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1.  Functional delineation of rice MADS29 reveals its role in embryo and endosperm development by affecting hormone homeostasis 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;64(14):4239-4253.
Rice MADS29 has recently been reported to cause programmed cell death of maternal tissues, the nucellus, and the nucellar projection during early stages of seed development. However, analyses involving OsMADS29 protein expression domains and characterization of OsMADS29 gain-of-function and knockdown phenotypes revealed novel aspects of its function in maintaining hormone homeostasis, which may have a role in the development of embryo and plastid differentiation and starch filling in endosperm cells. The MADS29 transcripts accumulated to high levels soon after fertilization; however, protein accumulation was found to be delayed by at least 4 days. Immunolocalization studies revealed that the protein accumulated initially in the dorsal-vascular trace and the outer layers of endosperm, and subsequently in the embryo and aleurone and subaleurone layers of the endosperm. Ectopic expression of MADS29 resulted in a severely dwarfed phenotype, exhibiting elevated levels of cytokinin, thereby suggesting that cytokinin biosynthesis pathway could be one of the major targets of OsMADS29. Overexpression of OsMADS29 in heterologous BY2 cells was found to mimic the effects of exogenous application of cytokinins that causes differentiation of proplastids to starch-containing amyloplasts and activation of genes involved in the starch biosynthesis pathway. Suppression of MADS29 expression by RNAi severely affected seed set. The surviving seeds were smaller in size, with developmental abnormalities in the embryo and reduced size of endosperm cells, which also contained loosely packed starch granules. Microarray analysis of overexpression and knockdown lines exhibited altered expression of genes involved in plastid biogenesis, starch biosynthesis, cytokinin signalling and biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3808311  PMID: 23929654
Cytokinin; embryo; endosperm; MADS box; Oryza sativa; starch; seed development.
2.  Isopentenyltransferase-1 (IPT1) knockout in Physcomitrella together with phylogenetic analyses of IPTs provide insights into evolution of plant cytokinin biosynthesis 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;65(9):2533-2543.
Is there more than one pathway for cytokinin biosynthesis in Physcomitrella? Despite the apparent absence of adenylate-isopentenyltransferases, characterization of ipt1 knockout mutants points towards a second, tRNA-independent cytokinin biosynthesis pathway.
The moss Physcomitrella patens is part of an early divergent clade of land plants utilizing the plant hormone cytokinin for growth control. The rate-limiting step of cytokinin biosynthesis is mediated by isopentenyltransferases (IPTs), found in land plants either as adenylate-IPTs or as tRNA-IPTs. Although a dominant part of cytokinins in flowering plants are synthesized by adenylate-IPTs, the Physcomitrella genome only encodes homologues of tRNA-IPTs. This study therefore looked into the question of whether cytokinins in moss derive from tRNA exclusively. Targeted gene knockout of ipt1 (d|ipt1) along with localization studies revealed that the chloroplast-bound IPT1 was almost exclusively responsible for the A37 prenylation of tRNA in Physcomitrella. Ultra-performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS)-based cytokinin profiling demonstrated that the total amount of all free cytokinins in tissue was almost unaffected. However, the knockout plants showed increased levels of the N 6-isopentenyladenine (iP)- and trans-zeatin (tZ)-type cytokinins, considered to provide active forms, while cis-zeatin (cZ)-type cytokinins were reduced. The data provide evidence for an additional and unexpected tRNA-independent cytokinin biosynthetic pathway in moss. Comprehensive phylogenetic analysis indicates a diversification of tRNA-IPT-like genes in bryophytes probably related to additional functions.
PMCID: PMC4036517  PMID: 24692654
Bryophyte; cytokinin; isopentenyladenosine; isopentenyltransferases; moss; tRNA.
3.  A non-synonymous SNP within the isopentenyl transferase 2 locus is associated with kernel weight in Chinese maize inbreds (Zea mays L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:98.
Kernel weight, controlled by quantitative trait loci (QTL), is an important component of grain yield in maize. Cytokinins (CKs) participate in determining grain morphology and final grain yield in crops. ZmIPT2, which is expressed mainly in the basal transfer cell layer, endosperm, and embryo during maize kernel development, encodes an isopentenyl transferase (IPT) that is involved in CK biosynthesis.
The coding region of ZmIPT2 was sequenced across a panel of 175 maize inbred lines that are currently used in Chinese maize breeding programs. Only 16 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and seven haplotypes were detected among these inbred lines. Nucleotide diversity (π) within the ZmIPT2 window and coding region were 0.347 and 0.0047, respectively, and they were significantly lower than the mean nucleotide diversity value of 0.372 for maize Chromosome 2 (P < 0.01). Association mapping revealed that a single nucleotide change from cytosine (C) to thymine (T) in the ZmIPT2 coding region, which converted a proline residue into a serine residue, was significantly associated with hundred kernel weight (HKW) in three environments (P <0.05), and explained 4.76% of the total phenotypic variation. In vitro characterization suggests that the dimethylallyl diphospate (DMAPP) IPT activity of ZmIPT2-T is higher than that of ZmIPT2-C, as the amounts of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), adenosine diphosphate (ADP), and adenosine monophosphate (AMP) consumed by ZmIPT2-T were 5.48-, 2.70-, and 1.87-fold, respectively, greater than those consumed by ZmIPT2-C. The effects of artificial selection on the ZmIPT2 coding region were evaluated using Tajima’s D tests across six subgroups of Chinese maize germplasm, with the most frequent favorable allele identified in subgroup PB (Partner B).
These results showed that ZmIPT2, which is associated with kernel weight, was subjected to artificial selection during the maize breeding process. ZmIPT2-T had higher IPT activity than ZmIPT2-C, and this favorable allele for kernel weight could be used in molecular marker-assisted selection for improvement of grain yield components in Chinese maize breeding programs.
PMCID: PMC3704264  PMID: 23826856
Maize; Isopentenyl transferase 2; Association mapping; Artificial selection
4.  Endogenous cytokinin in developing kiwifruit is implicated in maintaining fruit flesh chlorophyll levels 
Annals of Botany  2013;112(1):57-68.
Background and Aims
Green kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) retain high concentrations of chlorophyll in the fruit flesh, whereas in gold-fleshed kiwifruit (A. chinensis) chlorophyll is degraded to colourless catabolites during fruit development, leaving yellow carotenoids visible. The plant hormone group the cytokinins has been implicated in the delay of senescence, and so the aim of this work was to investigate the link between cytokinin levels in ripening fruit and chlorophyll de-greening.
The expression of genes related to cytokinin metabolism and signal transduction and the concentration of cytokinin metabolites were measured. The regulation of gene expression was assayed using transient activation of the promoter of STAY-GREEN2 (SGR2) by cytokinin response regulators.
Key Results
While the total amount of cytokinin increased in fruit of both species during maturation and ripening, a high level of expression of two cytokinin biosynthetic gene family members, adenylate isopentenyltransferases, was only detected in green kiwifruit fruit during ripening. Additionally, high levels of O-glucosylated cytokinins were detected only in green kiwifruit, as was the expression of the gene for zeatin O-glucosyltransferase, the enzyme responsible for glucosylating cytokinin into a storage form. Season to season variation in gene expression was seen, and some de-greening of the green kiwifruit fruit occurred in the second season, suggesting environmental effects on the chlorophyll degradation pathway. Two cytokinin-related response regulators, RRA17 and RRB120, showed activity against the promoter of kiwifruit SGR2.
The results show that in kiwifruit, levels of cytokinin increase markedly during fruit ripening, and that cytokinin metabolism is differentially regulated in the fruit of the green and gold species. However, the causal factor(s) associated with the maintenance or loss of chlorophyll in kiwifruit during ripening remains obscure.
PMCID: PMC3690984  PMID: 23644363
Actinidia deliciosa; A. chinensis; chlorophyll degradation; cytokinin; fruit ripening; kiwifruit; STAY-GREEN; transcription factor
5.  A comparative glycoproteome study of developing endosperm in the hexose-deficient miniature1 (mn1) seed mutant and its wild type Mn1 in maize 
In maize developing seeds, transfer cells are prominently located at the basal endosperm transfer layer (BETL). As the first filial cell layer, BETL is a gateway to sugars, nutrients and water from mother plant; and anchor of numerous functions such as sucrose turnover, auxin and cytokinin biosynthesis/accumulation, energy metabolism, defense response, and signaling between maternal and filial generations. Previous studies showed that basal developing endosperms of miniature1 (mn1) mutant seeds lacking the Mn1-encoded cell wall invertase II, are also deficient for hexose. Given the role of glucose as one of the key sugars in protein glycosylation and proper protein folding; we performed a comparative large scale glycoproteome profiling of total proteins of these two genotypes (mn1 mutant vs. Mn1 wild type) using 2D gel electrophoresis and glycosylation/total protein staining, followed by image analysis. Protein identification was done by LC-MS/MS. A total of 413 spots were detected; from which, 113 spots matched between the two genotypes. Of these, 45 showed >20% decrease/increase in glycosylation level and were selected for protein identification. A large number of identified proteins showed decreased glycosylation levels in mn1 developing endosperms as compared to the Mn1. Functional classification of proteins, showed mainly of post-translational modification, protein turnover, chaperone activities, carbohydrate and amino acid biosynthesis/transport, and cell wall biosynthesis. These proteins and activities were related to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and unfolded protein response (UPR) as a result of the low glycolsylation levels of the mutant proteins. Overall, these results provide for the first time a global glycoproteome profile of maize BETL-enriched basal endosperm to better understand their role in seed development in maize.
PMCID: PMC3935489  PMID: 24616729
seed development; gene expression; sugar methabolism; transfer cells; maize
6.  The role of cytokinin in ovule development in Arabidopsis 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2013;8(3):e23393.
The life cycle of higher plants alternates between the haploid gametophyte and diploid sporophyte. The female gametophyte (FG), surrounded by the sporophyte, develops within the ovule and orients along the chalazal/micropylar axis. This polarity is important in cell specification and development for both the ovule and FG. Previously, cytokinin was shown to act in the sporophytic tissue to regulate FG development.1,2 In the highlighted study,3 we further showed that enriched cytokinin signaling in chalaza, the central domain of the ovule, is required for the specification of the functional megaspore, which usually occurs in the chalazal-most megaspore after meiosis. The restricted cytokinin signaling in the chalaza is achieved by localized cytokinin biosynthesis and perception. Here, we discuss the implications of this and other studies for the understanding of the role of two-component signaling in FG development and the genetic and cellular interactions between gametophytic and sporophytic cells. Further, we show that cytokinin-deficient mutants display distorted cell morphology in the inner integument and elevated mitotic activity in the maternal sporophyte. These results suggest that cytokinin negatively regulates cell proliferation in the sporophytic tissues surrounding the developing FG, consistent with previous results indicating that cytokinin deficiency causes an increase in the number of cells in the embryos and consequently an enlarged seed size.
PMCID: PMC3676506  PMID: 23333968
cytokinin; two-component signaling; female gametophyte; functional megaspore; integument
7.  Ligand-binding properties and subcellular localization of maize cytokinin receptors 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;62(14):5149-5159.
The ligand-binding properties of the maize (Zea mays L.) cytokinin receptors ZmHK1, ZmHK2, and ZmHK3a have been characterized using cytokinin binding assays with living cells or membrane fractions. According to affinity measurements, ZmHK1 preferred N6-(Δ2-isopentenyl)adenine (iP) and had nearly equal affinities to trans-zeatin (tZ) and cis-zeatin (cZ). ZmHK2 preferred tZ and iP to cZ, while ZmHK3a preferred iP. Only ZmHK2 had a high affinity to dihydrozeatin (DZ). Analysis of subcellular fractions from leaves and roots of maize seedlings revealed specific binding of tZ in the microsome fraction but not in chloroplasts or mitochondria. In competitive binding assays with microsomes, tZ and iP were potent competitors of [3H]tZ while cZ demonstrated significantly lower affinity; adenine was almost ineffective. The binding specificities of microsomes from leaf and root cells for cytokinins were consistent with the expression pattern of the ZmHKs and our results on individual receptor properties. Aqueous two-phase partitioning and sucrose density-gradient centrifugation followed by immunological detection with monoclonal antibody showed that ZmHK1 was associated with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). This was corroborated by observations of the subcellular localization of ZmHK1 fusions with green fluorescent protein in maize protoplasts. All these data strongly suggest that at least a part of cytokinin perception occurs in the ER.
PMCID: PMC3193018  PMID: 21778179
Cytokinin; endomembranes; endoplasmic reticulum; maize; microsomes; receptor; sensor histidine kinase; subcellular localization; Zea mays; zeatin
8.  Roles of DgBRC1 in Regulation of Lateral Branching in Chrysanthemum (Dendranthema ×grandiflora cv. Jinba) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61717.
The diverse plasticity of plant architecture is largely determined by shoot branching. Shoot branching is an event regulated by multiple environmental, developmental and hormonal stimuli through triggering lateral bud response. After perceiving these signals, the lateral buds will respond and make a decision on whether to grow out. TCP transcriptional factors, BRC1/TB1/FC1, were previously proven to be involved in local inhibition of shoot branching in Arabidopsis, pea, tomato, maize and rice. To investigate the function of BRC1, we isolated the BRC1 homolog from chrysanthemum. There were two transcripts of DgBRC1 coming from two alleles in one locus, both of which complemented the multiple branches phenotype of Arabidopsis brc1-1, indicating that both are functionally conserved. DgBRC1 was mainly expressed in dormant axillary buds, and down-regulated at the bud activation stage, and up-regulated by higher planting densities. DgBRC1 transcripts could respond to apical auxin supply and polar auxin transport. Moreover, we found that the acropetal cytokinin stream promoted branch outgrowth whether or not apical auxin was present. Basipetal cytokinin promoted outgrowth of branches in the absence of apical auxin, while strengthening the inhibitory effects on lower buds in the presence of apical auxin. The influence of auxin and strigolactons (SLs) on the production of cytokinin was investigated, we found that auxin locally down-regulated biosynthesis of cytokinin in nodes, SLs also down-regulated the biosynthesis of cytokinin, the interactions among these phytohormones need further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3629106  PMID: 23613914
9.  AtSOFL1 and AtSOFL2 Act Redundantly as Positive Modulators of the Endogenous Content of Specific Cytokinins in Arabidopsis 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8236.
Although cytokinins have been known for decades to play important roles in the regulation of plant growth and development, our knowledge of the regulatory mechanism of endogenous content of specific cytokinins remains limited.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here, we characterized two SOB five-like (SOFL) genes, AtSOFL1 and AtSOFL2, in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and showed that they acted redundantly in regulating specific cytokinin levels. Analysis of the translational fusion AtSOFL1:AtSOFL1-GUS and AtSOFL2:AtSOFL2-GUS indicated that AtSOFL1 and AtSOFL2 exhibited similar expression patterns. Both proteins were predominantly expressed in the vascular tissues of developing leaves, flowers and siliques, but barely detectable in roots and stems. Overexpression of either AtSOFL1 or AtSOFL2 led to increased cytokinin content and obvious corresponding mutant phenotypes for both transgenic seedlings and adult plants. In addition, overexpression and site-directed mutagenesis experiments demonstrated that the SOFL domains are necessary for AtSOFL2's overexpression phenotypes. Silencing or disrupting either AtSOFL1 or AtSOFL2 caused no obvious developmental defects. Endogenous cytokinin analysis, however, revealed that compared to the wild type control, the SOFL1-RNAi62 sofl2-1 double mutant accumulated lower levels of trans-zeatin riboside monophosphate (tZRMP) and N6-(Δ2-isopentenyl)adenosine monophosphate (iPRMP), which are biosynthetic intermediates of bioactive cytokinins. The double mutant also displayed decreased response to exogenous cytokinin in both callus-formation and inhibition-of-hypocotyl-elongation assays.
Taken together, our data suggest that in plants AtSOFL1 and AtSOFL2 work redundantly as positive modulators in the fine-tuning of specific cytokinin levels as well as responsiveness.
PMCID: PMC2785485  PMID: 20011053
10.  Accumulation of cytokinins in roots and their export to the shoots of durum wheat plants treated with the protonophore carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP) 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;65(9):2287-2294.
Cytokinin flow from roots to shoots can serve as a long-distance signal important for root-to-shoot communication. In the past, changes in cytokinin flow from roots to shoots have been mainly attributed to changes in the rate of synthesis or breakdown in the roots. The present research tested the possibility that active uptake of cytokinin by root cells may also influence its export to shoots. To this end, we collapsed the proton gradient across root membranes using the protonophore carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP) to inhibit secondary active uptake of exogenous and endogenous cytokinins. We report the impact of CCCP on cytokinin concentrations and delivery in xylem sap and on accumulation in shoots of 7-day-old wheat plants in the presence and absence of exogenous cytokinin applied as zeatin. Zeatin treatment increased the total accumulation of cytokinin in roots and shoots but the effect was smaller for the shoots. Immunohistochemical localization of cytokinins using zeatin-specific antibodies showed an increase in immunostaining of the cells adjacent to xylem in the roots of zeatin-treated plants. Inhibition of secondary active cytokinin uptake by CCCP application decreased cytokinin accumulation in root cells but increased both flow from the roots and accumulation in the shoots. The possible importance of secondary active uptake of cytokinins by root cells for the control of their export to the shoot is discussed.
PMCID: PMC4036502  PMID: 24692646
Cytokinin; protonophore; root-to-shoot communication; secondary active uptake; Triticum durum; xylem transport; zeatin.
11.  Root-synthesized cytokinins improve shoot growth and fruit yield in salinized tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) plants 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;62(1):125-140.
Salinity limits crop productivity, in part by decreasing shoot concentrations of the growth-promoting and senescence-delaying hormones cytokinins. Since constitutive cytokinin overproduction may have pleiotropic effects on plant development, two approaches assessed whether specific root-localized transgenic IPT (a key enzyme for cytokinin biosynthesis) gene expression could substantially improve tomato plant growth and yield under salinity: transient root IPT induction (HSP70::IPT) and grafting wild-type (WT) shoots onto a constitutive IPT-expressing rootstock (WT/35S::IPT). Transient root IPT induction increased root, xylem sap, and leaf bioactive cytokinin concentrations 2- to 3-fold without shoot IPT gene expression. Although IPT induction reduced root biomass (by 15%) in control (non-salinized) plants, in salinized plants (100 mM NaCl for 22 d), increased cytokinin concentrations delayed stomatal closure and leaf senescence and almost doubled shoot growth (compared with WT plants), with concomitant increases in the essential nutrient K+ (20%) and decreases in the toxic ion Na+ (by 30%) and abscisic acid (by 20–40%) concentrations in transpiring mature leaves. Similarly, WT/35S::IPT plants (scion/rootstock) grown with 75 mM NaCl for 90 d had higher fruit trans-zeatin concentrations (1.5- to 2-fold) and yielded 30% more than WT/non-transformed plants. Enhancing root cytokinin synthesis modified both shoot hormonal and ionic status, thus ameliorating salinity-induced decreases in growth and yield.
PMCID: PMC2993914  PMID: 20959628
ABA; cytokinins; grafting; IPT; root zone temperature; root to shoot signalling; salinity; Solanum lycopersicum
12.  Gibberellin-to-abscisic acid balances govern development and differentiation of the nucellar projection of barley grains 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;65(18):5291-5304.
Hormonal balances of abscisic acid-to-gibberellic acid govern the development and differentiation of the nucellar projection, the maternal organ of barley grains involved in assimilate transfer and endosperm growth.
In cereal grains, the maternal nucellar projection (NP) constitutes the link to the filial organs, forming a transfer path for assimilates and signals towards the endosperm. At transition to the storage phase, the NP of barley (Hordeum vulgare) undergoes dynamic and regulated differentiation forming a characteristic pattern of proliferating, elongating, and disintegrating cells. Immunolocalization revealed that abscisic acid (ABA) is abundant in early non-elongated but not in differentiated NP cells. In the maternally affected shrunken-endosperm mutant seg8, NP cells did not elongate and ABA remained abundant. The amounts of the bioactive forms of gibberellins (GAs) as well as their biosynthetic precursors were strongly and transiently increased in wild-type caryopses during the transition and early storage phases. In seg8, this increase was delayed and less pronounced together with deregulated gene expression of specific ABA and GA biosynthetic genes. We concluded that differentiation of the barley NP is driven by a distinct and specific shift from lower to higher GA:ABA ratios and that the spatial–temporal change of GA:ABA balances is required to form the differentiation gradient, which is a prerequisite for ordered transfer processes through the NP. Deregulated ABA:GA balances in seg8 impair the differentiation of the NP and potentially compromise transfer of signals and assimilates, resulting in aberrant endosperm growth. These results highlight the impact of hormonal balances on the proper release of assimilates from maternal to filial organs and provide new insights into maternal effects on endosperm differentiation and growth of barley grains.
PMCID: PMC4157710  PMID: 25024168
Assimilate transfer; barley endosperm; gibberellin-to-abscisic acid balances; maternal–filial communication; nucellar projection; seg8 barley mutant.
13.  HvCKX2 gene silencing by biolistic or Agrobacterium-mediated transformation in barley leads to different phenotypes 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:206.
CKX genes encode cytokinin dehydrogenase enzymes (CKX), which metabolize cytokinins in plants and influence developmental processes. The genes are expressed in different tissues and organs during development; however, their exact role in barley is poorly understood. It has already been proven that RNA interference (RNAi)-based silencing of HvCKX1 decreased the CKX level, especially in those organs which showed the highest expression, i.e. developing kernels and roots, leading to higher plant productivity and higher mass of the roots [1]. The same type of RNAi construct was applied to silence HvCKX2 and analyze the function of the gene. Two cultivars of barley were transformed with the same silencing and selection cassettes by two different methods: biolistic and via Agrobacterium.
The mean Agrobacterium-mediated transformation efficiency of Golden Promise was 3.47% (±2.82). The transcript level of HvCKX2 in segregating progeny of T1 lines was decreased to 34%. The reduction of the transcript in Agrobacterium-derived plants resulted in decreased CKX activity in the developing and developed leaves as well as in 7 DAP (days after pollination) spikes. The final phenotypic effect was increased productivity of T0 plants and T1 lines. Higher productivity was the result of the higher number of seeds and higher grain yield. It was also correlated with the higher 1000 grain weight, increased (by 7.5%) height of the plants and higher (from 0.5 to 2) numbers of spikes.
The transformation efficiency of Golden Promise after biolistic transformation was more than twice as low compared to Agrobacterium. The transcript level in segregating progeny of T1 lines was decreased to 24%. Otherwise, the enzyme activity found in the leaves of the lines after biolistic transformation, especially in cv. Golden Promise, was very high, exceeding the relative level of the control lines. These unbalanced ratios of the transcript level and the activity of the CKX enzyme negatively affected kernel germination or anther development and as a consequence setting the seeds. The final phenotypic effect was the decreased productivity of T0 plants and T1 lines obtained via the biolistic silencing of HvCKX2.
The phenotypic result, which was higher productivity of silenced lines obtained via Agrobacterium, confirms the hypothesis that spatial and temporal differences in expression contributed to functional differentiation. The applicability of Agrobacterium-mediated transformation for gene silencing of developmentally regulated genes, like HvCKX2, was proven. Otherwise low productivity and disturbances in plant development of biolistic-silenced lines documented the unsuitability of the method. The possible reasons are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3541248  PMID: 23134638
RNAi silencing; HvCKX2; Barley; Genetic transformation; Agrobacterium; Microprojectile bombardment
14.  Establishment of embryonic shoot–root axis is involved in auxin and cytokinin response during Arabidopsis somatic embryogenesis 
Auxin and cytokinin signaling participates in regulating a large spectrum of developmental and physiological processes in plants. The shoots and roots of plants have specific and sometimes even contrary responses to these hormones. Recent studies have clearly shown that establishing the spatiotemporal distribution of auxin and cytokinin response signals is central for the control of shoot apical meristem (SAM) induction in cultured tissues. However, little is known about the role of these hormones in root apical meristem (RAM) initiation. Here, we found that the expression patterns of several regulatory genes critical for RAM formation were correlated with the establishment of the embryonic root meristem during somatic embryogenesis in Arabidopsis. Interestingly, the early expression of the WUS-RELATED HOMEOBOX 5 (WOX5) and WUSCHEL genes was induced and was nearly overlapped within the embryonic callus when somatic embryos (SEs) could not be identified morphologically. Their correct expression was essential for RAM and SAM initiation and embryonic shoot–root axis establishment. Furthermore, we analyzed the auxin and cytokinin response during SE initiation. Notably, cytokinin response signals were detected in specific regions that were correlated with induced WOX5 expression and subsequent SE formation. Overexpression of the ARABIDOPSIS RESPONSE REGULATOR genes ARR7 and ARR15 (feedback repressors of cytokinin signaling), disturbed RAM initiation and SE induction. These results provide new information on auxin and cytokinin-regulated apical–basal polarity formation of shoot–root axis during somatic embryogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4294322  PMID: 25642237
shoot–root axis; root apical meristem; cytokinin response; auxin response; somatic embryogenesis; Arabidopsis
15.  Dynamics of Endogenous Cytokinin Pools in Tobacco Seedlings: a Modelling Approach 
Annals of Botany  2003;91(5):585-597.
Recent advances in cytokinin analysis have made it possible to measure the content of 22 cytokinin metabolites in the tissue of developing tobacco seedlings. Individual types of cytokinins in plants are interconverted to their respective forms by several enzymatic activities (5′‐AMP‐isopentenyltransferase, adenosine nucleosidase, 5′‐nucleotidase, adenosine phosphorylase, adenosine kinase, trans‐hydroxylase, zeatin reductase, β‐glucosidase, O‐glucosyl transferase, N‐glucosyl transferase, cytokinin oxidase). This paper reports modelling and measuring of the dynamics of endogenous cytokinins in tobacco plants grown on media supplemented with isopentenyl adenine (IP), zeatin (Z) and dihydrozeatin riboside (DHZR). Differences in phenotypes generated by the three cytokinins are shown and discussed, and the assumption that substrate concentration drives enzyme kinetics underpinned the construction of a simple mathematical model of cytokinin metabolism in developing seedlings. The model was tested on data obtained from liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry cytokinin measurements on tobacco seedlings grown on Murashige and Skoog agar nutrient medium, and on plants grown in the presence of IP, Z and DHZR. A close match was found between measured and simulated data, especially after a series of iterative parameter searches, in which the parameters were set to obtain the best fit with one of the data sets.
PMCID: PMC4242250  PMID: 12646503
Endogenous cytokinins; zeatin; isopentenyladenine; dihydrozeatin; metabolism; mathematical simulation model; Nicotiana tabacum L.; tobacco
16.  A Highly Selective Biosensor with Nanomolar Sensitivity Based on Cytokinin Dehydrogenase 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90877.
We have developed a N6-dimethylallyladenine (cytokinin) dehydrogenase-based microbiosensor for real-time determination of the family of hormones known as cytokinins. Cytokinin dehydrogenase from Zea mays (ZmCKX1) was immobilised concurrently with electrodeposition of a silica gel film on the surface of a Pt microelectrode, which was further functionalized by free electron mediator 2,6-dichlorophenolindophenol (DCPIP) in supporting electrolyte to give a bioactive film capable of selective oxidative cleavage of the N6- side chain of cytokinins. The rapid electron shuffling between freely diffusible DCPIP and the FAD redox group in ZmCKX1 endowed the microbiosensor with a fast response time of less than 10 s. The immobilised ZmCKX1 retained a high affinity for its preferred substrate N6-(Δ2-isopentenyl) adenine (iP), and gave the miniaturized biosensor a large linear dynamic range from 10 nM to 10 µM, a detection limit of 3.9 nM and a high sensitivity to iP of 603.3 µAmM−1cm−2 (n = 4, R2 = 0.9999). Excellent selectivity was displayed for several other aliphatic cytokinins and their ribosides, including N6-(Δ2-isopentenyl) adenine, N6-(Δ2-isopentenyl) adenosine, cis-zeatin, trans-zeatin and trans-zeatin riboside. Aromatic cytokinins and metabolites such as cytokinin glucosides were generally poor substrates. The microbiosensors exhibited excellent stability in terms of pH and long-term storage and have been used successfully to determine low nanomolar cytokinin concentrations in tomato xylem sap exudates.
PMCID: PMC3942484  PMID: 24595403
17.  Co-ordinate regulation of cytokinin gene family members during flag leaf and reproductive development in wheat 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:78.
As the global population continues to expand, increasing yield in bread wheat is of critical importance as 20% of the world’s food supply is sourced from this cereal. Several recent studies of the molecular basis of grain yield indicate that the cytokinins are a key factor in determining grain yield. In this study, cytokinin gene family members in bread wheat were isolated from four multigene families which regulate cytokinin synthesis and metabolism, the isopentenyl transferases (IPT), cytokinin oxidases (CKX), zeatin O-glucosyltransferases (ZOG), and β-glucosidases (GLU). As bread wheat is hexaploid, each gene family is also likely to be represented on the A, B and D genomes. By using a novel strategy of qRT-PCR with locus-specific primers shared among the three homoeologues of each family member, detailed expression profiles are provided of family members of these multigene families expressed during leaf, spike and seed development.
The expression patterns of individual members of the IPT, CKX, ZOG, and GLU multigene families in wheat are shown to be tissue- and developmentally-specific. For instance, TaIPT2 and TaCKX1 were the most highly expressed family members during early seed development, with relative expression levels of up to 90- and 900-fold higher, respectively, than those in the lowest expressed samples. The expression of two cis-ZOG genes was sharply increased in older leaves, while an extremely high mRNA level of TaGLU1-1 was detected in young leaves.
Key genes with tissue- and developmentally-specific expression have been identified which would be prime targets for genetic manipulation towards yield improvement in bread wheat breeding programmes, utilising TILLING and MAS strategies.
PMCID: PMC3410795  PMID: 22672647
18.  Cytokinins 
Cytokinins are N6 substituted adenine derivatives that affect many aspects of plant growth and development, including cell division, shoot initiation and growth, leaf senescence, apical dominance, sink/source relationships, nutrient uptake, phyllotaxis, and vascular, gametophyte, and embryonic development, as well as the response to biotic and abiotic factors. Molecular genetic studies in Arabidopsis have helped elucidate the mechanisms underlying the function of this phytohormone in plants. Here, we review our current understanding of cytokinin biosynthesis and signaling in Arabidopsis, the latter of which is similar to bacterial two-component phosphorelays. We discuss the perception of cytokinin by the ER-localized histidine kinase receptors, the role of the AHPs in mediating the transfer of the phosphoryl group from the receptors to the response regulators (ARRs), and finally the role of the large ARR family in cytokinin function. The identification and genetic manipulation of the genes involved in cytokinin metabolism and signaling have helped illuminate the roles of cytokinins in Arabidopsis. We discuss these diverse roles, and how other signaling pathways influence cytokinin levels and sensitivity though modulation of the expression of cytokinin signaling and metabolic genes.
PMCID: PMC3894907  PMID: 24465173
19.  tRNA Is the Source of Low-Level trans-Zeatin Production in Methylobacterium spp.†‡  
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(7):1832-1842.
Pink-pigmented facultatively methylotrophic bacteria (PPFMs), classified as Methylobacterium spp., are persistent colonizers of plant leaf surfaces. Reports of PPFM-plant dialogue led us to examine cytokinin production by PPFMs. Using immunoaffinity and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) purification, we obtained 22 to 111 ng of trans-zeatin per liter from culture filtrates of four PPFM leaf isolates (from Arabidopsis, barley, maize, and soybean) and of a Methylobacterium extorquens type culture originally recovered as a soil isolate. We identified the zeatin isolated as the trans isomer by HPLC and by a radioimmunoassay in which monoclonal antibodies specific for trans-hydroxylated cytokinins were used. Smaller and variable amounts of trans-zeatin riboside were also recovered. trans-Zeatin was recovered from tRNA hydrolysates in addition to the culture filtrates, suggesting that secreted trans-zeatin resulted from tRNA turnover rather than from de novo synthesis. The product of the miaA gene is responsible for isopentenylation of a specific adenine in some tRNAs. To confirm that the secreted zeatin originated from tRNA, we mutated the miaA gene of M. extorquens by single exchange of an internal miaA fragment into the chromosomal gene. Mutant exconjugants, confirmed by PCR, did not contain zeatin in their tRNAs and did not secrete zeatin into the medium, findings which are consistent with the hypothesis that all zeatin is tRNA derived rather than synthesized de novo. In germination studies performed with heat-treated soybean seeds, cytokinin-null (miaA) mutants stimulated germination as well as wild-type bacteria. While cytokinin production may play a role in the plant-PPFM interaction, it is not responsible for stimulation of germination by PPFMs.
PMCID: PMC134930  PMID: 11889088
20.  Differential spatial expression of A- and B-type CDKs, and distribution of auxins and cytokinins in the open transverse root apical meristem of Cucurbita maxima 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(7):1223-1234.
Background and Aims
Aside from those on Arabidopsis, very few studies have focused on spatial expression of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) in root apical meristems (RAMs), and, indeed, none has been undertaken for open meristems. The extent of interfacing between cell cycle genes and plant growth regulators is also an increasingly important issue in plant cell cycle studies. Here spatial expression/localization of an A-type and B-type CDK, auxin and cytokinins are reported in relation to the hitherto unexplored anatomy of RAMs of Cucurbita maxima.
Median longitudinal sections were cut from 1-cm-long primary root tips of C. maxima. Full-length A-type CDKs and a B-type CDK were cloned from C. maxima using degenerate primers, probes of which were localized on sections of RAMs using in situ hybridization. Isopentenyladenine (iPA), trans-zeatin (t-Z) and indole-3yl-acetic acid (IAA) were identified on sections by immunolocalization.
Key Results
The C. cucurbita RAM conformed to an open transverse (OT) meristem typified by an absence of a clear boundary between the eumeristem and root cap columella, but with a distinctive longitudinally thickened epidermis. Cucma;CDKA;1 expression was detected strongly in the longitudinally thickened epidermis, a tissue with mitotic competence that contributes cells radially to the root cap of OT meristems. Cucma;CDKB2 was expressed mainly in proliferative regions of the RAM and in lateral root primordia. iPA and t-Z were mainly distributed in differentiated cells whilst IAA was distributed more uniformly in all tissues of the RAM.
Cucma;CDKA;1 was expressed most strongly in cells that have proliferative competence whereas Cucma;CDKB2 was confined mainly to mitotic cells. iPA and t-Z marked differentiated cells in the RAM, consistent with the known effect of cytokinins in promoting differentiation in root systems. iPA/t-Z were distributed in a converse pattern to Cucma;CDKB2 expression whereas IAA was detected in most cells in the RAM regardless of their proliferative potential.
PMCID: PMC3091794  PMID: 20601387
Auxin; cytokinins; CDKs; Cucurbita maxima; root apical meristems
21.  Differences in membrane selectivity drive phloem transport to the apoplast from which maize florets develop 
Annals of Botany  2013;111(4):551-562.
Background and Aims
Floral development depends on photosynthetic products delivered by the phloem. Previous work suggested the path to the flower involved either the apoplast or the symplast. The objective of the present work was to determine the path and its mechanism of operation.
Maize (Zea mays) plants were grown until pollination. For simplicity, florets were harvested before fertilization to ensure that all tissues were of maternal origin. Because sucrose from phloem is hydrolysed to glucose on its way to the floret, the tissues were imaged and analysed for glucose using an enzyme-based assay. Also, carboxyfluorescein diacetate was fed to the stems and similarly imaged and analysed.
Key Results
The images of live sections revealed that phloem contents were released to the pedicel apoplast below the nucellus of the florets. Glucose or carboxyfluorescein were detected and could be washed out. For carboxyfluorescein, the plasma membranes of the phloem parenchyma appeared to control the release. After release, the nucellus absorbed apoplast glucose selectively, rejecting carboxyfluorescein.
Despite the absence of an embryo, the apoplast below the nucellus was a depot for phloem contents, and the strictly symplast path is rejected. Because glucose and carboxyfluorescein were released non-selectively, the path to the floret resembled the one later when an embryo is present. The non-selective release indicates that turgor at phloem termini cannot balance the full osmotic potential of the phloem contents and would create a downward pressure gradient driving bulk flow toward the sink. Such a gradient was previously measured by Fisher and Cash-Clark in wheat. At the same time, selective absorption from the apoplast by the nucellar membranes would support full turgor in this tissue, isolating the embryo sac from the maternal plant. The isolation should continue later when an embryo develops.
PMCID: PMC3605948  PMID: 23388879
Apoplast; carboxyfluorescein; floret; glucose; membrane transport; phloem; reflection coefficient; sucrose; symplast; turgor pressure; Zea mays
22.  A natural antisense transcript of the Petunia hybrida Sho gene suggests a role for an antisense mechanism in cytokinin regulation 
The Plant Journal   2007;52(6):1131-1139.
The Sho gene from Petunia hybrida encodes an enzyme responsible for the synthesis of plant cytokinins. The 3′ region of the Sho gene contains a promoter in the opposite orientation that produces a partially overlapping antisense transcript. Although Sho expression varies significantly in individual cell types, the sense and antisense transcript levels maintain a stable ratio in most tissue types. In reporter lines for the antisense promoter, we observed a change in antisense promoter activity in newly formed tissue that had been induced by prolonged culture on cytokinins or following decapitation. We interpret these data as a reflection of tissue-specific threshold levels for activation of the antisense transcript. In all tissue types tested, we detect a pool of antisense RNA of approximately 35 nt, which derives from the region where Sho sense and antisense transcripts overlap. We detect a second pool of putative dsRNA breakdown products of approximately 24 nt in all tissues tested, except roots, which are the main source of cytokinin synthesis. Our data suggest that antisense transcription can be activated in a tissue-specific manner to adjust local cytokinin synthesis via degradation of Sho dsRNA. We therefore propose that, in addition to cytokinin transport and inactivation, regulation of local cytokinin synthesis via antisense transcription represents yet another device for the complex control of local cytokinin levels in plants.
PMCID: PMC2253869  PMID: 17944812
natural antisense transcript; cytokinin; small RNA; RNA turnover; plant hormone; Petunia hybrida
23.  Dynamic parent-of-origin effects on small interfering RNA expression in the developing maize endosperm 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:192.
In angiosperms, the endosperm plays a crucial placenta-like role in that not only is it necessary for nurturing the embryo, but also regulating embryogenesis through complicated genetic and epigenetic interactions with other seed compartments and is the primary tissue in which genomic imprinting occurs.
We observed a gradual increase of paternal siRNA expression in the early stages of kernels and an expected 2:1 maternal to paternal ratio in 7-DAP endosperm via sequencing of small interfering RNA (siRNA) transcriptomes in developing kernels (0, 3 and 5 days after pollination (DAP)) and endosperms (7, 10 and 15 DAP) from the maize B73 and Mo17 reciprocal crosses. Additionally, 460 imprinted siRNA loci were identified in the endosperm, with the majority (456/460, 99.1%) being maternally expressed at 10 DAP. Moreover, 13 out of 29 imprinted genes harbored imprinted siRNA loci within their 2-kb flanking regions, a significant higher frequency than expected based on simulation analysis. Additionally, gene ontology terms of “response to auxin stimulus”, “response to brassinosteroid stimulus” and “regulation of gene expression” were enriched with genes harboring 10-DAP specific siRNAs, whereas those of “nutrient reservoir activity”, “protein localization to vacuole” and “secondary metabolite biosynthetic process” were enriched with genes harboring 15-DAP specific siRNAs.
A subset of siRNAs subjected to imprinted expression pattern in maize developing endosperm, and they are likely correlated with certain imprinted gene expression. Additionally, siRNAs might influence nutrient uptake and allocation processes during maize endosperm development.
PMCID: PMC4222485  PMID: 25055833
siRNA; Imprinting; Maize; Endosperm; GSE52726
24.  Overexpression of Cytokinin Dehydrogenase Genes in Barley (Hordeum vulgare cv. Golden Promise) Fundamentally Affects Morphology and Fertility 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79029.
Barley is one of the most important cereal crops grown worldwide. It has numerous applications, but its utility could potentially be extended by genetically manipulating its hormonal balances. To explore some of this potential we identified gene families of cytokinin dehydrogenases (CKX) and isopentenyl transferases, enzymes that respectively irreversibly degrade and synthesize cytokinin (CK) plant hormones, in the raw sequenced barley genome. We then examined their spatial and temporal expression patterns by immunostaining and qPCR. Two CKX-specific antibodies, anti-HvCKX1 and anti-HvCKX9, predominantly detect proteins in the aleurone layer of maturing grains and leaf vasculature, respectively. In addition, two selected CKX genes were used for stable, Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation of the barley cultivar Golden Promise. The results show that constitutive overexpression of CKX causes morphological changes in barley plants and prevents their transition to flowering. In all independent transgenic lines roots proliferated more rapidly and root-to-shoot ratios were higher than in wild-type plants. Only one transgenic line, overexpressing CKX under the control of a promoter from a phosphate transporter gene, which is expressed more strongly in root tissue than in aerial parts, yielded progeny. Analysis of several T1-generation plants indicates that plants tend to compensate for effects of the transgene and restore CK homeostasis later during development. Depleted CK levels during early phases of development are restored by down-regulation of endogenous CKX genes and reinforced de novo biosynthesis of CKs.
PMCID: PMC3829838  PMID: 24260147
25.  Over-expression of a zeatin O-glucosylation gene in maize leads to growth retardation and tasselseed formation 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2008;59(10):2673-2686.
To study the effects of cytokinin O-glucosylation in monocots, maize (Zea mays L.) transformants harbouring the ZOG1 gene (encoding a zeatin O-glucosyltransferase from Phaseolus lunatus L.) under the control of the constitutive ubiquitin (Ubi) promoter were generated. The roots and leaves of the transformants had greatly increased levels of zeatin-O-glucoside. The vegetative characteristics of hemizygous and homozygous Ubi:ZOG1 plants resembled those of cytokinin-deficient plants, including shorter stature, thinner stems, narrower leaves, smaller meristems, and increased root mass and branching. Transformant leaves had a higher chlorophyll content and increased levels of active cytokinins compared with those of non-transformed sibs. The Ubi:ZOG1 plants exhibited delayed senescence when grown in the spring/summer. While hemizygous transformants had reduced tassels with fewer spikelets and normal viable pollen, homozygotes had very small tassels and feminized tassel florets, resembling tasselseed phenotypes. Such modifications of the reproductive phase were unexpected and demonstrate a link between cytokinins and sex-specific floral development in monocots.
PMCID: PMC2486472  PMID: 18515825
Corn; cytokinin; plant development; tasselseed; Zea mays; zeatin O-glucosyltransferase

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