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1.  Evolution of Growth Habit, Inflorescence Architecture, Flower Size, and Fruit Type in Rubiaceae: Its Ecological and Evolutionary Implications 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40851.
During angiosperm evolution, innovations in vegetative and reproductive organs have resulted in tremendous morphological diversity, which has played a crucial role in the ecological success of flowering plants. Morindeae (Rubiaceae) display considerable diversity in growth form, inflorescence architecture, flower size, and fruit type. Lianescent habit, head inflorescence, small flower, and multiple fruit are the predominant states, but arborescent habit, non-headed inflorescence, large flower, and simple fruit states occur in various genera. This makes Morindeae an ideal model for exploring the evolutionary appearances and transitions between the states of these characters. We reconstructed ancestral states for these four traits using a Bayesian approach and combined nuclear/chloroplast data for 61 Morindeae species. The aim was to test three hypotheses: 1) self-supporting habit is generally ancestral in clades comprising both lianescent and arborescent species; 2) changes from lianescent to arborescent habit are uncommon due to “a high degree of specialization and developmental burden”; 3) head inflorescences and multiple fruits in Morindeae evolved from non-headed inflorescences and simple fruits, respectively. Lianescent habit, head inflorescence, large flower, and multiple fruit are inferred for Morindeae, making arborescent habit, non-headed inflorescence, small flower, and simple fruit derived within the tribe. The rate of change from lianescent to arborescent habit is much higher than the reverse change. Therefore, evolutionary changes between lianescent and arborescent forms can be reversible, and their frequency and trends vary between groups. Moreover, these changes are partly attributed to a scarcity of host trees for climbing plants in more open habitats. Changes from large to small flowers might have been driven by shifts to pollinators with progressively shorter proboscis, which are associated with shifts in breeding systems towards dioecy. A single origin of dioecy from hermaphroditism is supported. Finally, we report evolutionary changes from headed to non-headed inflorescences and multiple to simple fruits.
PMCID: PMC3397938  PMID: 22815842
2.  Exploration of Nutraceutical Potential of Herbal Oil Formulated from Parasitic Plant 
Cuscuta reflexa (C. reflexa) is a parasitic climber of medicinal importance. The present study was aimed to evaluate the nutraceutical potential of C. reflexa stems collected from different hosts and to evaluate the role of the herbal formulation in dandruff, hair fall control as well as hair growth promoter.
Materials and Methods
Hair formulations of C. reflexa collected from different host plants were prepared in the form of herbal oils (10% w/v). C. reflexa stems were extracted using mustard oil as base oil by using direct boiling technique. Prepared oil was studied as hair tonic. The experimental protocols used were anti-dandruff hair growth activity, as well as hair fall reduction. Herbal hair oils versus mustard oil were evaluated by applying oils on human volunteers with hair fall and dandruff problem whereas promotion of hair growth activity was conducted on rats. The formulated oils were also characterised for proximate analysis, physiochemical composition, as well as antimicrobial activity.
The test oils of C. reflexa collected from Azadiracta indica and Zizyphus jujuba were effective in the promotion of hair growth, dandruff control, as well as reduction in hair fall activity.
All the formulated oils showed potent antimicrobial activity against all selected strains of bacteria and fungi.
PMCID: PMC3957245  PMID: 24653557
Cuscuta reflexa; host plants; Hair fall; Dandruff; Combing assay; Herbal hair oil; Hair growth activity
3.  Shape Self-Regulation in Early Lung Morphogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36925.
The arborescent architecture of mammalian conductive airways results from the repeated branching of lung endoderm into surrounding mesoderm. Subsequent lung’s striking geometrical features have long raised the question of developmental mechanisms involved in morphogenesis. Many molecular actors have been identified, and several studies demonstrated the central role of Fgf10 and Shh in growth and branching. However, the actual branching mechanism and the way branching events are organized at the organ scale to achieve a self-avoiding tree remain to be understood through a model compatible with evidenced signaling. In this paper we show that the mere diffusion of FGF10 from distal mesenchyme involves differential epithelial proliferation that spontaneously leads to branching. Modeling FGF10 diffusion from sub-mesothelial mesenchyme where Fgf10 is known to be expressed and computing epithelial and mesenchymal growth in a coupled manner, we found that the resulting laplacian dynamics precisely accounts for the patterning of FGF10-induced genes, and that it spontaneously involves differential proliferation leading to a self-avoiding and space-filling tree, through mechanisms that we detail. The tree’s fine morphological features depend on the epithelial growth response to FGF10, underlain by the lung’s complex regulatory network. Notably, our results suggest that no branching information has to be encoded and that no master routine is required to organize branching events at the organ scale. Despite its simplicity, this model identifies key mechanisms of lung development, from branching to organ-scale organization, and could prove relevant to the development of other branched organs relying on similar pathways.
PMCID: PMC3353953  PMID: 22615846
4.  Patterns of morphological integration in marine modular organisms: supra-module organization in branching octocoral colonies. 
Despite the relative simplicity of their modular growth, marine invertebrates such as arborescent gorgonian octocorals (Octocorallia: Cnidaria) generate complex colonial forms. Colony form in these taxa is a consequence of modular (polyp) replication, and if there is a tight integration among modular and supramodular traits (e.g. polyp aperture, inter-polyp spacing, branch thickness, internode and branch length), then changes at the module level may lead to changes in colony architecture. Alternatively, different groups of traits may evolve semi-independently (or conditionally independent). To examine the patterns of integration among morphological traits in Caribbean octocorals, we compared five morphological traits across 21 species, correcting for the effects of phylogenetic relationships among the taxa. Graphical modelling and phylogenetic independence contrasts among the five morphological characters indicate two groups of integrated traits based on whether they were polyp- or colony-level traits. Although all characters exhibited bivariate associations, multivariate analyses (partial correlation coefficients) showed the strongest integration among the colony-level characters (internode distance and branch length). It is a quantitative demonstration that branching characters within the octocorals studied are independent of characters of the polyps. Despite the universally recognized modularity of octocorals at the level of polyps, branching during colony development may represent an emergent level of integration and modularity.
PMCID: PMC1691470  PMID: 14561292
5.  How early ferns became trees. 
A new anatomically preserved fern, discovered from the basalmost Carboniferous of Australia, shows a unique combination of very primitive anatomical characters (solid centrarch cauline protostele) with the elaboration of an original model of the arborescent habit. This plant possessed a false trunk composed of a repetitive branching system of very small stems, which established it as the oldest tree-fern known to date. The potential of this primitive zygopterid fern to produce such an unusual growth form-without real equivalent among living plants-is related to the possession of two kinds of roots that have complementary functional roles: (i) large roots produced by stems with immediate positive geotropism, strongly adapted to mechanical support and water uptake from the soil; and (ii) small roots borne either on large roots or on petiole bases for absorbing humidity inside the false trunk.
PMCID: PMC1088834  PMID: 11564354
6.  A study on the extracts of Cuscuta reflexa Roxb. in treatment of cyclophosphamide induced alopecia 
Alopecia is a dermatological disorder with psychosocial implications on patients with hair loss. Hair loss is one of the most feared side effects of chemotherapy. Plants have been widely used for hair growth promotion since ancient times in Ayurveda, Chinese and Unani systems of medicine. The effect of extracts of Cuscuta reflexa Roxb. in testosterone induced alopecia was reported.
In the present study, the efficacies of the extracts of Cuscuta reflexa in promoting hair growth in cyclophosphamide-induced hair loss have been determined.
Materials and methods
The study was performed by treated with petroleum ether and ethanolic extract of Cuscuta reflexa at the dose 250 mg/kg in male swiss albino rats. Cyclophosphamide (125 mg/kg) was used to induce alopecia.
Groups treated with extracts of plant showed hair regrowth. Histopathology and gross morphologic observations for hair regrowth at shaved sites revealed active follicular proliferation.
It concluded that extracts of Cuscuta reflexa shown to be capable of promoting follicular proliferation or preventing hair loss in cyclophosphamide-induced hair fall.
PMCID: PMC3922840  PMID: 24393240
Cuscuta reflexa; Chemotherapy; Alopecia; Cyclophosphamide; Hair loss
7.  The role of Quaternary environmental change in plant macroevolution: the exception or the rule? 
The Quaternary has been described as an important time for genetic diversification and speciation. This is based on the premise that Quaternary climatic conditions fostered the isolation of populations and, in some instances, allopatric speciation. However, the 'Quaternary Ice-Age speciation model' rests on two key assumptions: (i) that biotic responses to climate change during the Quaternary were significantly different from those of other periods in Earth's history; and (ii) that the mechanisms of isolation during the Quaternary were sufficient in time and space for genetic diversification to foster speciation. These assumptions are addressed by examining the plant fossil record for the Quaternary (in detail) and for the past 410 Myr, which encompasses previous intervals of icehouse Earth. Our examination of the Quaternary record indicates that floristic responses to climate changes during the past 1.8 Myr were complex and that a distinction has to be made between those plants that were able to withstand the extremes of glacial conditions and those that could not. Generation times are also important as are different growth forms (e.g. herbaceous annuals and arborescent perennials), resulting in different responses in terms of genetic divergence rates during isolation. Because of these variations in the duration of isolation of populations and genomic diversification rates, no canonical statement about the predominant floristic response to climatic changes during the Quaternary (i.e. elevated rates of speciation or extinction, or stasis) is currently possible. This is especially true because of a sampling bias in terms of the fossil record of tree species over that of species with non-arborescent growth forms. Nevertheless, based on the available information, it appears that the dominant response of arborescent species during the Quaternary was extinction rather than speciation or stasis. By contrast, our examination of the fossil record of vascular plants for the past 410 Myr indicates that speciation rates often increased during long intervals of icehouse Earth (spanning up to 50 Myr). Therefore, longer periods of icehouse Earth than those occurring during the Quaternary may have isolated plant populations for sufficiently long periods of time to foster genomic diversification and allopatric speciation. Our results highlight the need for more detailed study of the fossil record in terms of finer temporal and spatial resolution than is currently available to examine the significance of intervals of icehouse Earth. It is equally clear that additional and detailed molecular studies of extant populations of Quaternary species are required in order to determine the extent to which these 'relic' species have genomically diversified across their current populations.
PMCID: PMC1693324  PMID: 15101573
8.  New information about the skull and dentary of the Miocene platypus Obdurodon dicksoni, and a discussion of ornithorhynchid relationships. 
A reconstruction of the skull, dentary and dentition of the middle Miocene ornithorhynchid Obdurodon dicksoni has been made possible by acquisition of nearly complete cranial and dental material. Access to new anatomical work on the living platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, and the present comparative study of the cranial foramina of Ob. dicksoni and Or. anatinus have provided new insights into the evolution of the ornithorhynchid skull. The hypertrophied bill in Ob. dicksoni is seen here as possibly apomorphic, although evidence from ontogenetic studies of Or. anatinus suggests that the basic form of the bill in Ob. dicksoni (where the rostral crura meet at the midline) may be ancestral to the form of the bill in Or. anatinus (where the rostral crura meet at the midline in the embryonic platypus but diverge in the adult). Differences in the relative positions of cranial structures, and in the relationships of certain cranial foramina, indicate that the cranium may have become secondarily shortened in Or. anatinus, possibly evolving from a more elongate skull type such as that of Ob. dicksoni. The plesiomorphic dentary of Ob. dicksoni, with well-developed coronoid and angular processes, contrasts with the dentary of Or. anatinus, in which the processes are almost vestigial, as well as with the dentary of the late Oligocene, congeneric Ob. insignis, in which the angular process appears to be reduced (the coronoid process is missing). In this regard the dentary of Ob. insignis seems to be morphologically closer to Or. anatinus than is the dentary of the younger Ob. dicksoni. Phylogenetic conclusions differ from previous analyses in viewing the northern Australian Ob. dicksoni as possibly derived in possessing a hypertrophied bill and dorsoventrally flattened skull and dentary, perhaps being a specialized branch of the Obdurodon line rather than ancestral to species of Ornithorhynchus. The presence of functional teeth and the robust, flattened skull and dentary in Ob. dicksoni argue for differences in diet and lifestyle between this extinct ornithorhynchid and the living Ornithorhynchus.
PMCID: PMC1692307  PMID: 9720105
9.  Branch Architecture, Light Interception and Crown Development in Saplings of a Plagiotropically Branching Tropical Tree, Polyalthia jenkinsii (Annonaceae) 
Annals of Botany  2003;91(1):55-63.
To investigate crown development patterns, branch architecture, branch‐level light interception, and leaf and branch dynamics were studied in saplings of a plagiotropically branching tree species, Polyalthia jenkinsii Hk. f. & Thoms. (Annonaceae) in a Malaysian rain forest. Lengths of branches and parts of the branches lacking leaves (‘bare’ branches) were smaller in upper branches than in lower branches within crowns, whereas lengths of ‘leafy’ parts and the number of leaves per branch were larger in intermediate than in upper and lower branches. Maximum diffuse light absorption (DLA) of individual leaves was not related to sapling height or branch position within crowns, whereas minimum DLA was lower in tall saplings. Accordingly, branch‐level light interception was higher in intermediate than in upper and lower branches. The leaf production rate was higher and leaf loss rate was smaller in upper than in intermediate and lower branches. Moreover, the branch production rate of new first‐order branches was larger in the upper crowns. Thus, leaf and branch dynamics do not correspond to branch‐level light interception in the different canopy zones. As a result of architectural constraints, branches at different vertical positions experience predictable light microenvironments in plagiotropic species. Accordingly, this pattern of carbon allocation among branches might be particularly important for growth and crown development in plagiotropic species.
PMCID: PMC4240353  PMID: 12495920
Annonaceae; branch‐level light interception; crown development; leaf dynamics; Malaysia; Pasoh Forest Reserve; plagiotropic species; Polyalthia jenkinsii
10.  Ethylene-Induced Inhibition of Root Growth Requires Abscisic Acid Function in Rice (Oryza sativa L.) Seedlings 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(10):e1004701.
Ethylene and abscisic acid (ABA) have a complicated interplay in many developmental processes. Their interaction in rice is largely unclear. Here, we characterized a rice ethylene-response mutant mhz4, which exhibited reduced ethylene-response in roots but enhanced ethylene-response in coleoptiles of etiolated seedlings. MHZ4 was identified through map-based cloning and encoded a chloroplast-localized membrane protein homologous to Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) ABA4, which is responsible for a branch of ABA biosynthesis. MHZ4 mutation reduced ABA level, but promoted ethylene production. Ethylene induced MHZ4 expression and promoted ABA accumulation in roots. MHZ4 overexpression resulted in enhanced and reduced ethylene response in roots and coleoptiles, respectively. In root, MHZ4-dependent ABA pathway acts at or downstream of ethylene receptors and positively regulates root ethylene response. This ethylene-ABA interaction mode is different from that reported in Arabidopsis, where ethylene-mediated root inhibition is independent of ABA function. In coleoptile, MHZ4-dependent ABA pathway acts at or upstream of OsEIN2 to negatively regulate coleoptile ethylene response, possibly by affecting OsEIN2 expression. At mature stage, mhz4 mutation affects branching and adventitious root formation on stem nodes of higher positions, as well as yield-related traits. Together, our findings reveal a novel mode of interplay between ethylene and ABA in control of rice growth and development.
Author Summary
Rice is a monocotyledonous plant that is distinct from the dicotyledonous model plant Arabidopsis in many aspects. In Arabidopsis, ethylene-induced root inhibition is independent of ABA action. In rice, however, we report here that ethylene inhibition of root growth requires ABA function. We identified MHZ4, a rice homolog of Arabidopsis ABA4 that is involved in ABA biosynthesis. The mhz4 mutant displayed reduced ABA level and exhibited ethylene-hyposensitive root, but -hypersensitive coleoptile phenotypes in etiolated seedlings. Exogenous application of ABA largely recovered the defective ethylene responses. Overexpression of MHZ4 resulted in enhanced and reduced ethylene response in the roots and coleoptiles, respectively. In root, MHZ4-dependent ABA pathway genetically acts at or downstream of ethylene receptors and positively regulates root ethylene response. Moreover, ethylene treatment stimulated ABA production in roots at least through transcriptional activation of MHZ4. The results indicate that ethylene-induced root inhibition in rice is largely mediated through MHZ4-dependent ABA function. In coleoptile, MHZ4-dependent ABA pathway acts at or upstream of OsEIN2 and negatively regulates coleoptile ethylene response, possibly via transcriptional suppression of OsEIN2. Together, our findings reveal a novel mode of ethylene-ABA interaction which is fundamentally different from that in Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC4199509  PMID: 25330236
11.  Critical Evaluation of Branch Polarity and Apical Dominance as Dictators of Colony Astogeny in a Branching Coral 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(1):e4095.
The high morphological resemblance between branching corals and trees, can lead to comparative studies on pattern formation traits, best exemplified in plants and in some cnidarians. Here, 81 branches of similar size of the hermatypic coral Stylophora pistillata were lopped of three different genets, their skeletons marked with alizarin red-S, and divided haphazardly into three morphometric treatment groups: (I) upright position; (II) horizontal position, intact tip; and (III) horizontal position, cut tip. After 1 y of in-situ growth, the 45 surviving ramets were brought to the laboratory, their tissues removed and their architectures analyzed by 22 morphological parameters (MPs). We found that within 1 y, isolated branches developed into small coral colonies by growing new branches from all branch termini, in all directions. No architectural dissimilarity was assigned among the three studied genets of treatment I colonies. However, a major architectural disparity between treatment I colonies and colonies of treatments II and III was documented as the development of mirror structures from both sides of treatments II and III settings as compared to tip-borne architectures in treatment I colonies. We did not observe apical dominance since fragments grew equally from all branch sides without documented dominant polarity along branch axis. In treatment II colonies, no MP for new branches originating either from tips or from branch bases differed significantly. In treatment III colonies, growth from the cut tip areas was significantly lower compared to the base, again, suggesting lack of apical dominance in this species. Changes in branch polarity revealed genet associated plasticity, which in one of the studied genets, led to enhanced growth. Different genets exhibited canalization flexibility of growth patterns towards either lateral growth, or branch axis extension (skeletal weight and not porosity was measured). This study revealed that colony astogeny in S. pistillata is a regulated process expressed through programmed events and not directly related to simple energy trade-off principles or to environmental conditions, and that branch polarity and apical dominance do not dictate colony astogeny. Therefore, plasticity and astogenic disparities encompass a diversity of genetic (fixed and flexible) induced responses.
PMCID: PMC2605567  PMID: 19119311
12.  Responses of Crown Development to Canopy Openings by Saplings of Eight Tropical Submontane Forest Tree Species in Indonesia: A Comparison with Cool-temperate Trees 
Annals of Botany  2006;97(4):559-569.
• Background and Aims Growth in trunk height in canopy openings is important for saplings. How saplings increase height growth in canopy openings may relate to crown architectural constraints. Responses of crown development to canopy openings in relation to trunk height growth were studied for saplings (0·2–2·5 m tall) of eight tropical submontane forest tree species in Indonesia. The results of this study were also compared with those of temperate trees in northern Japan.
• Methods The crown architecture differed among the eight tropical species, i.e. they had sparsely to highly developed branching structures. Crown allometry was compared among the eight species in each canopy condition (closed canopy or canopy openings), and between closed canopy and canopy openings within a species. A general linear regression model was used to analyse how each species increases height growth rate in canopy openings. Crown allometry and its plasticity were compared between tropical and temperate trees by a nested analysis of covariance.
• Key Results Tropical submontane trees had responses similar to cool-temperate trees, showing an increase in height in canopy openings, i.e. taller saplings of sparsely branched species increase height growth rates by increasing the sapling leaf area. Cool-temperate trees have a wider crown projection area and a smaller leaf area per crown projection area to avoid self-shading within a crown compared with tropical submontane trees. Plasticity of the crown projection area is greater in cool-temperate trees than in tropical submontane trees, probably because of the difference in leaf longevity.
• Conclusions This study concluded that interspecific variation in the responses of crown development to canopy openings in regard to increasing height related to the species' branching structure, and that different life-forms, such as evergreen and deciduous trees, had different crown allometry and plasticity.
PMCID: PMC2803653  PMID: 16399792
Cool-temperate trees; crown allometry; crown architecture; height growth; Indonesia; saplings; plasticity; tropical trees
13.  Palms, peccaries and perturbations: widespread effects of small-scale disturbance in tropical forests 
BMC Ecology  2012;12:3.
Disturbance is an important process structuring ecosystems worldwide and has long been thought to be a significant driver of diversity and dynamics. In forests, most studies of disturbance have focused on large-scale disturbance such as hurricanes or tree-falls. However, smaller sub-canopy disturbances could also have significant impacts on community structure. One such sub-canopy disturbance in tropical forests is abscising leaves of large arborescent palm (Arececeae) trees. These leaves can weigh up to 15 kg and cause physical damage and mortality to juvenile plants. Previous studies examining this question suffered from the use of static data at small spatial scales. Here we use data from a large permanent forest plot combined with dynamic data on the survival and growth of > 66,000 individuals over a seven-year period to address whether falling palm fronds do impact neighboring seedling and sapling communities, or whether there is an interaction between the palms and peccaries rooting for fallen palm fruit in the same area as falling leaves. We tested the wider generalisation of these hypotheses by comparing seedling and sapling survival under fruiting and non-fruiting trees in another family, the Myristicaceae.
We found a spatially-restricted but significant effect of large arborescent fruiting palms on the spatial structure, population dynamics and species diversity of neighbouring sapling and seedling communities. However, these effects were not found around slightly smaller non-fruiting palm trees, suggesting it is seed predators such as peccaries rather than falling leaves that impact on the communities around palm trees. Conversely, this hypothesis was not supported in data from other edible species, such as those in the family Myristicaceae.
Given the abundance of arborescent palm trees in Amazonian forests, it is reasonable to conclude that their presence does have a significant, if spatially-restricted, impact on juvenile plants, most likely on the survival and growth of seedlings and saplings damaged by foraging peccaries. Given the abundance of fruit produced by each palm, the widespread effects of these small-scale disturbances appear, over long time-scales, to cause directional changes in community structure at larger scales.
PMCID: PMC3364914  PMID: 22429883
14.  Parasitic plants of the genus Cuscuta and their interaction with susceptible and resistant host plants 
By comparison with plant–microbe interaction, little is known about the interaction of parasitic plants with their hosts. Plants of the genus Cuscuta belong to the family of Cuscutaceae and comprise about 200 species, all of which live as stem holoparasites on other plants. Cuscuta spp. possess no roots nor fully expanded leaves and the vegetative portion appears to be a stem only. The parasite winds around plants and penetrates the host stems via haustoria, forming direct connections to the vascular bundles of their hosts to withdraw water, carbohydrates, and other solutes. Besides susceptible hosts, a few plants exist that exhibit an active resistance against infestation by Cuscuta spp. For example, cultivated tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fends off Cuscuta reflexa by means of a hypersensitive-type response occurring in the early penetration phase. This report on the plant–plant dialog between Cuscuta spp. and its host plants focuses on the incompatible interaction of C. reflexa with tomato.
PMCID: PMC4316696
parasitic plants; plant–plant interaction; Cuscuta; dodder; plant immunity; resistance; symbiosis
15.  Calcium signaling during the plant-plant interaction of parasitic Cuscuta reflexa with its hosts 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(9):1144-1146.
The plant parasite Cuscuta reflexa induces various responses in compatible and incompatible host plants. The visual reactions of both types of host plants including obvious morphological changes require the recognition of Cuscuta ssp. A consequently initiated signaling cascade is triggered which leads to a tolerance of the infection or, in the case of some incompatible host plants, to resistance. Calcium (Ca2+) release is the major second messenger during signal transduction. Therefore, we have studied Ca2+ spiking in tomato and tobacco during infection with C. reflexa. In our recently published study1 Ca2+ signals were monitored as bioluminescence in aequorin-expressing tomato plants after the onset of C. reflexa infestation. Signals at the attachment sites were observed from 30 to 48 h after infection. In an assay with leaf disks of aequorin-expressing tomato which were treated with different C. reflexa plant extracts it turned out that the substance that induced Ca2+ release in the host plant was closely linked to the parasite's haustoria.
PMCID: PMC3115089  PMID: 20818172
cuscut; odder; calcium signaling; plant parasitism
16.  Strigolactone Can Promote or Inhibit Shoot Branching by Triggering Rapid Depletion of the Auxin Efflux Protein PIN1 from the Plasma Membrane 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(1):e1001474.
Shoot branching is regulated by competition between branches to export the phytohormone auxin into the main stem. The phytohormone strigolactone balances shoot system growth by making auxin export harder to establish, thus modulating the auxin transport network.
Plants continuously extend their root and shoot systems through the action of meristems at their growing tips. By regulating which meristems are active, plants adjust their body plans to suit local environmental conditions. The transport network of the phytohormone auxin has been proposed to mediate this systemic growth coordination, due to its self-organising, environmentally sensitive properties. In particular, a positive feedback mechanism termed auxin transport canalization, which establishes auxin flow from active shoot meristems (auxin sources) to the roots (auxin sinks), has been proposed to mediate competition between shoot meristems and to balance shoot and root growth. Here we provide strong support for this hypothesis by demonstrating that a second hormone, strigolactone, regulates growth redistribution in the shoot by rapidly modulating auxin transport. A computational model in which strigolactone action is represented as an increase in the rate of removal of the auxin export protein, PIN1, from the plasma membrane can reproduce both the auxin transport and shoot branching phenotypes observed in various mutant combinations and strigolactone treatments, including the counterintuitive ability of strigolactones either to promote or inhibit shoot branching, depending on the auxin transport status of the plant. Consistent with this predicted mode of action, strigolactone signalling was found to trigger PIN1 depletion from the plasma membrane of xylem parenchyma cells in the stem. This effect could be detected within 10 minutes of strigolactone treatment and was independent of protein synthesis but dependent on clathrin-mediated membrane trafficking. Together these results support the hypothesis that growth across the plant shoot system is balanced by competition between shoot apices for a common auxin transport path to the root and that strigolactones regulate shoot branching by modulating this competition.
Author Summary
Plants can adapt their form to suit the environment in which they are growing. For example, genetically identical plants can develop as a single unbranched stem or as a highly ramified bush. This broad developmental potential is possible because the shoot system is produced continuously by growing tips, known as shoot meristems. Meristems produce the stem and leaves of a shoot, and at the base of each leaf, a new meristem is formed. This meristem can remain dormant as a small bud or activate to produce a branch. Thus, the shoot system is a community of shoot meristems, the combined activity and inactivity of which shape shoot form. Here we provide evidence that growth is balanced across the Arabidopsis shoot system by competition between the shoot meristems. This competition is likely mediated by the requirement of meristems to export the plant hormone auxin in order to activate bud outgrowth. In our model, auxin in the main stem, exported from active branches, can prevent auxin export by dormant buds, thus preventing their activation. Our findings show that a second hormone, strigolactone, increases the level of competition between branches by making auxin export harder to establish. Together, these hormones balance growth across the shoot system, adjusting it according to the environmental conditions in which a plant is growing.
PMCID: PMC3558495  PMID: 23382651
17.  Replacement of the Endogenous Starch Debranching Enzymes ISA1 and ISA2 of Arabidopsis with the Rice Orthologs Reveals a Degree of Functional Conservation during Starch Synthesis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92174.
This study tested the interchangeability of enzymes in starch metabolism between dicotyledonous and monocotyledonous plant species. Amylopectin - a branched glucose polymer - is the major component of starch and is responsible for its semi-crystalline property. Plants synthesize starch with distinct amylopectin structures, varying between species and tissues. The structure determines starch properties, an important characteristic for cooking and nutrition, and for the industrial uses of starch. Amylopectin synthesis involves at least three enzyme classes: starch synthases, branching enzymes and debranching enzymes. For all three classes, several enzyme isoforms have been identified. However, it is not clear which enzyme(s) are responsible for the large diversity of amylopectin structures. Here, we tested whether the specificities of the debranching enzymes (ISA1 and ISA2) are major determinants of species-dependent differences in amylopectin structure by replacing the dicotyledonous Arabidopsis isoamylases (AtISA1 and AtISA2) with the monocotyledonous rice (Oryza sativa) isoforms. We demonstrate that the ISA1 and ISA2 are sufficiently well conserved between these species to form heteromultimeric chimeric Arabidopsis/rice isoamylase enzymes. Furthermore, we were able to reconstitute the endosperm-specific rice OsISA1 homomultimeric complex in Arabidopsis isa1isa2 mutants. This homomultimer was able to facilitate normal rates of starch synthesis. The resulting amylopectin structure had small but significant differences in comparison to wild-type Arabidopsis amylopectin. This suggests that ISA1 and ISA2 have a conserved function between plant species with a major role in facilitating the crystallization of pre-amylopectin synthesized by starch synthases and branching enzymes, but also influencing the final structure of amylopectin.
PMCID: PMC3958451  PMID: 24642810
18.  A Positive Feedback Loop Involving Gcm1 and Fzd5 Directs Chorionic Branching Morphogenesis in the Placenta 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(4):e1001536.
Placenta formation during pregnancy requires chorioallantoic branching morphogenesis that involves establishing an amplifying feedback loop between Frizzled5 and Gcm1 to regulate branching initiation and trophoblast differentiation.
Chorioallantoic branching morphogenesis is a key milestone during placental development, creating the large surface area for nutrient and gas exchange, and is therefore critical for the success of term pregnancy. Several Wnt pathway molecules have been shown to regulate placental development. However, it remains largely unknown how Wnt-Frizzled (Fzd) signaling spatiotemporally interacts with other essential regulators, ensuring chorionic branching morphogenesis and angiogenesis during placental development. Employing global and trophoblast-specific Fzd5-null and Gcm1-deficient mouse models, combining trophoblast stem cell lines and tetraploid aggregation assay, we demonstrate here that an amplifying signaling loop between Gcm1 and Fzd5 is essential for normal initiation of branching in the chorionic plate. While Gcm1 upregulates Fzd5 specifically at sites where branching initiates in the basal chorion, this elevated Fzd5 expression via nuclear β-catenin signaling in turn maintains expression of Gcm1. Moreover, we show that Fzd5-mediated signaling induces the disassociation of cell junctions for branching initiation via downregulating ZO-1, claudin 4, and claudin 7 expressions in trophoblast cells at the base of the chorion. In addition, Fzd5-mediated signaling is also important for upregulation of Vegf expression in chorion trophoblast cells. Finally, we demonstrate that Fzd5-Gcm1 signaling cascade is operative during human trophoblast differentiation. These data indicate that Gcm1 and Fzd5 function in an evolutionary conserved positive feedback loop that regulates trophoblast differentiation and sites of chorionic branching morphogenesis.
Author Summary
Abnormal placental development during pregnancy is associated with conditions such as preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, and even fetal death in humans. Here we focus on the earliest steps of placenta formation, which involves the development of the labyrinthine layer, a specialized epithelium that sits between the maternal blood and fetal blood vessels and facilitates the exchange of nutrients, gases, and wastes between the mother and fetus. Pivotal to the development of a functional labyrinth layer are the processes of folding and branching of a flat sheet of trophoblast cells (originally the outer layer of the blastocyst), and of trophoblast cell differentiation. Here, we show in mice that Frizzled5, a receptor component of the Wnt signaling pathway, and Gcm1, an important transcription factor for labyrinth development, form a positive feedback loop that directs normal placental development. We find that Gcm1 up-regulates Fzd5 specifically at branching sites and that elevated Fzd5 expression in turn maintains expression of Gcm1. Moreover, Fzd5-mediated signaling is required for the disassociation of cell junctions and for the up-regulation of Vegf expression in trophoblast cells. Finally, with implications for human disease, we demonstrate that the FZD5-GCM1 signaling cascade operates in primary cultures of human trophoblasts undergoing differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3627642  PMID: 23610556
19.  Plexin A3 and Turnout Regulate Motor Axonal Branch Morphogenesis in Zebrafish 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54071.
During embryogenesis motor axons navigate to their target muscles, where individual motor axons develop complex branch morphologies. The mechanisms that control axonal branching morphogenesis have been studied intensively, yet it still remains unclear when branches begin to form or how branch locations are determined. Live cell imaging of individual zebrafish motor axons reveals that the first axonal branches are generated at the ventral extent of the myotome via bifurcation of the growth cone. Subsequent branches are generated by collateral branching restricted to their synaptic target field along the distal portion of the axon. This precisely timed and spatially restricted branching process is disrupted in turnout mutants we identified in a forward genetic screen. Molecular genetic mapping positioned the turnout mutation within a 300 kb region encompassing eight annotated genes, however sequence analysis of all eight open reading frames failed to unambiguously identify the turnout mutation. Chimeric analysis and single cell labeling reveal that turnout function is required cell non-autonomously for intraspinal motor axon guidance and peripheral branch formation. turnout mutant motor axons form the first branch on time via growth cone bifurcation, but unlike wild-type they form collateral branches precociously, when the growth cone is still navigating towards the ventral myotome. These precocious collateral branches emerge along the proximal region of the axon shaft typically devoid of branches, and they develop into stable, permanent branches. Furthermore, we find that null mutants of the guidance receptor plexin A3 display identical motor axon branching defects, and time lapse analysis reveals that precocious branch formation in turnout and plexin A3 mutants is due to increased stability of otherwise short-lived axonal protrusions. Thus, plexin A3 dependent intrinsic and turnout dependent extrinsic mechanisms suppress collateral branch morphogenesis by destabilizing membrane protrusions before the growth cone completes navigation into the synaptic target field.
PMCID: PMC3549987  PMID: 23349787
20.  Regulation of branching dynamics by axon-intrinsic asymmetries in Tyrosine Kinase Receptor signaling 
eLife  2014;3:e01699.
Axonal branching allows a neuron to connect to several targets, increasing neuronal circuit complexity. While axonal branching is well described, the mechanisms that control it remain largely unknown. We find that in the Drosophila CNS branches develop through a process of excessive growth followed by pruning. In vivo high-resolution live imaging of developing brains as well as loss and gain of function experiments show that activation of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) is necessary for branch dynamics and the final branching pattern. Live imaging also reveals that intrinsic asymmetry in EGFR localization regulates the balance between dynamic and static filopodia. Elimination of signaling asymmetry by either loss or gain of EGFR function results in reduced dynamics leading to excessive branch formation. In summary, we propose that the dynamic process of axon branch development is mediated by differential local distribution of signaling receptors.
eLife digest
In the human brain, 100 billion neurons form 100 trillion connections. Each neuron consists of a cell body with numerous small branch-like projections known as dendrites (from the Greek word for ‘tree’), plus a long cable-like structure called the axon. Neurons receive electrical inputs from neighboring cells via their dendrites, and then relay these signals onto other cells in their network via their axons.
The development of the brain relies on new neurons integrating successfully into existing networks. Axon branching helps with this by enabling a single neuron to establish connections with several cells, but it is unclear how individual neurons decide when and where to form branches. Now, Zschätzsch et al. have revealed the mechanism behind this process in the fruit fly, Drosophila.
Mutant flies that lack a protein called EGFR produce abnormal numbers of axon branches, suggesting that this molecule regulates branch formation. Indeed in fruit flies, just as in mammals, the developing brain initially produces excessive numbers of branches, which are subsequently pruned to leave only those that have formed appropriate connections. In Drosophila, an uneven distribution of EGFR between branches belonging to the same axon acts as a signal to regulate this pruning process.
To examine this mechanism in more detail, high-resolution four-dimensional imaging was used to study brains that had been removed from Drosophila pupae and kept alive in special culture chambers. Axon branching and loss could now be followed in real time, and were found to occur more slowly in brains that lacked EGFR. The receptor controlled the branching of axons by influencing the distribution of another protein called actin, which is a key component of the internal skeleton that gives cells their structure.
In addition to providing new insights into a fundamental aspect of brain development, the work of Zschätzsch et al. also highlights the importance of stochastic events in shaping the network of connections within the developing brain. These findings may well be relevant to ongoing efforts to map the human brain ‘connectome’.
PMCID: PMC3990184  PMID: 24755286
axonal branching; brain development; signaling; D. melanogaster
21.  A study of antimicrobial activity, acute toxicity and cytoprotective effect of a polyherbal extract in a rat ethanol-HCl gastric ulcer model 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:546.
The decoction of the aerial parts of Rhynchosia recinosa (A.Rich.) Bak. [Fabaceae] is used in combination with the stem barks of Ozoroa insignis Del. (Anacardiaceae), Maytenus senegalensis (Lam.) Excell. [Celastraceae] Entada abyssinica Steud. ex A.Rich [Fabaceae] and Lannea schimperi (Hochst.)Engl. [Anacardiaceae] as a traditional remedy for managing peptic ulcers. However, the safety and efficacy of this polyherbal preparation has not been evaluated. This study reports on the phytochemical profile and some biological activities of the individual plant extracts and a combination of extracts of the five plants.
A mixture of 80% ethanol extracts of R. recinosa, O. insignis, M. senegalensis, E. abyssinica and L. schimperi at doses of 100, 200, 400 and 800 mg/kg body wt were evaluated for ability to protect Sprague Dawley rats from gastric ulceration by an ethanol-HCl mixture. Cytoprotective effect was assessed by comparison with a negative control group given 1% tween 80 in normal saline and a positive control group given 40 mg/kg body wt pantoprazole. The individual extracts and their combinations were also tested for antibacterial activity against four Gram negative bacteria; Escherichia coli (ATCC 25922), Salmonella typhi (NCTC 8385), Vibrio cholerae (clinical isolate), and Klebsiella pneumoniae (clinical isolate) using the microdilution method. In addition the extracts were evaluated for brine shrimp toxicity and acute toxicity in mice. Phytochemical tests were done using standard methods to determine the presence of tannins, saponins, steroids, cardiac glycosides, flavonoids, alkaloids and terpenoids in the individual plant extracts and in the mixed extract of the five plants.
The combined ethanolic extracts of the 5 plants caused a dose-dependent protection against ethanol/HCl induced ulceration of rat gastric mucosa, reaching 81.7% mean protection as compared to 87.5% protection by 40 mg/kg body wt pantoprazole. Both the individual plant extracts and the mixed extracts of 5 plants exhibited weak to moderate antibacterial activity against four G-ve bacteria. Despite Ozoroa insignis being toxic to mice at doses above 1000 mg/kg body wt, the other plant extracts and the combined extract of the 5 plants were tolerated by mice up to 5000 mg/kg body wt. The brine shrimp test results showed the same pattern of toxicity with Ozoroa insignis being the most toxic (LC50 = 10.63 μg/ml). Phytochemical tests showed that the combined extract of the five plants contained tannins, saponins, steroids, cardiac glycosides, flavonoids and terpenoids. Flavonoids, tannins and terpenoids are known to have antioxidant activity.
The combined extract of the five plants exhibited a dose-dependent protective activity in the rat ethanol-HCl gastric ulcer model. The extracts also exhibited weak antibacterial activity against four Gram negative bacteria and low acute toxicity in mice and brine shrimps. Although the results support claims by traditional healers who use a decoction of the five plants for treatment of peptic ulcers, more models of gastric ulceration and proper animal toxicity studies are needed to validate possible clinical use of the polyherbal extract. It is also evident that the doses of the crude extracts showing protection of the gastric mucosa are too large for realistic translation to direct clinical application, but further studies using bioassay guided fractionation are important to either identify more practical fractions or active compound/s.
PMCID: PMC3532137  PMID: 23031266
Ozoroa insignis; Maytenus senegalensis; Entada abyssinica; Lannea schimperi; Gastroprotection; Toxicity
22.  Tree Branching: Leonardo da Vinci's Rule versus Biomechanical Models 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93535.
This study examined Leonardo da Vinci's rule (i.e., the sum of the cross-sectional area of all tree branches above a branching point at any height is equal to the cross-sectional area of the trunk or the branch immediately below the branching point) using simulations based on two biomechanical models: the uniform stress and elastic similarity models. Model calculations of the daughter/mother ratio (i.e., the ratio of the total cross-sectional area of the daughter branches to the cross-sectional area of the mother branch at the branching point) showed that both biomechanical models agreed with da Vinci's rule when the branching angles of daughter branches and the weights of lateral daughter branches were small; however, the models deviated from da Vinci's rule as the weights and/or the branching angles of lateral daughter branches increased. The calculated values of the two models were largely similar but differed in some ways. Field measurements of Fagus crenata and Abies homolepis also fit this trend, wherein models deviated from da Vinci's rule with increasing relative weights of lateral daughter branches. However, this deviation was small for a branching pattern in nature, where empirical measurements were taken under realistic measurement conditions; thus, da Vinci's rule did not critically contradict the biomechanical models in the case of real branching patterns, though the model calculations described the contradiction between da Vinci's rule and the biomechanical models. The field data for Fagus crenata fit the uniform stress model best, indicating that stress uniformity is the key constraint of branch morphology in Fagus crenata rather than elastic similarity or da Vinci's rule. On the other hand, mechanical constraints are not necessarily significant in the morphology of Abies homolepis branches, depending on the number of daughter branches. Rather, these branches were often in agreement with da Vinci's rule.
PMCID: PMC3979699  PMID: 24714065
23.  Annual and spatial variation in shoot demography associated with masting in Betula grossa: comparison between mature trees and saplings 
Annals of Botany  2009;104(6):1195-1205.
Backgrounds and Aims
Shoot demography affects the growth of the tree crown and the number of leaves on a tree. Masting may cause inter-annual and spatial variation in shoot demography of mature trees, which may in turn affect the resource budget of the tree. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of masting on the temporal and spatial variations in shoot demography of mature Betula grossa.
The shoot demography was analysed in the upper and lower parts of the tree crown in mature trees and saplings over 7 years. Mature trees and saplings were compared to differentiate the effect of masting from the effect of exogenous environment on shoot demography. The fate of different shoot types (reproductive, vegetative, short, long), shoot length and leaf area were investigated by monitoring and by retrospective survey using morphological markers on branches. The effects of year and branch position on demographic parameters were evaluated.
Key Results
Shoot increase rate, production of long shoots, bud mortality, length of long shoots and leaf area of a branch fluctuated periodically from year to year in mature trees over 7 years, in which two masting events occurred. Branches within a crown showed synchronized annual variation, and the extent of fluctuation was larger in the upper branches than the lower branches. Vegetative shoots varied in their bud differentiation each year and contributed to the dynamic shoot demography as much as did reproductive shoots, suggesting physiological integration in shoot demography through hormonal regulation and resource allocation.
Masting caused periodic annual variation in shoot demography of the mature trees and the effect was spatially variable within a tree crown. Since masting is a common phenomenon among tree species, annual variation in shoot demography and leaf area should be incorporated into resource allocation models of mature masting trees.
PMCID: PMC2766207  PMID: 19734164
Masting; shoot demography; short shoot; long shoot; temporal variation; spatial variation; leaf area; shoot length; resource allocation; Betula grossa
24.  Competitive Dynamics during Resource-Driven Neurite Outgrowth 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e86741.
Neurons form networks by growing out neurites that synaptically connect to other neurons. During this process, neurites develop complex branched trees. Interestingly, the outgrowth of neurite branches is often accompanied by the simultaneous withdrawal of other branches belonging to the same tree. This apparent competitive outgrowth between branches of the same neuron is relevant for the formation of synaptic connectivity, but the underlying mechanisms are unknown. An essential component of neurites is the cytoskeleton of microtubules, long polymers of tubulin dimers running throughout the entire neurite. To investigate whether competition between neurites can emerge from the dynamics of a resource such as tubulin, we developed a multi-compartmental model of neurite growth. In the model, tubulin is produced in the soma and transported by diffusion and active transport to the growth cones at the tip of the neurites, where it is assembled into microtubules to elongate the neurite. Just as in experimental studies, we find that the outgrowth of a neurite branch can lead to the simultaneous retraction of its neighboring branches. We show that these competitive interactions occur in simple neurite morphologies as well as in complex neurite arborizations and that in developing neurons competition for a growth resource such as tubulin can account for the differential outgrowth of neurite branches. The model predicts that competition between neurite branches decreases with path distance between growth cones, increases with path distance from growth cone to soma, and decreases with a higher rate of active transport. Together, our results suggest that competition between outgrowing neurites can already emerge from relatively simple and basic dynamics of a growth resource. Our findings point to the need to test the model predictions and to determine, by monitoring tubulin concentrations in outgrowing neurons, whether tubulin is the resource for which neurites compete.
PMCID: PMC3911915  PMID: 24498280
25.  Composted Green Waste as a Substitute for Peat in Growth Media: Effects on Growth and Nutrition of Calathea insignis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78121.
Peat mined from endangered wetland ecosystems is generally used as a component in soilless potting media in horticulture but is a costly and non-renewable natural resource. The objective of this work was to study the feasibility of replacing peat with different percentages (0, 10, 30, 50, 70, 90, and 100%) of composted green waste (CGW) as growth media for the production of the ornamental plant Calathea insignis. Compared with 100% peat media, media containing CGW had improved physical and chemical characteristics to achieve the acceptable ranges. Moreover, CGW addition had increased the stability (i.e., reduced the decomposition rates) of growth media mixtures, as indicated by comparison of particle-size distribution at the start and end of a 7-month greenhouse experiment. Addition of CGW also supported increased plant growth (biomass production, root morphology, nutrient contents, and photosynthetic pigment contents). The physical and chemical characteristics of growth media and plant growth were best with a medium containing 70% CGW and were better in a medium with 100% CGW than in one with 100% peat media. These results indicate that CGW is a viable alternative to peat for the cultivation of Calathea insignis.
PMCID: PMC3812227  PMID: 24205121

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