2/cax3 mutants did not exhibit the deleterious developmental phenotypes previously seen with the cax1/cax3 mutant. However, these new double mutants did show alterations in seed germination, specifically a delay in germination time. These alterations correlated with changes in nutrient content within the seeds of the mutants, particularly the cax1/cax2 mutant which had significantly higher seed content of Ca and Mn. This study indicates that the presence of these Arabidopsis CAX transporters is important for normal germination and infers a role for CAX proteins in metal homeostasis within the seed.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047455
PMCID: PMC3470555  PMID: 23071810
2.  GhCAX3 Gene, a Novel Ca2+/H+ Exchanger from Cotton, Confers Regulation of Cold Response and ABA Induced Signal Transduction 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66303.
As a second messenger, Ca2+ plays a major role in cold induced transduction via stimulus-specific increases in [Ca2+]cyt, which is called calcium signature. During this process, CAXs (Ca2+/H+ exchangers) play critical role. For the first time, a putative Ca2+/H+ exchanger GhCAX3 gene from upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum cv. ‘YZ-1′) was isolated and characterized. It was highly expressed in all tissues of cotton except roots and fibers. This gene may act as a regulator in cotton’s response to abiotic stresses as it could be up-regulated by Ca2+, NaCl, ABA and cold stress. Similar to other CAXs, it was proved that GhCAX3 also had Ca2+ transport activity and the N-terminal regulatory region (NRR) through yeast complementation assay. Over-expression of GhCAX3 in tobacco showed less sensitivity to ABA during seed germination and seedling stages, and the phenotypic difference between wild type (WT) and transgenic plants was more significant when the NRR was truncated. Furthermore, GhCAX3 conferred cold tolerance in yeast as well as in tobacco seedlings based on physiological and molecular studies. However, transgenic plant seeds showed more sensitivity to cold stress compared to WT during seed germination, especially when expressed in N-terminal truncated version. Finally, the extent of sensitivity in transgenic lines was more severe than that in WT line under sodium tungstate treatment (an ABA repressor), indicating that ABA could alleviate cold sensitivity of GhCAX3 seeds, especially in short of its NRR. Meanwhile, we also found that overexpression of GhCAX3 could enhance some cold and ABA responsive marker genes. Taken together, these results suggested that GhCAX3 plays important roles in the cross-talk of ABA and cold signal transduction, and compared to full-length of GhCAX3, the absence of NRR could enhance the tolerance or sensitivity to cold stress, depending on seedling’s developmental stages.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066303
PMCID: PMC3679082  PMID: 23776653
3.  Bacterial Growth at the High Concentrations of Magnesium Sulfate Found in Martian Soils 
Astrobiology  2012;12(2):98-106.
Abstract
The martian surface environment exhibits extremes of salinity, temperature, desiccation, and radiation that would make it difficult for terrestrial microbes to survive. Recent evidence suggests that martian soils contain high concentrations of MgSO4 minerals. Through warming of the soils, meltwater derived from subterranean ice-rich regolith may exist for an extended period of time and thus allow the propagation of terrestrial microbes and create significant bioburden at the near surface of Mars. The current report demonstrates that halotolerant bacteria from the Great Salt Plains (GSP) of Oklahoma are capable of growing at high concentrations of MgSO4 in the form of 2 M solutions of epsomite. The epsotolerance of isolates in the GSP bacterial collection was determined, with 35% growing at 2 M MgSO4. There was a complex physiological response to mixtures of MgSO4 and NaCl coupled with other environmental stressors. Growth also was measured at 1 M concentrations of other magnesium and sulfate salts. The complex responses may be partially explained by the pattern of chaotropicity observed for high-salt solutions as measured by agar gelation temperature. Select isolates could grow at the high salt concentrations and low temperatures found on Mars. Survival during repetitive freeze-thaw or drying-rewetting cycles was used as other measures of potential success on the martian surface. Our results indicate that terrestrial microbes might survive under the high-salt, low-temperature, anaerobic conditions on Mars and present significant potential for forward contamination. Stringent planetary protection requirements are needed for future life-detection missions to Mars. Key Words: Analogue—Mars—Planetary protection—Salts—Life in extreme environments. Astrobiology 12, 98–106.
doi:10.1089/ast.2011.0720
PMCID: PMC3277918  PMID: 22248384
4.  Natural Variants of AtHKT1 Enhance Na+ Accumulation in Two Wild Populations of Arabidopsis 
PLoS Genetics  2006;2(12):e210.
Plants are sessile and therefore have developed mechanisms to adapt to their environment, including the soil mineral nutrient composition. Ionomics is a developing functional genomic strategy designed to rapidly identify the genes and gene networks involved in regulating how plants acquire and accumulate these mineral nutrients from the soil. Here, we report on the coupling of high-throughput elemental profiling of shoot tissue from various Arabidopsis accessions with DNA microarray-based bulk segregant analysis and reverse genetics, for the rapid identification of genes from wild populations of Arabidopsis that are involved in regulating how plants acquire and accumulate Na+ from the soil. Elemental profiling of shoot tissue from 12 different Arabidopsis accessions revealed that two coastal populations of Arabidopsis collected from Tossa del Mar, Spain, and Tsu, Japan (Ts-1 and Tsu-1, respectively), accumulate higher shoot levels of Na+ than do Col-0 and other accessions. We identify AtHKT1, known to encode a Na+ transporter, as being the causal locus driving elevated shoot Na+ in both Ts-1 and Tsu-1. Furthermore, we establish that a deletion in a tandem repeat sequence approximately 5 kb upstream of AtHKT1 is responsible for the reduced root expression of AtHKT1 observed in these accessions. Reciprocal grafting experiments establish that this loss of AtHKT1 expression in roots is responsible for elevated shoot Na+. Interestingly, and in contrast to the hkt1–1 null mutant, under NaCl stress conditions, this novel AtHKT1 allele not only does not confer NaCl sensitivity but also cosegregates with elevated NaCl tolerance. We also present all our elemental profiling data in a new open access ionomics database, the Purdue Ionomics Information Management System (PiiMS; http://www.purdue.edu/dp/ionomics). Using DNA microarray-based genotyping has allowed us to rapidly identify AtHKT1 as the casual locus driving the natural variation in shoot Na+ accumulation we observed in Ts-1 and Tsu-1. Such an approach overcomes the limitations imposed by a lack of established genetic markers in most Arabidopsis accessions and opens up a vast and tractable source of natural variation for the identification of gene function not only in ionomics but also in many other biological processes.
Synopsis
Unlike most animals, plants are sessile and cannot leave a poor-quality environment after germinating. They therefore need to tolerate the particular conditions they encounter to survive. This makes plants an ideal system for the study of adaptive variation, and this is particularly true of Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis), which shows substantial natural variation and for which numerous genetic tools exist. Using a combination of analytical chemistry, genetics, and genomics, the authors were able to identify the specific genetic alteration that drive the natural variation in shoot sodium (Na+) accumulation capacity observed in Arabidopsis populations from coastal regions of Spain and Japan (Tossa del Mar and Tsu, respectively). They observed that a deletion in the DNA responsible for regulating the expression of HKT1, a gene known to encode for a Na+ transporter, causes reduced expression of AtHKT1 in roots of both the Spanish and Japanese populations. Such altered expression results in the elevated shoot Na+ observed in these two populations. Interestingly, this novel version of the HKT1 genes is also associated genetically with the enhanced NaCl resistance they observe in the Japanese population.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0020210
PMCID: PMC1665649  PMID: 17140289
5.  The transcription factor PHR1 plays a key role in the regulation of sulfate shoot-to-root flux upon phosphate starvation in Arabidopsis 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:19.
Background
Sulfate and phosphate are both vital macronutrients required for plant growth and development. Despite evidence for interaction between sulfate and phosphate homeostasis, no transcriptional factor has yet been identified in higher plants that affects, at the gene expression and physiological levels, the response to both elements. This work was aimed at examining whether PHR1, a transcription factor previously shown to participate in the regulation of genes involved in phosphate homeostasis, also contributed to the regulation and activity of genes involved in sulfate inter-organ transport.
Results
Among the genes implicated in sulfate transport in Arabidopsis thaliana, SULTR1;3 and SULTR3;4 showed up-regulation of transcripts in plants grown under phosphate-deficient conditions. The promoter of SULTR1;3 contains a motif that is potentially recognizable by PHR1. Using the phr1 mutant, we showed that SULTR1;3 up-regulation following phosphate deficiency was dependent on PHR1. Furthermore, transcript up-regulation was found in phosphate-deficient shoots of the phr1 mutant for SULTR2;1 and SULTR3;4, indicating that PHR1 played both a positive and negative role on the expression of genes encoding sulfate transporters. Importantly, both phr1 and sultr1;3 mutants displayed a reduction in their sulfate shoot-to-root transfer capacity compared to wild-type plants under phosphate-deficient conditions.
Conclusions
This study reveals that PHR1 plays an important role in sulfate inter-organ transport, in particular on the regulation of the SULTR1;3 gene and its impact on shoot-to-root sulfate transport in phosphate-deficient plants. PHR1 thus contributes to the homeostasis of both sulfate and phosphate in plants under phosphate deficiency. Such a function is also conserved in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii via the PHR1 ortholog PSR1.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-11-19
PMCID: PMC3036608  PMID: 21261953
6.  The Plasmodium berghei Ca2+/H+ Exchanger, PbCAX, Is Essential for Tolerance to Environmental Ca2+ during Sexual Development 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(2):e1003191.
Ca2+ contributes to a myriad of important cellular processes in all organisms, including the apicomplexans, Plasmodium and Toxoplasma. Due to its varied and essential roles, free Ca2+ is tightly regulated by complex mechanisms. These mechanisms are therefore of interest as putative drug targets. One pathway in Ca2+ homeostatic control in apicomplexans uses a Ca2+/H+ exchanger (a member of the cation exchanger family, CAX). The P. falciparum CAX (PfCAX) has recently been characterised in asexual blood stage parasites. To determine the physiological importance of apicomplexan CAXs, tagging and knock-out strategies were undertaken in the genetically tractable T. gondii and P. berghei parasites. In addition, a yeast heterologous expression system was used to study the function of apicomplexan CAXs. Tagging of T. gondii and P. berghei CAXs (TgCAX and PbCAX) under control of their endogenous promoters could not demonstrate measureable expression of either CAX in tachyzoites and asexual blood stages, respectively. These results were consistent with the ability of parasites to tolerate knock-outs of the genes for TgCAX and PbCAX at these developmental stages. In contrast, PbCAX expression was detectable during sexual stages of development in female gametocytes/gametes, zygotes and ookinetes, where it was dispersed in membranous networks within the cytosol (with minimal mitochondrial localisation). Furthermore, genetically disrupted parasites failed to develop further from “round” form zygotes, suggesting that PbCAX is essential for ookinete development and differentiation. This impeded phenotype could be rescued by removal of extracellular Ca2+. Therefore, PbCAX provides a mechanism for free living parasites to multiply within the ionic microenvironment of the mosquito midgut. Ca2+ homeostasis mediated by PbCAX is critical and suggests plasmodial CAXs may be targeted in approaches designed to block parasite transmission.
Author Summary
Calcium is vital to all living organisms. It is used within cells to regulate many essential processes and, because of this, its cellular concentration is tightly controlled. To change cellular calcium levels, cells use calcium transport proteins. These proteins can alter calcium concentration by moving calcium into or out of the cell or specialised calcium storage compartments within the cell. We know little about how single-celled apicomplexan parasites, including Plasmodium (the causal agent of malaria) and Toxoplasma (the causal agent of toxoplasmosis), regulate their calcium levels. Here, we have demonstrated that removing apicomplexan genes for a protein that exchanges calcium for protons across membranes (a Ca2+/H+ exchanger) and a member of the cation exchanger (CAX) family, does not affect the survival of parasites during those stages when they live within host cells. It is, however, lethal for the mouse malaria P. berghei when the parasite is free living within its mosquito vector. When we removed calcium from around the parasites at this stage they were able to develop normally, suggesting that the protein provides a mechanism for the parasite to tolerate environmental calcium. Learning how this calcium transport protein impacts on the development of apicomplexan parasites may lead to the development of novel anti-parasitic interventions.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003191
PMCID: PMC3585132  PMID: 23468629
7.  Cadmium exposure and sulfate limitation reveal differences in the transcriptional control of three sulfate transporter (Sultr1;2) genes in Brassica juncea 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:132.
Background
Cadmium (Cd) exposure and sulfate limitation induce root sulfate uptake to meet the metabolic demand for reduced sulfur. Although these responses are well studied, some aspects are still an object of debate, since little is known about the molecular mechanisms by which changes in sulfate availability and sulfur metabolic demand are perceived and transduced into changes in the expression of the high-affinity sulfate transporters of the roots. The analysis of the natural variation occurring in species with complex and highly redundant genome could provide precious information to better understand the topic, because of the possible retention of mutations in the sulfate transporter genes.
Results
The analysis of plant sulfur nutritional status and root sulfate uptake performed on plants of Brassica juncea – a naturally occurring allotetraploid species – grown either under Cd exposure or sulfate limitation showed that both these conditions increased root sulfate uptake capacity but they caused quite dissimilar nutritional states, as indicated by changes in the levels of nonprotein thiols, glutathione and sulfate of both roots and shoots. Such behaviors were related to the general accumulation of the transcripts of the transporters involved in root sulfate uptake (BjSultr1;1 and BjSultr1;2). However, a deeper analysis of the expression patterns of three redundant, fully functional, and simultaneously expressed Sultr1;2 forms (BjSultr1;2a, BjSultr1;2b, BjSultr1;2c) revealed that sulfate limitation induced the expression of all the variants, whilst BjSultr1;2b and BjSultr1;2c only seemed to have the capacity to respond to Cd.
Conclusions
A novel method to estimate the apparent kM for sulfate, avoiding the use of radiotracers, revealed that BjSultr1;1 and BjSultr1;2a/b/c are fully functional high-affinity sulfate transporters. The different behavior of the three BjSultr1;2 variants following Cd exposure or sulfate limitation suggests the existence of at least two distinct signal transduction pathways controlling root sulfate uptake in dissimilar nutritional and metabolic states.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-14-132
PMCID: PMC4049391  PMID: 24884748
Brassica juncea; Cadmium; Sulfate limitation; High-affinity sulfate transporters
8.  Establishment of an in planta magnesium monitoring system using CAX3 promoter-luciferase in Arabidopsis 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;63(1):355-363.
The direct determination of elemental concentrations in plants is laborious. To overcome this, a novel monitoring system for magnesium (Mg) in plants was established. Mg deficiency-induced genes were identified by microarray analysis and transgenic lines that expressed luciferase (LUC) under the control of the Mg deficiency-inducible CAX3 promoter were established. The transgenic lines showed a clear response under low Mg conditions, and the degree of luminescence reflected the accumulation of endogenous CAX3 mRNA. The CAX3 expression pattern was also examined in a previously characterized low Mg-sensitive mutant, mrs2-7. In mrs2-7 mutant plants, CAX3 expression was more than three times higher than in the wild-type. In addition, CAX3 expression was negatively correlated with the shoot Mg concentration. Together, these results indicate that CAX3 transcription is a quantitative marker of the Mg status in Arabidopsis.
doi:10.1093/jxb/err283
PMCID: PMC3245472  PMID: 21914662
CAX3; deficiency; luciferase; magnesium
9.  Molecular and Phenetic Characterization of the Bacterial Assemblage of Hot Lake, WA, an Environment with High Concentrations of Magnesium Sulfate, and Its Relevance to Mars 
Hot Lake (Oroville, WA) is an athalassohaline epsomite lake that can have precipitating concentrations of MgSO4 salts, mainly epsomite. Little biotic study has been done on epsomite lakes and it was unclear whether microbes isolated from epsomite lakes and their margins would fall within recognized halotolerant genera, common soil genera, or novel phyla. Our initial study cultivated and characterized epsotolerant bacteria from the lake and its margins. Approximately 100 aerobic heterotrophic microbial isolates were obtained by repetitive streak-plating in high-salt media including either 10% NaCl or 2 M MgSO4. The collected isolates were all bacteria, nearly evenly divided between Gram-positive and Gram-negative clades, the most abundant genera being Halomonas, Idiomarina, Marinobacter, Marinococcus, Nesterenkonia, Nocardiopsis, and Planococcus. Bacillus, Corynebacterium, Exiguobacterium, Kocuria, and Staphylococcus also were cultured. This initial study included culture-independent community analysis of direct DNA extracts of lake margin soil using PCR-based clone libraries and 16S rRNA gene phylogeny. Clones assigned Gram-positive bacterial clades (70% of total clones) were dominated by sequences related to uncultured actinobacteria. There were abundant Deltaproteobacteria clones related to bacterial sulfur metabolisms and clones of Legionella and Coxiella. These epsomite lake microbial communities seem to be divided between bacteria primarily associated with hyperhaline environments rich in NaCl and salinotolerant relatives of common soil organisms. Archaea appear to be in low abundance and none were isolated, despite near-saturated salinities. Growth of microbes at very high concentrations of magnesium and other sulfates has relevance to planetary protection and life-detection missions to Mars, where scant liquid water may form as deliquescent brines and appear as eutectic liquids.
doi:10.1017/S1473550413000268
PMCID: PMC3989109  PMID: 24748851
10.  Transcriptome responses to aluminum stress in roots of aspen (Populus tremula) 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:185.
Background
Ionic aluminum (mainly Al3+) is rhizotoxic and can be present in acid soils at concentrations high enough to inhibit root growth. Many forest tree species grow naturally in acid soils and often tolerate high concentrations of Al. Previously, we have shown that aspen (Populus tremula) releases citrate and oxalate from roots in response to Al exposure. To obtain further insights into the root responses of aspen to Al, we investigated root gene expression at Al conditions that inhibit root growth.
Results
Treatment of the aspen roots with 500 μM Al induced a strong inhibition of root growth within 6 h of exposure time. The root growth subsequently recovered, reaching growth rates comparable to that of control plants. Changes in gene expression were determined after 6 h, 2 d, and 10 d of Al exposure. Replicated transcriptome analyses using the Affymetrix poplar genome array revealed a total of 175 significantly up-regulated and 69 down-regulated genes, of which 70% could be annotated based on Arabidopsis genome resources. Between 6 h and 2 d, the number of responsive genes strongly decreased from 202 to 26, and then the number of changes remained low. The responses after 6 h were characterized by genes involved in cell wall modification, ion transport, and oxidative stress. Two genes with prolonged induction were closely related to the Arabidopsis Al tolerance genes ALS3 (for Al sensitive 3) and MATE (for multidrug and toxin efflux protein, mediating citrate efflux). Patterns of expression in different plant organs and in response to Al indicated that the two aspen genes are homologs of the Arabidopsis ALS3 and MATE.
Conclusion
Exposure of aspen roots to Al results in a rapid inhibition of root growth and a large change in root gene expression. The subsequent root growth recovery and the concomitant reduction in the number of responsive genes presumably reflect the success of the roots in activating Al tolerance mechanisms. The aspen genes ALS3 and MATE may be important components of these mechanisms.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-10-185
PMCID: PMC3017830  PMID: 20727216
11.  Protein Phylogenetic Analysis of Ca2+/cation Antiporters and Insights into their Evolution in Plants 
Cation transport is a critical process in all organisms and is essential for mineral nutrition, ion stress tolerance, and signal transduction. Transporters that are members of the Ca2+/cation antiporter (CaCA) superfamily are involved in the transport of Ca2+ and/or other cations using the counter exchange of another ion such as H+ or Na+. The CaCA superfamily has been previously divided into five transporter families: the YRBG, Na+/Ca2+ exchanger (NCX), Na+/Ca2+, K+ exchanger (NCKX), H+/cation exchanger (CAX), and cation/Ca2+ exchanger (CCX) families, which include the well-characterized NCX and CAX transporters. To examine the evolution of CaCA transporters within higher plants and the green plant lineage, CaCA genes were identified from the genomes of sequenced flowering plants, a bryophyte, lycophyte, and freshwater and marine algae, and compared with those from non-plant species. We found evidence of the expansion and increased diversity of flowering plant genes within the CAX and CCX families. Genes related to the NCX family are present in land plant though they encode distinct MHX homologs which probably have an altered transport function. In contrast, the NCX and NCKX genes which are absent in land plants have been retained in many species of algae, especially the marine algae, indicating that these organisms may share “animal-like” characteristics of Ca2+ homeostasis and signaling. A group of genes encoding novel CAX-like proteins containing an EF-hand domain were identified from plants and selected algae but appeared to be lacking in any other species. Lack of functional data for most of the CaCA proteins make it impossible to reliably predict substrate specificity and function for many of the groups or individual proteins. The abundance and diversity of CaCA genes throughout all branches of life indicates the importance of this class of cation transporter, and that many transporters with novel functions are waiting to be discovered.
doi:10.3389/fpls.2012.00001
PMCID: PMC3355786  PMID: 22645563
calcium transport; cation transport; evolution; H+/Ca2+ exchanger; Na+/Ca2+ exchanger; phylogeny; CaCA
12.  Mn-euvering manganese: the role of transporter gene family members in manganese uptake and mobilization in plants 
Manganese (Mn), an essential trace element, is important for plant health. In plants, Mn serves as a cofactor in essential processes such as photosynthesis, lipid biosynthesis and oxidative stress. Mn deficient plants exhibit decreased growth and yield and are more susceptible to pathogens and damage at freezing temperatures. Mn deficiency is most prominent on alkaline soils with approximately one third of the world's soils being too alkaline for optimal crop production. Despite the importance of Mn in plant development, relatively little is known about how it traffics between plant tissues and into and out of organelles. Several gene transporter families have been implicated in Mn transport in plants. These transporter families include NRAMP (natural resistance associated macrophage protein), YSL (yellow stripe-like), ZIP (zinc regulated transporter/iron-regulated transporter [ZRT/IRT1]-related protein), CAX (cation exchanger), CCX (calcium cation exchangers), CDF/MTP (cation diffusion facilitator/metal tolerance protein), P-type ATPases and VIT (vacuolar iron transporter). A combination of techniques including mutant analysis and Synchrotron X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy can assist in identifying essential transporters of Mn. Such knowledge would vastly improve our understanding of plant Mn homeostasis.
doi:10.3389/fpls.2014.00106
PMCID: PMC3978347  PMID: 24744764
manganese; metal transport; Arabidopsis; rice; synchrotron x-ray fluorescence
13.  Exchangers man the pumps 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2008;3(5):354-356.
Tonoplast-localised proton-coupled Ca2+ transporters encoded by cation/H+ exchanger (CAX) genes play a critical role in sequestering Ca2+ into the vacuole. These transporters may function in coordination with Ca2+ release channels, to shape stimulus-induced cytosolic Ca2+ elevations. Recent analysis of Arabidopsis CAX knockout mutants, particularly cax1 and cax3, identified a variety of phenotypes including sensitivity to abiotic stresses, which indicated that these transporters might play a role in mediating the plant's stress response. A common feature of these mutants was the perturbation of H+-ATPase activity at both the tonoplast and the plasma membrane, suggesting a tight interplay between the Ca2+/H+ exchangers and H+ pumps. We speculate that indirect regulation of proton flux by the exchangers may be as important as the direct regulation of Ca2+ flux. These results suggest cautious interpretation of mutant Ca2+/H+ exchanger phenotypes that may be due to either perturbed Ca2+ or H+ transport.
PMCID: PMC2634282  PMID: 19841670
abiotic stress; Ca2+ transport; Ca2+/H+ exchanger; H+-ATPase; Na+ transport; pH; salt stress; vacuole
14.  Reciprocal regulation among miR395, APS and SULTR2;1 in Arabidopsis thaliana 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(10):1257-1259.
Sulfur element plays a pivotal role in plant growth and development. Recently, we have demonstrated that miR395 is crucial for the sulfate homeostasis through regulating the sulfate uptake, transport and assimilation in Arabidopsis thaliana. miR395 controls the sulfate concentration in the shoot by targeting three ATP sulfurylase genes (APS), which encode the first enzymes catalyzing sulfate activation in sulfur assimilation pathway. Furthermore, miR395 also regulates the transport of sulfate between leaves. Under sulfate starvation conditions, upregulated miR395 represses the expression of SULTR2;1, which then confined the transport of sulfate from mature to young leaves. Of note, transcript expression analysis suggested that, unlike APS1 and APS4 mRNA, APS3 and shoot SULTR2;1 is in accordance with miR395 in response to sulfate deprivation. We proposed that the differential regulation of targets by miR395 may be required for adaptation to the sulfate deficiency environment. In addition, our results revealed that there is reciprocal regulation between SULTR2;1 and APS genes through miR395.
doi:10.4161/psb.5.10.12608
PMCID: PMC3115361  PMID: 20935495
sulfate; miR395; APS1; APS3; APS4; SULTR2;1; sulfate transport; sulfate assimilation
15.  Cell-specific compartmentation of mineral nutrients is an essential mechanism for optimal plant productivity— another role for TPC1? 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2011;6(11):1656-1661.
Vacuoles of different leaf cell-types vary in their capacity to store specific mineral elements. In Arabidopsis thaliana potassium (K) accumulates preferentially in epidermal and bundle sheath cells whereas calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) are stored at high concentrations only in mesophyll cells. Accumulation of these elements in a particular vacuole can be reciprocal, i.e. as [K]vac increases [Ca]vac decreases. Mesophyll-specific Ca-storage involves CAX1 (a Ca2+/H+ antiporter) and Mg-storage involves MRS2-1/MGT2 and MRS2-5/MGT3 (both Mg2+-transporters), all of which are preferentially expressed in the mesophyll and encode tonoplast-localised proteins. However, what controls leaf-cell [K]vac is less well understood. TPC1 encodes the two-pore Ca2+ channel protein responsible for the tonoplast-localised SV cation conductance, and is highly expressed in cell-types that not preferentially accumulate Ca. Here, we evaluate evidence that TPC1 has a role in maintaining differential K and Ca storage across the leaf, and propose a function for TPC1 in releasing Ca2+ from epidermal and bundle sheath cell vacuoles to maintain low [Ca]vac. Mesophyll-specific Ca storage is essential to maintain apoplastic free Ca concentration at a level that does not perturb a range of physiological parameters including leaf gas exchange, cell wall extensibility and growth. When plants are grown under serpentine conditions (high Mg/Ca ratio), MGT2/MRS2-1 and MGT3/MRS2-5 are required to sequester additional Mg2+ in vacuoles to replace Ca2+ as an osmoticum to maintain growth. An updated model of Ca2+ and Mg2+ transport in leaves is presented as a reference for future interrogation of nutritional flows and elemental storage in plant leaves.
doi:10.4161/psb.6.11.17797
PMCID: PMC3329329  PMID: 22067997
Apoplast; calcium; CAX1; cell-specific; compartmentation; GLR; magnesium; mesophyll; MGT; MRS2; nutrition; TPC1; vacuole
16.  The ColR/ColS Two-Component System Plays Multiple Roles in the Pathogenicity of the Citrus Canker Pathogen Xanthomonas citri subsp. citri▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(7):1590-1599.
Bacterial citrus canker disease, which is caused by Xanthomonas citri subsp. citri, is one of the most devastating diseases of citrus plants. In this study, we characterized the role of the two-component regulatory system ColR/ColS in the pathogenicity of X. citri subsp. citri. colS mutants (256A10 and 421E7), colR mutants (386C6 and 417E10), and a colR colS double mutant (306DSR) all lost pathogenicity and produced no symptoms on grapefruit leaves inoculated by either pressure infiltration or the spray method. The pathogenicity defect of the colS, colR, and colR colS mutants could be complemented using the wild-type colS, colR, and colR colS genes, respectively. Mutation of colS or colR significantly reduced X. citri subsp. citri growth in planta. The ColR/ColS system also played important roles in bacterial biofilm formation in glass tubes and on leaf surfaces, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) production, catalase activity, and tolerance of environmental stress, including phenol, copper, and hydrogen peroxide. Furthermore, quantitative reverse transcription-PCR assays demonstrated that the ColR/ColS system positively regulated the expression of important virulence genes, including hrpD6, hpaF, the O-antigen LPS synthesis gene rfbC, and the catalase gene katE. Overall, our data indicate that the two-component regulatory system ColR/ColS is critical for X. citri subsp. citri virulence, growth in planta, biofilm formation, catalase activity, LPS production, and resistance to environmental stress.
doi:10.1128/JB.01415-10
PMCID: PMC3067642  PMID: 21257774
17.  Photosynthetic capacity, nutrient status, and growth of maize (Zea mays L.) upon MgSO4 leaf-application 
The major plant nutrient magnesium (Mg) is involved in numerous physiological processes and its deficiency can severely reduce the yield and quality of crops. Since Mg availability in soil and uptake into the plant is often limited by unfavorable soil or climatic conditions, application of Mg onto leaves, the site with highest physiological Mg demand, might be a reasonable alternative fertilization strategy. This study aimed to investigate, if MgSO4 leaf-application in practically relevant amounts can efficiently alleviate the effects of Mg starvation in maize, namely reduced photosynthesis capacity, disturbed ion homeostasis and growth depression. Results clearly demonstrated that Mg deficiency could be mitigated by MgSO4 leaf-application as efficiently as by resupply of MgSO4 via the roots in vegetative maize plants. Significant increases in SPAD values and net rate of CO2-assimilation as well as enhanced shoot biomass have been achieved. Ion analysis furthermore revealed an improvement of the nutrient status of Mg-deficient plants with regard to [Mg], [K], and [Mn] in distinct organs, thereby reducing the risk of Mn-toxicity at the rootside, which often occurs together with Mg deficiency on acid soils. In conclusion, foliar fertilization with Mg proved to be an efficient strategy to adequately supply maize plants with Mg and might hence be of practical relevance to correct nutrient deficiencies during the growing season.
doi:10.3389/fpls.2014.00781
PMCID: PMC4288286  PMID: 25620973
foliar application; magnesium deficiency; photosynthesis; chlorophyll; cation interaction; Zea mays L.
18.  Comparative analysis of root transcriptome profiles of two pairs of drought-tolerant and susceptible rice near-isogenic lines under different drought stress 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:174.
Background
Plant roots are important organs to uptake soil water and nutrients, perceiving and transducing of soil water deficit signals to shoot. The current knowledge of drought stress transcriptomes in rice are mostly relying on comparative studies of diverse genetic background under drought. A more reliable approach is to use near-isogenic lines (NILs) with a common genetic background but contrasting levels of resistance to drought stress under initial exposure to water deficit. Here, we examined two pairs of NILs in IR64 background with contrasting drought tolerance. We obtained gene expression profile in roots of rice NILs under different levels of drought stress help to identify genes and mechanisms involved in drought stress.
Results
Global gene expression analysis showed that about 55% of genes differentially expressed in roots of rice in response to drought stress treatments. The number of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) increased in NILs as the level of water deficits, increased from mild to severe condition, suggesting that more genes were affected by increasing drought stress. Gene onthology (GO) test and biological pathway analysis indicated that activated genes in the drought tolerant NILs IR77298-14-1-2-B-10 and IR77298-5-6-B-18 were mostly involved in secondary metabolism, amino acid metabolism, response to stimulus, defence response, transcription and signal transduction, and down-regulated genes were involved in photosynthesis and cell wall growth. We also observed gibberellic acid (GA) and auxin crosstalk modulating lateral root formation in the tolerant NILs.
Conclusions
Transcriptome analysis on two pairs of NILs with a common genetic background (~97%) showed distinctive differences in gene expression profiles and could be effective to unravel genes involved in drought tolerance. In comparison with the moderately tolerant NIL IR77298-5-6-B-18 and other susceptible NILs, the tolerant NIL IR77298-14-1-2-B-10 showed a greater number of DEGs for cell growth, hormone biosynthesis, cellular transports, amino acid metabolism, signalling, transcription factors and carbohydrate metabolism in response to drought stress treatments. Thus, different mechanisms are achieving tolerance in the two tolerant lines.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-11-174
PMCID: PMC3268746  PMID: 22136218
19.  Can Plants Grow on Mars and the Moon: A Growth Experiment on Mars and Moon Soil Simulants 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e103138.
When humans will settle on the moon or Mars they will have to eat there. Food may be flown in. An alternative could be to cultivate plants at the site itself, preferably in native soils. We report on the first large-scale controlled experiment to investigate the possibility of growing plants in Mars and moon soil simulants. The results show that plants are able to germinate and grow on both Martian and moon soil simulant for a period of 50 days without any addition of nutrients. Growth and flowering on Mars regolith simulant was much better than on moon regolith simulant and even slightly better than on our control nutrient poor river soil. Reflexed stonecrop (a wild plant); the crops tomato, wheat, and cress; and the green manure species field mustard performed particularly well. The latter three flowered, and cress and field mustard also produced seeds. Our results show that in principle it is possible to grow crops and other plant species in Martian and Lunar soil simulants. However, many questions remain about the simulants' water carrying capacity and other physical characteristics and also whether the simulants are representative of the real soils.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0103138
PMCID: PMC4146463  PMID: 25162657
20.  Expression of Root-Related Transcription Factors Associated with Flooding Tolerance of Soybean (Glycine max) 
Much research has been conducted on the changes in gene expression of the model plant Arabidopsis to low-oxygen stress. Flooding results in a low oxygen environment in the root zone. However, there is ample evidence that tolerance to soil flooding is more than tolerance to low oxygen alone. In this study, we investigated the physiological response and differential expression of root-related transcription factors (TFs) associated with the tolerance of soybean plants to soil flooding. Differential responses of PI408105A and S99-2281 plants to ten days of soil flooding were evaluated at physiological, morphological and anatomical levels. Gene expression underlying the tolerance response was investigated using qRT-PCR of root-related TFs, known anaerobic genes, and housekeeping genes. Biomass of flood-sensitive S99-2281 roots remained unchanged during the entire 10 days of flooding. Flood-tolerant PI408105A plants exhibited recovery of root growth after 3 days of flooding. Flooding induced the development of aerenchyma and adventitious roots more rapidly in the flood-tolerant than the flood-sensitive genotype. Roots of tolerant plants also contained more ATP than roots of sensitive plants at the 7th and 10th days of flooding. Quantitative transcript analysis identified 132 genes differentially expressed between the two genotypes at one or more time points of flooding. Expression of genes related to the ethylene biosynthesis pathway and formation of adventitious roots was induced earlier and to higher levels in roots of the flood-tolerant genotype. Three potential flood-tolerance TFs which were differentially expressed between the two genotypes during the entire 10-day flooding duration were identified. This study confirmed the expression of anaerobic genes in response to soil flooding. Additionally, the differential expression of TFs associated with soil flooding tolerance was not qualitative but quantitative and temporal. Functional analyses of these genes will be necessary to reveal their potential to enhance flooding tolerance of soybean cultivars.
doi:10.3390/ijms151017622
PMCID: PMC4227181  PMID: 25268626
abiotic stress tolerance; anaerobic genes; gene expression; hypoxia; waterlogging
21.  Tomato root transcriptome response to a nitrogen-enriched soil patch 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:75.
Background
Nitrogen (N), the primary limiting factor for plant growth and yield in agriculture, has a patchy distribution in soils due to fertilizer application or decomposing organic matter. Studies in solution culture over-simplify the complex soil environment where microbial competition and spatial and temporal heterogeneity challenge roots' ability to acquire adequate amounts of nutrients required for plant growth. In this study, various ammonium treatments (as 15N) were applied to a discrete volume of soil containing tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) roots to simulate encounters with a localized enriched patch of soil. Transcriptome analysis was used to identify genes differentially expressed in roots 53 hrs after treatment.
Results
The ammonium treatments resulted in significantly higher concentrations of both ammonium and nitrate in the patch soil. The plant roots and shoots exhibited increased levels of 15N over time, indicating a sustained response to the enriched environment. Root transcriptome analysis identified 585 genes differentially regulated 53 hrs after the treatments. Nitrogen metabolism and cell growth genes were induced by the high ammonium (65 μg NH4+-N g-1 soil), while stress response genes were repressed. The complex regulation of specific transporters following the ammonium pulse reflects a simultaneous and synergistic response to rapidly changing concentrations of both forms of inorganic N in the soil patch. Transcriptional analysis of the phosphate transporters demonstrates cross-talk between N and phosphate uptake pathways and suggests that roots increase phosphate uptake via the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis in response to N.
Conclusion
This work enhances our understanding of root function by providing a snapshot of the response of the tomato root transcriptome to a pulse of ammonium in a complex soil environment. This response includes an important role for the mycorrhizal symbiosis in the utilization of an N patch.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-10-75
PMCID: PMC3095349  PMID: 20423508
22.  Growth attenuation under saline stress is mediated by the heterotrimeric G protein complex 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:129.
Background
Plant growth is plastic, able to rapidly adjust to fluctuation in environmental conditions such as drought and salinity. Due to long-term irrigation use in agricultural systems, soil salinity is increasing; consequently crop yield is adversely affected. It is known that salt tolerance is a quantitative trait supported by genes affecting ion homeostasis, ion transport, ion compartmentalization and ion selectivity. Less is known about pathways connecting NaCl and cell proliferation and cell death. Plant growth and cell proliferation is, in part, controlled by the concerted activity of the heterotrimeric G-protein complex with glucose. Prompted by the abundance of stress-related, functional annotations of genes encoding proteins that interact with core components of the Arabidopsis heterotrimeric G protein complex (AtRGS1, AtGPA1, AGB1, and AGG), we tested the hypothesis that G proteins modulate plant growth under salt stress.
Results
Na+ activates G signaling as quantitated by internalization of Arabidopsis Regulator of G Signaling protein 1 (AtRGS1). Despite being components of a singular signaling complex loss of the Gβ subunit (agb1-2 mutant) conferred accelerated senescence and aborted development in the presence of Na+, whereas loss of AtRGS1 (rgs1-2 mutant) conferred Na+ tolerance evident as less attenuated shoot growth and senescence. Site-directed changes in the Gα and Gβγ protein-protein interface were made to disrupt the interaction between the Gα and Gβγ subunits in order to elevate free activated Gα subunit and free Gβγ dimer at the plasma membrane. These mutations conferred sodium tolerance. Glucose in the growth media improved the survival under salt stress in Col but not in agb1-2 or rgs1-2 mutants.
Conclusions
These results demonstrate a direct role for G-protein signaling in the plant growth response to salt stress. The contrasting phenotypes of agb1-2 and rgs1-2 mutants suggest that G-proteins balance growth and death under salt stress. The phenotypes of the loss-of-function mutations prompted the model that during salt stress, G activation promotes growth and attenuates senescence probably by releasing ER stress.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-14-129
PMCID: PMC4061919  PMID: 24884438
23.  A receptor-like kinase gene (GbRLK) from Gossypium barbadense enhances salinity and drought-stress tolerance in Arabidopsis 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:110.
Background
Cotton (Gossypium spp.) is widely cultivated due to the important economic value of its fiber. However, extreme environmental degradation impedes cotton growth and production. Receptor-like kinase (RLK) proteins play important roles in signal transduction and participate in a diverse range of processes in response to plant hormones and environmental cues. Here, we introduced an RLK gene (GbRLK) from cotton into Arabidopsis and investigated its role in imparting abiotic stress tolerance.
Results
GbRLK transcription was induced by exogenously supplied abscisic acid (ABA), salicylic acid, methyl jasmonate, mock drought conditions and high salinity. We cloned the promoter sequence of this gene via self-formed adaptor PCR. Sequence analysis revealed that the promoter region contains many cis-acting stress-responsive elements such as ABRE, W-Box, MYB-core, W-Box core, TCA-element and others. We constructed a vector containing a 1,890-bp sequence in the 5′ region upstream of the initiation codon of this promoter and transformed it into Arabidopsis thaliana. GUS histochemical staining analysis showed that GbRLK was expressed mainly in leaf veins, petioles and roots of transgenic Arabidopsis, but not in the cotyledons or root hairs. GbRLK promoter activity was induced by ABA, PEG, NaCl and Verticillium dahliae. Transgenic Arabidopsis with constitutive overexpression of GbRLK exhibited a reduced rate of water loss in leaves in vitro, along with improved salinity and drought tolerance and increased sensitivity to ABA compared with non-transgenic Col-0 Arabidopsis. Expression analysis of stress-responsive genes in GbRLK Arabidopsis revealed that there was increased expression of genes involved in the ABA-dependent signaling pathway (AtRD20, AtRD22 and AtRD26) and antioxidant genes (AtCAT1, AtCCS, AtCSD2 and AtCSD1) but not ion transporter genes (AtNHX1, AtSOS1).
Conclusions
GbRLK is involved in the drought and high salinity stresses pathway by activating or participating in the ABA signaling pathway. Overexpression of GbRLK may improve stress tolerance by regulating stress-responsive genes to reduce water loss. GbRLK may be employed in the genetic engineering of novel cotton cultivars in the future. Further studying of GbRLK will help elucidate abiotic stress signaling pathways.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-110
PMCID: PMC3750506  PMID: 23915077
Gossypium barbadense; Receptor-like protein kinase; Abscisic acid; Arabidopsis thaliana; Abiotic stress tolerance; Transgene
24.  Sulphur limitation and early sulphur deficiency responses in poplar: significance of gene expression, metabolites, and plant hormones 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;63(5):1873-1893.
The influence of sulphur (S) depletion on the expression of genes related to S metabolism, and on metabolite and plant hormone contents was analysed in young and mature leaves, fine roots, xylem sap, and phloem exudates of poplar (Populus tremula×Populus alba) with special focus on early consequences. S depletion was applied by a gradual decrease of sulphate availability. The observed changes were correlated with sulphate contents. Based on the decrease in sulphate contents, two phases of S depletion could be distinguished that were denominated as ‘S limitation’ and ‘early S deficiency’. S limitation was characterized by improved sulphate uptake (enhanced root-specific sulphate transporter PtaSULTR1;2 expression) and reduction capacities (enhanced adenosine 5′-phosphosulphate (APS) reductase expression) and by enhanced remobilization of sulphate from the vacuole (enhanced putative vacuolar sulphate transporter PtaSULTR4;2 expression). During early S deficiency, whole plant distribution of S was impacted, as indicated by increasing expression of the phloem-localized sulphate transporter PtaSULTR1;1 and by decreasing glutathione contents in fine roots, young leaves, mature leaves, and phloem exudates. Furthermore, at ‘early S deficiency’, expression of microRNA395 (miR395), which targets transcripts of PtaATPS3/4 (ATP sulphurylase) for cleavage, increased. Changes in plant hormone contents were observed at ‘early S deficiency’ only. Thus, S depletion affects S and plant hormone metabolism of poplar during ‘S limitation’ and ‘early S deficiency’ in a time series of events. Despite these consequences, the impact of S depletion on growth of poplar plants appears to be less severe than in Brassicaceae such as Arabidopsis thaliana or Brassica sp.
doi:10.1093/jxb/err365
PMCID: PMC3295385  PMID: 22162873
APS reductase; ATP sulphurylase; miR395; plant hormones; poplar; sulphate transporter (SULTR); sulphur deficiency
25.  Role of Four Calcium Transport Proteins, Encoded by nca-1, nca-2, nca-3, and cax, in Maintaining Intracellular Calcium Levels in Neurospora crassa ▿ 
Eukaryotic Cell  2011;10(5):654-661.
We have examined the distribution of calcium in Neurospora crassa and investigated the role of four predicted calcium transport proteins. The results of cell fractionation experiments showed 4% of cellular calcium in mitochondria, approximately 11% in a dense vacuolar fraction, 40% in an insoluble form that copurifies with microsomes, and 40% in a high-speed supernatant, presumably from large vacuoles that had broken. Strains lacking NCA-1, a SERCA-type Ca2+-ATPase, or NCA-3, a PMC-type Ca2+-ATPase, had no obvious defects in growth or distribution of calcium. A strain lacking NCA-2, which is also a PMC-type Ca2+-ATPase, grew slowly in normal medium and was unable to grow in high concentrations of calcium tolerated by the wild type. Furthermore, when grown in normal concentrations of calcium (0.68 mM), this strain accumulated 4- to 10-fold more calcium than other strains, elevated in all cell fractions. The data suggest that NCA-2 functions in the plasma membrane to pump calcium out of the cell. In this way, it resembles the PMC-type enzymes of animal cells, not the Pmc1p enzyme in Saccharomyces cerevisiae that resides in the vacuole. Strains lacking the cax gene, which encodes a Ca2+/H+ exchange protein in vacuolar membranes, accumulate very little calcium in the dense vacuolar fraction but have normal levels of calcium in other fractions. The cax knockout strain has no other observable phenotypes. These data suggest that “the vacuole” is heterogeneous and that the dense vacuolar fraction contains an organelle that is dependent upon the CAX transporter for accumulation of calcium, while other components of the vacuolar system have multiple calcium transporters.
doi:10.1128/EC.00239-10
PMCID: PMC3127652  PMID: 21335528

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