Homeodomain-leucine zipper type I (HD-Zip I) proteins are plant-specific transcription factors associated with the regulation of growth and development in response to changes in the environment. Nicotiana attenuata NaHD20 was identified as an HD-Zip I-coding gene whose expression was induced by multiple stress-associated stimuli including drought and wounding. To study the role of NaHD20 in the integration of stress responses with changes in growth and development, its expression was silenced by virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS), and control and silenced plants were metabolically and developmentally characterized. Phytohormone profiling showed that NaHD20 plays a positive role in abscisic acid (ABA) accumulation in leaves during water stress and in the expression of some dehydration-responsive genes including ABA biosynthetic genes. Moreover, consistent with the high levels of NaHD20 expression in corollas, the emission of benzylacetone from flowers was reduced in NaHD20-silenced plants. Additionally, bolting time and the opening of the inflorescence buds was decelerated in these plants in a specific developmental stage without affecting the total number of flowers produced. Water stress potentiated these effects; however, after plants recovered from this condition, the opening of the inflorescence buds was accelerated in NaHD20-silenced plants. In summary, NaHD20 plays multiple roles in N. attenuata and among these are the coordination of responses to dehydration and its integration with changes in flower transitions.
ABA; benzylacetone; corolla; HD-Zip; Nicotiana
RNAi can be achieved in insect herbivores by feeding them host plants stably transformed to express double stranded RNA (dsRNA) of selected midgut-expressed genes. However, the development of stably transformed plants is a slow and laborious process and here we developed a rapid, reliable and transient method. We used viral vectors to produce dsRNA in the host plant Nicotiana attenuata to transiently silence midgut genes of the plant's lepidopteran specialist herbivore, Manduca sexta. To compare the efficacy of longer, undiced dsRNA for insect gene silencing, we silenced N. attenuata's dicer genes (NaDCL1- 4) in all combinations in a plant stably transformed to express dsRNA targeting an insect gene.
Stable transgenic N. attenuata plants harboring a 312 bp fragment of MsCYP6B46 in an inverted repeat orientation (ir-CYP6B46) were generated to produce CYP6B46 dsRNA. After consuming these plants, transcripts of CYP6B46 were significantly reduced in M. sexta larval midguts. The same 312 bp cDNA was cloned in an antisense orientation into a TRV vector and Agro-infiltrated into N. attenuata plants. When larvae ingested these plants, similar reductions in CYP6B46 transcripts were observed without reducing transcripts of the most closely related MsCYP6B45. We used this transient method to rapidly silence the expression of two additional midgut-expressed MsCYPs. CYP6B46 transcripts were further reduced in midguts, when the larvae fed on ir-CYP6B46 plants transiently silenced for two combinations of NaDCLs (DCL1/3/4 and DCL2/3/4) and contained higher concentrations of longer, undiced CYP6B46 dsRNA.
Both stable and transient expression of CYP6B46 dsRNA in host plants provides a specific and robust means of silencing this gene in M. sexta larvae, but the transient system is better suited for high throughput analyses. Transiently silencing NaDCLs in ir-CYP6B46 plants increased the silencing of MsCYP6B46, suggested that insect's RNAi machinery is more efficient with longer lengths of ingested dsRNA.
Pectin methylesterases (PMEs) catalyse the demethylation of pectin within plant cell walls, releasing methanol (MeOH) in the process. Thus far, PMEs have been found to be involved in diverse processes such as plant growth and development and defence responses against pathogens. Herbivore attack increases PME expression and activity and MeOH emissions in several plant species. To gain further insights into the role of PMEs in defence responses against herbivores, the expression of a Manduca sexta oral secretion (OS)-inducible PME in Nicotiana attenuata (NaPME1) was silenced by RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated gene silencing. Silenced lines (ir-pme) showed 50% reduced PME activity in leaves and 70% reduced MeOH emissions after OS elicitation compared with the wild type (WT), demonstrating that the herbivore-induced MeOH emissions originate from the demethylation of pectin by PME. In the initial phase of the OS-induced jasmonic acid (JA) burst (first 30 min), ir-pme lines produced WT levels of this hormone and of jasmonyl-isoleucine (JA-Ile); however, these levels were significantly reduced in the later phase (60–120 min) of the burst. Similarly, suppressed levels of the salicylic acid (SA) burst induced by OS elicitation were observed in ir-pme lines even though wounded ir-pme leaves contained slightly increased amounts of SA. This genotype also presented reduced levels of OS-induced trypsin proteinase inhibitor activity in leaves and consistently increased M. sexta larvae performance compared with WT plants. These latter responses could not be recovered by application of exogenous MeOH. Together, these results indicated that PME contributes, probably indirectly by affecting cell wall properties, to the induction of anti-herbivore responses.
Defence; herbivory; jasmonic acid; Manduca; methanol; Nicotiana; pectin methylesterase; proteinase inhibitor
Insects pinpoint mates, food and oviposition sites by olfactory cues. Recognizing and localizing a suitable target by olfaction is demanding. Odor sources emit characteristic blends of compounds that have to be identified against an environmentally derived olfactory background. This background, however, does not necessarily disturb the localization of a source. Rather, the contrary. Sex pheromones become more attractive to male moths when being presented against a relevant plant background. Here we asked whether such olfactory coaction also characterizes foraging cues. The tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta feeds on nectar from wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata and sacred datura Datura wrightii flowers. We tested how leaf-derived volatile blends as a background affect the moths' approach to flower blends. We found coaction when a flower blend was presented against a conspecific leaf volatile background but not when the blend was presented against volatiles emitted by the other host plant or by a non-host plant. Hence, our results reveal a species-specific coaction between flower blend and leaf volatile background. The ability to integrate information from different odor sources on one plant might provide the moth with a fine-grained analysis of food site quality.
From an herbivore's first bite, plants release herbivory-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) which can attract enemies of herbivores. However, other animals and competing plants can intercept HIPVs for their own use, and it remains unclear whether HIPVs serve as an indirect defense by increasing fitness for the emitting plant. In a 2-year field study, HIPV-emitting N. attenuata plants produced twice as many buds and flowers as HIPV-silenced plants, but only when native Geocoris spp. predators reduced herbivore loads (by 50%) on HIPV-emitters. In concert with HIPVs, plants also employ antidigestive trypsin protease inhibitors (TPIs), but TPI-producing plants were not fitter than TPI-silenced plants. TPIs weakened a specialist herbivore's behavioral evasive responses to simulated Geocoris spp. attack, indicating that TPIs function against specialists by enhancing indirect defense.
As the population of the world continues to increase beyond 7 billion, and agricultural pests continue to rapidly evolve resistance to pesticides, it is becoming ever more important to cultivate arable land in a way that is sustainable for both humans and the environment. A better understanding of the different mechanisms used by wild plants to deter herbivores will help to increase crop production without harming the environment.
Plants use both direct and indirect methods to fend off herbivores. Direct defense methods include the production of chemicals that are toxic to herbivores or give them indigestion, and the growth of sticky prickles and spines that can injure or kill the herbivore. Indirect defense methods, on the other hand, generally rely on the plant attracting organisms that are either predators or parasites of the herbivore.
Plants produce odors known as herbivory-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) that are thought to offer indirect defense against herbivores by betraying their location to predators and parasites. However, HIPVs also influence other members of the ecological community, sometimes in ways that are detrimental to plants. Moreover, despite 30 years of research, no study has demonstrated that HIPVs increase the fitness of a plant, so it is unclear what they have evolved to do.
Now, a 2-year field study by Schuman et al. has shown plants that emit green leaf volatiles (which are a type of HIPV) produce twice as many buds and flowers—a measure of fitness—as plants that have been genetically engineered not to emit green leaf volatiles. This study was conducted with Nicotiana attenuata, which is a wild tobacco plant that is often targeted by Manduca sexta, a type of moth that is also known as the tobacco hornworm. Green leaf volatiles only increased plants' fitness when various species of Geocoris—a bug that preys on Manduca sexta—reduced the number of herbivores by a factor of two. This is the first evidence that HIPVs offer indirect defense against herbivores.
Schuman et al. also studied the effects of molecules called protease inhibitors that are thought to function as direct defenses by making it difficult for herbivores to digest plants. They found that the ability to produce protease inhibitors did not increase the fitness of plants under herbivore attack; however, tobacco hornworms that had been fed plants containing protease inhibitors were found to be more sluggish in response to attack, which suggests that protease inhibitors can enhance the indirect defenses of plants. The results suggest that employing both direct and indirect defenses—such as a combination of biological pesticides and genetic engineering to produce both HIPVs and protease inhibitors—is the best approach for defending agricultural plants against pests.
Nicotiana attenuata; HIPV (herbivory-induced plant volatile); plant-predator interaction; GLV (green leaf volatile); TPI (trypsin protease inhibitor); indirect defense; Other
Jasmonic acid is an important regulator of plant growth, development and defense. The jasmonate-ZIM domain (JAZ) proteins are key regulators in jasmonate signaling ubiquitously present in flowering plants but their functional annotation remains largely incomplete. Recently, we identified 12 putative JAZ proteins in native tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata, and initiated systematic functional characterization of these proteins by reverse genetic approaches. In this report, Nicotiana attenuata plants silenced in the expression of NaJAZd (irJAZd) by RNA interference were used to characterize NaJAZd function. Although NaJAZd transcripts were strongly and transiently up-regulated in the rosette leaves by simulated herbivory treatment, we did not observe strong defense-related phenotypes, such as altered herbivore performance or the constitutive accumulation of defense-related secondary metabolites in irJAZd plants compared to wild type plants, both in the glasshouse and the native habitat of Nicotiana attenuata in the Great Basin Desert, Utah, USA. Interestingly, irJAZd plants produced fewer seed capsules than did wild type plants as a result of increased flower abscission in later stages of flower development. The early- and mid-developmental stages of irJAZd flowers had reduced levels of jasmonic acid and jasmonoyl-L-isoleucine, while fully open flowers had normal levels, but these were impaired in NaMYB305 transcript accumulations. Previously, NaMYB305-silenced plants were shown to have strong flower abscission phenotypes and contained lower NECTARIN 1 transcript levels, phenotypes which are copied in irJAZd plants. We propose that the NaJAZd protein is required to counteract flower abscission, possibly by regulating jasmonic acid and jasmonoyl-L-isoleucine levels and/or expression of NaMYB305 gene in Nicotiana attenuata flowers. This novel insight into the function of JAZ proteins in flower and seed development highlights the diversity of functions played by jasmonates and JAZ proteins.
In a transcriptomic screen of Manduca sexta-induced N-acyltransferases in leaves of Nicotiana attenuata, we identified an N-acyltransferase gene sharing a high similarity with the tobacco lignin-biosynthetic hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyl transferase (HCT) gene whose expression is controlled by MYB8, a transcription factor that regulates the production of phenylpropanoid polyamine conjugates (phenolamides, PAs). To evaluate the involvement of this HCT-like gene in lignin production as well as the resulting crosstalk with PA metabolism during insect herbivory, we transiently silenced (by VIGs) the expression of this gene and performed non-targeted (UHPLC-ESI/TOF-MS) metabolomics analyses. In agreement with a conserved function of N. attenuata HCT-like in lignin biogenesis, HCT-silenced plants developed weak, soft stems with greatly reduced lignin contents. Metabolic profiling demonstrated large shifts (up to 12% deregulation in total extracted ions in insect-attacked leaves) due to a large diversion of activated coumaric acid units into the production of developmentally and herbivory-induced coumaroyl-containing PAs (N′,N′′-dicoumaroylspermidine, N′,N′′-coumaroylputrescine, etc) and to minor increases in the most abundant free phenolics (chlorogenic and cryptochlorogenic acids), all without altering the production of well characterized herbivory-responsive caffeoyl- and feruloyl-based putrescine and spermidine PAs. These data are consistent with a strong metabolic tension, exacerbated during herbivory, over the allocation of coumaroyl-CoA units among lignin and unusual coumaroyl-containing PAs, and rule out a role for HCT-LIKE in tuning the herbivory-induced accumulation of other PAs. Additionally, these results are consistent with a role for lignification as an induced anti-herbivore defense.
Homeodomain-leucine zipper (HD-Zip) proteins are transcription factors unique to plants and are encoded by more than 25 genes in Arabidopsis thaliana. Based on sequence analyses these proteins have been classified into four distinct groups: HD-Zip I–IV. HD-Zip proteins are characterized by the presence of two functional domains; a homeodomain (HD) responsible for DNA binding and a leucine zipper domain (Zip) located immediately C-terminal to the homeodomain and involved in protein-protein interaction. Despite sequence similarities HD-ZIP proteins participate in a variety of processes during plant growth and development. HD-Zip I proteins are generally involved in responses related to abiotic stress, abscisic acid (ABA), blue light, de-etiolation and embryogenesis. HD-Zip II proteins participate in light response, shade avoidance and auxin signalling. Members of the third group (HD-Zip III) control embryogenesis, leaf polarity, lateral organ initiation and meristem function. HD-Zip IV proteins play significant roles during anthocyanin accumulation, differentiation of epidermal cells, trichome formation and root development.
homeodomain-leucine zipper; development; structure; function; signaling; embryogenesis
Plant fatty acid α-dioxygenases (α-DOX) are oxylipin-forming enzymes induced by biotic and abiotic stresses, which also participate in developmental processes. In Nicotiana attenuata, herbivory strongly induces the expression of an α-dox1 gene. To determine its role, we silenced its expression using Agrobacterium-mediated plant transformation with an inverted repeat construct. More than half of the transformed lines showed a severe dwarf growth phenotype that was very similar to the phenotype of tomato plants mutated at a second α-dox isoform. This led us to identify the corresponding α-dox2 gene in N. attenuata and examine the regulation of both α-dox genes as well as the consequences of their silencing in plant development and anti-herbivore defense.
The transformed lines exhibiting a dwarf growth phenotype are co-silenced for both α-dox genes resulting in a nearly complete suppression of α-DOX activity, which is associated with increases in ABA, JA and anthocyanin levels, all metabolic signatures of oxidative stress. The other lines, only silenced for α-dox1, developed similarly to wild-type plants, exhibited a 40% reduction of α-DOX activity resulting in a 50% reduction of its main product in planta (2-HOT) and showed no signs of oxidative stress. In contrast to α-dox1, the expression of α-dox2 gene is not induced by wounding or elicitors in the oral secretions of Manduca sexta. Instead, α-dox2 is expressed in roots and flowers which lack α-dox1 expression, but both genes are equally regulated during leaf maturation. We transiently silenced α-dox gene copies with gene-specific constructs using virus induced gene silencing and determined the consequences for plant development and phytohormone and 2-HOT levels. While individual silencing of α-dox1 or α-dox2 had no effects on plant growth, the co-suppression of both α-dox genes decreased plant growth. Plants transiently silenced for both α-dox genes had increased constitutive levels of JA and ABA but silencing α-dox1 alone resulted in lower M. sexta-induced levels of JA, 2-HOT and ABA.
Thus, both α-dox isoforms function in the development of N. attenuata. In leaf maturation, the two α-dox genes have overlapping functions, but only α-dox2 is involved in root and flower development and only α-dox1 functions in anti-herbivore defense.
Nicotiana attenuata HSPRO (NaHSPRO) is a negative regulator of seedling growth promoted by the fungus Piriformospora indica. Homologs of NaHSPRO in Arabidopsis thaliana (i.e., AtHSPRO1 and AtHSPRO2) are known to physically interact with the AKINβγ subunit of the SnRK1 complex.2 To investigate whether NaHSPRO is associated with SnRK1 function during the stimulation of seedling growth by P. indica, we studied N. attenuata plants silenced in the expression of NaGAL83 (as-gal83 plants)—a gene that encodes for the regulatory β-subunit of SnRK1—and plants silenced in the expression of both NaHSPRO and NaGAL83 (ir-hspro/as-gal83 plants). The results showed that P. indica differentially stimulated the growth of both as-gal83 and ir-hspro/as-gal83 seedlings compared with control seedlings, with a magnitude similar to that observed in ir-hspro seedlings. Thus, we showed that, similar to NaHSPRO, NaGAL83 is a negative regulator of seedling growth stimulated by P. indica. We propose that the effect of NaHSPRO on seedling growth is associated with SnRK1 signaling.
Nicotiana attenuata; Piriformospora indica; HSPRO; SnRK1; plant growth promotion; signaling
Although Nicotiana attenuata is entirely self-compatible, chemical and other floral traits suggest selection for the maintenance of advertisement for moth pollinators.
Experimental exclusions of pollinators from plants with emasculated flowers in natural populations in southern Utah during an outbreak of the hawkmoth Hyles lineata revealed that 24% of the seed set could be attributed to insect pollination, and eliminated wind pollination and apomixis as contributing to seed set. Hence these moths can mediate gene flow when self-pollen is unavailable. To quantify gene flow when self-pollen is available, plants were transformed with two marker genes: hygromycin-B resistance and β-glucuronidase. The utility of these genetic markers to measure gene flow between plants was examined by mixing pollen from plants homozygous for both genes with self-pollen in different ratios and hand-pollinating emasculated flowers of plants growing in a natural population. The proportion of transformed seeds was positively correlated with the amount of transformed pollen applied to stigmas. In glasshouse experiments with the hawkmoth Manduca sexta and experimental arrays of transformed and wild-type plants, pollination mediated by moths accounted for 2.5% of the seed set.
Even though moth pollination is rare and highly variable for this largely selfing plant, N. attenuata opportunistically employs a mixed-mating system.
pollination; mixed-mating system; marker genes; Manduca sexta; Hyles lineata; Sphingidae; Nicotiana attenuata; Solanaceae
Host plant choice is of vital importance for egg laying herbivorous insects that do not exhibit brood care. Several aspects, including palatability, nutritional quality and predation risk, have been found to modulate host preference. Olfactory cues are thought to enable host location. However, experimental data on odor features that allow choosing among alternative hosts while still in flight are not available. It has previously been shown that M. sexta females prefer Datura wrightii compared to Nicotiana attenuata. The bouquet of the latter is more intense and contains compounds typically emitted by plants after feeding-damage to attract the herbivore’s enemies. In this wind tunnel study, we offered female gravid hawkmoths (Manduca sexta) odors from these two ecologically relevant, attractive, non-flowering host species. M. sexta females preferred surrogate leaves scented with vegetative odors form both host species to unscented control leaves. Given a choice between species, females preferred the odor bouquet emitted by D. wrightii to that of N. attenuata. Harmonizing, i.e. adjusting, volatile intensity to similar levels did not abolish but significantly weakened this preference. Superimposing, i.e. mixing, the highly attractive headspaces of both species, however, abolished discrimination between scented and non-scented surrogate leaves. Beyond ascertaining the role of blend composition in host plant choice, our results raise the following hypotheses. (i) The odor of a host species is perceived as a discrete odor ‘Gestalt’, and its core properties are lost upon mixing two attractive scents (ii). Stimulus intensity is a secondary feature affecting olfactory-based host choice (iii). Constitutively smelling like a plant that is attracting herbivore enemies may be part of a plant’s strategy to avoid herbivory where alternative hosts are available to the herbivore.
To adjust their development to the environment, plants rely on specific signals that travel from shoot to root and vice versa. Here we describe an efficient micrografting protocol for Nicotiana attenuata, a useful tool for identifying these signals and understanding their functions. Additionally we analyzed transcript accumulation profiles of scions and rootstocks of grafts performed with wild-type and stably transformed N. attenuata. Our results are consistent with the source-to-sink movement of an sRNA silencing signal.
Grafting; Nicotiana attenuata; root and shoot signaling; systemic signals
The adage from Shakespeare, "troubles, not as single spies, but in battalions come," holds true for Nicotiana attenuata, which is commonly attacked by both pathogens (Pseudomonas spp.) and herbivores (Manduca sexta) in its native habitats. Defense responses targeted against the pathogens can directly or indirectly influence the responses against the herbivores. Nadefensin is an effective induced defense gene against the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv tomato (PST DC3000), which is also elicited by attack from M. sexta larvae, but whether this defense protein influences M. sexta's growth and whether M. sexta-induced Nadefensin directly or indirectly influences PST DC3000 resistance are unknown.
M. sexta larvae consumed less on WT and on Nadefensin-silenced N. attenuata plants that had previously been infected with PST DC3000 than on uninfected plants. WT plants infected with PST DC3000 showed enhanced resistance to PST DC3000 and decreased leaf consumption by M. sexta larvae, but larval mass gain was unaffected. PST DC3000-infected Nadefensin-silenced plants were less resistant to subsequent PST DC3000 challenge, and on these plants, M. sexta larvae consumed less and gained less mass. WT and Nadefensin-silenced plants previously damaged by M. sexta larvae were better able to resist subsequent PST DC3000 challenges than were undamaged plants.
These results demonstrate that Na-defensin directly mediates defense against PST DC3000 and indirectly against M. sexta in N. attenuata. In plants that were previously infected with PST DC3000, the altered leaf chemistry in PST DC3000-resistant WT plants and PST DC3000-susceptible Nadefensin-silenced plants differentially reduced M. sexta's leaf consumption and mass gain. In plants that were previously damaged by M. sexta, the combined effect of the altered host plant chemistry and a broad spectrum of anti-herbivore induced metabolomic responses was more effective than Nadefensin alone in resisting PST DC3000.
The commonly invoked cost-benefit paradigm, central to most of functional biology, explains why one phenotype cannot be optimally fit in all environments; yet it is rarely tested. Trypsin proteinase inhibitors (TPIs) expression in Nicotiana attenuata is known to decrease plant fitness when plants compete with unattacked conspecifics that do not produce TPIs and also to decrease the performance of attacking herbivores.
In order to determine whether the putative benefits of TPI production outweigh its cost, we transformed N. attenuata to silence endogenous TPI production or restore it in a natural mutant that was unable to produce TPIs. We compared the lifetime seed production of N. attenuata genotypes of the same genetic background with low or no TPI to that of genotypes with high TPI levels on which M. sexta larvae were allowed to feed freely. Unattacked low TPI-producing genotypes produced more seed capsules than did plants with high TPI levels. Caterpillar attack reduced seed capsule production in all genotypes and reversed the pattern of seed capsule production among genotypes. M. sexta larvae attacking genotypes with high TPI activity consumed more TPI, less protein, and move later to the young leaves. Larval masses were negatively correlated (R2 = 0.56) with seed capsule production per plant.
Our results demonstrate that the fitness benefits of TPI production outweigh their costs in greenhouse conditions, when plants are attacked and that despite the ongoing evolutionary interactions between plant and herbivore, TPI-mediated decreases in M. sexta performance translates into a fitness benefit for the plant.
Ethylene-responsive element-binding factor (ERF) genes constitute one of the largest transcription factor gene families in plants. In Arabidopsis and rice, only a few ERF genes have been characterized so far. Flower senescence is associated with increased ethylene production in many flowers. However, the characterization of ERF genes in flower senescence has not been reported. In this study, 13 ERF cDNAs were cloned from petunia. Based on the sequence characterization, these PhERFs could be classified into four of the 12 known ERF families. Their predicted amino acid sequences exhibited similarities to ERFs from other plant species. Expression analyses of PhERF mRNAs were performed in corollas and gynoecia of petunia flower. The 13 PhERF genes displayed differential expression patterns and levels during natural flower senescence. Exogenous ethylene accelerates the transcription of the various PhERF genes, and silver thiosulphate (STS) decreased the transcription of several PhERF genes in corollas and gynoecia. PhERF genes of group VII showed a strong association with the rise in ethylene production in both petals and gynoecia, and might be associated particularly with flower senescence in petunia. The effect of sugar, methyl jasmonate, and the plant hormones abscisic acid, salicylic acid, and 6-benzyladenine in regulating the different PhERF transcripts was investigated. Functional nuclear localization signal analyses of two PhERF proteins (PhERF2 and PhERF3) were carried out using fluorescence microscopy. These results supported a role for petunia PhERF genes in transcriptional regulation of petunia flower senescence processes.
ERF; ethylene; flower senescence; gene expression; petunia
Homeodomain-leucine zipper (HD-ZIP) proteins are plant-specific transcriptional factors known to play crucial roles in plant development. Although sequence phylogeny analysis of Populus HD-ZIPs was carried out in a previous study, no systematic analysis incorporating genome organization, gene structure, and expression compendium has been conducted in model tree species Populus thus far.
In this study, a comprehensive analysis of Populus HD-ZIP gene family was performed. Sixty-three full-length HD-ZIP genes were found in Populus genome. These Populus HD-ZIP genes were phylogenetically clustered into four distinct subfamilies (HD-ZIP I–IV) and predominately distributed across 17 linkage groups (LG). Fifty genes from 25 Populus paralogous pairs were located in the duplicated blocks of Populus genome and then preferentially retained during the sequential evolutionary courses. Genomic organization analyses indicated that purifying selection has played a pivotal role in the retention and maintenance of Populus HD-ZIP gene family. Microarray analysis has shown that 21 Populus paralogous pairs have been differentially expressed across different tissues and under various stresses, with five paralogous pairs showing nearly identical expression patterns, 13 paralogous pairs being partially redundant and three paralogous pairs diversifying significantly. Quantitative real-time RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) analysis performed on 16 selected Populus HD-ZIP genes in different tissues and under both drought and salinity stresses confirms their tissue-specific and stress-inducible expression patterns.
Genomic organizations indicated that segmental duplications contributed significantly to the expansion of Populus HD-ZIP gene family. Exon/intron organization and conserved motif composition of Populus HD-ZIPs are highly conservative in the same subfamily, suggesting the members in the same subfamilies may also have conservative functionalities. Microarray and qRT-PCR analyses showed that 89% (56 out of 63) of Populus HD-ZIPs were duplicate genes that might have been retained by substantial subfunctionalization. Taken together, these observations may lay the foundation for future functional analysis of Populus HD-ZIP genes to unravel their biological roles.
Transcription factors of the basic leucine zipper (bZIP) family control important processes in all eukaryotes. In plants, bZIPs are regulators of many central developmental and physiological processes including photomorphogenesis, leaf and seed formation, energy homeostasis, and abiotic and biotic stress responses. Here we performed a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of bZIP genes from algae, mosses, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms.
We identified 13 groups of bZIP homologues in angiosperms, three more than known before, that represent 34 Possible Groups of Orthologues (PoGOs). The 34 PoGOs may correspond to the complete set of ancestral angiosperm bZIP genes that participated in the diversification of flowering plants. Homologous genes dedicated to seed-related processes and ABA-mediated stress responses originated in the common ancestor of seed plants, and three groups of homologues emerged in the angiosperm lineage, of which one group plays a role in optimizing the use of energy.
Our data suggest that the ancestor of green plants possessed four bZIP genes functionally involved in oxidative stress and unfolded protein responses that are bZIP-mediated processes in all eukaryotes, but also in light-dependent regulations. The four founder genes amplified and diverged significantly, generating traits that benefited the colonization of new environments.
bZIPs are transcription factors that are found throughout the eukarya from fungi to flowering plants and mammals. They contain highly conserved basic region (BR) and leucine zipper (LZ) domains and often function as environmental sensors. Specifically, bZIPs frequently have a role in mediating the response to oxidative stress, a crucial environmental signal that needs to be transduced to the gene regulatory network.
Based on sequence comparisons and experimental data on a number of important bZIP transcription factors, we predict which bZIPs are under redox control and which are regulated via protein phosphorylation. By integrating genomic, phylogenetic and functional data from the literature, we then propose a link between oxidative stress and the choice of interaction partners for the bZIP proteins.
This integration permits the bZIP dimerization network to be interpreted in functional terms, especially in the context of the role of bZIP proteins in the response to environmental stress. This analysis demonstrates the importance of abiotic factors in shaping regulatory networks.
The phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) is an important regulator of plant development and response to environmental stresses. In this study, we identified two ABA overly sensitive mutant alleles in a gene encoding Auxin Response Factor2 (ARF2). The expression of ARF2 was induced by ABA treatment. The arf2 mutants showed enhanced ABA sensitivity in seed germination and primary root growth. In contrast, the primary root growth and seed germination of transgenic plants over-expressing ARF2 are less inhibited by ABA than that of the wild type. ARF2 negatively regulates the expression of a homeodomain gene HB33, the expression of which is reduced by ABA. Transgenic plants over-expressing HB33 are more sensitive, while transgenic plants reducing HB33 by RNAi are more resistant to ABA in the seed germination and primary root growth than the wild type. ABA treatment altered auxin distribution in the primary root tips and made the relative, but not absolute, auxin accumulation or auxin signal around quiescent centre cells and their surrounding columella stem cells to other cells stronger in arf2-101 than in the wild type. These results indicate that ARF2 and HB33 are novel regulators in the ABA signal pathway, which has crosstalk with auxin signal pathway in regulating plant growth.
Abscisic acid is a phytohormone that regulates many aspects in plant growth and development and response to different biotic and abiotic stresses. Research on ABA inhibiting seed germination, controlling stomatal movement, and regulating gene expression has been widely performed. However, the molecular mechanism for ABA regulating root growth is not well known. We have set up a genetic screen by using ABA inhibiting root growth to identify ABA related mutants and to dissect the molecular mechanism of ABA regulating root growth. In this study, we identified two new mutant alleles that are defective in ARF2 gene. ARF2 is a transcriptional suppressor that has been found to be involved in ethylene, auxin, and brassinosteroid pathway to control plant growth and development. Our study indicates that ARF2 is an ABA responsive regulator that functions in both seed germination and primary root growth. ARF2 directly regulates the expression of a homeodomain gene HB33. We demonstrate that ABA treatment reduces the cell division and alters auxin distribution more in arf2 mutant than in the wild type, suggesting an important mechanism in ABA inhibiting the primary root growth through mediating cell division in root tips.
Homeobox genes comprise an important group of genes that are responsible for regulation of developmental processes. These genes determine cell differentiation and cell fate in all eukaryotic organisms, starting from the early stages of embryo development. Homeodomain leucine zipper (HD-Zip) transcription factors are unique to the plant kingdom. Members of the HD-Zip IV subfamily have a complex domain topology and can bind several cis-elements with overlapping sequences. Many of the reported HD-Zip IV genes were shown to be specifically or preferentially expressed in plant epidermal or sub-epidermal cells. HD-Zip IV TFs were found to be associated with differentiation and maintenance of outer cell layers, and regulation of lipid biosynthesis and transport. Insights about the role of these proteins in plant cuticle formation, and hence their possible involvement in plant protection from pathogens and abiotic stresses has just started to emerge. These roles make HD-Zip IV proteins an attractive tool for genetic engineering of crop plants. To this end, there is a need for in-depth studies to further clarify the function of each HD-Zip IV subfamily member in commercially important plant species.
homeodomain; protein-DNA interactions; L1 cell layer; epidermis; cuticle
It is normally thought that deep corolla tubes evolve when a plant's successful reproduction is contingent on having a corolla tube longer than the tongue of the flower's pollinators, and that pollinators evolve ever-longer tongues because individuals with longer tongues can obtain more nectar from flowers. A recent model shows that, in the presence of pollinators with long and short tongues that experience resource competition, coexisting plant species can diverge in corolla-tube depth, because this increases the proportion of pollen grains that lands on co-specific flowers.
We have extended the model to study whether resource competition can trigger the co-evolution of tongue length and corolla-tube depth. Starting with two plant and two pollinator species, all of them having the same distribution of tongue length or corolla-tube depth, we show that variability in corolla-tube depth leads to divergence in tongue length, provided that increasing tongue length is not equally costly for both species. Once the two pollinator species differ in tongue length, divergence in corolla-tube depth between the two plant species ensues.
Co-evolution between tongue length and corolla-tube depth is a robust outcome of the model, obtained for a wide range of parameter values, but it requires that tongue elongation is substantially easier for one pollinator species than for the other, that pollinators follow a near-optimal foraging strategy, that pollinators experience competition for resources and that plants experience pollination limitation.
Plants can distinguish mechanical damage from larval folivory through the recognition of specific constituents of larval oral secretions (OS) which are deposited on the surface of leaf wounds during feeding. Fatty acid-amino acid conjugates (FACs) are major constituents of the OS of Lepidopteran larvae and they are strong elicitors of herbivore-induced defense responses in several plant species, including the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata. When OS from Manduca sexta larvae is deposited on N. attenuata wounded leaves, the major FAC N-linolenoyl-glutamic acid (18:3-Glu) is modified within seconds by a heat labile process. Some of the major modified forms are oxygenated products derived from 13-lipoxygenase activity and one of these derivatives, 13-oxo-13:2-Glu, is an active elicitor of enhanced JA biosynthesis and differential monoterpene emission in N. attenuata leaves.
lipoxygenase; plant-insect interactions; fatty acid-amino acid conjugates; FAC; fatty acid-amides; insect elicitor; jasmonic acid; volatiles; herbivore-associated-elicitors; HAEs
Genetically modified plants are widely used in agriculture and increasingly in ecological research to enable the selective manipulation of plant traits in the field. Despite their broad usage, many aspects of unwanted transgene silencing throughout plant development are still poorly understood. A transgene can be epigenetically silenced by a process called RNA directed DNA methylation (RdDM), which can be seen as a heritable loss of gene expression. The spontaneous nature of transgene silencing has been widely reported, but patterns of acquirement remain still unclear.
Transgenic wild tobacco plants (Nicotiana attenuata) expressing heterologous genes coding for antimicrobial peptides displayed an erratic and variable occurrence of transgene silencing. We focused on three independently transformed lines (PNA 1.2, PNA 10.1 and ICE 4.4) as they rapidly lost the expression of the resistance marker and down-regulated transgene expression by more than 200 fold after only one plant generation. Bisulfite sequencing indicated hypermethylation within the 35S and NOS promoters of these lines. To shed light on the progress of methylation establishment, we successively sampled leaf tissues from different stages during plant development and found a rapid increase in 35S promoter methylation during vegetative growth (up to 77% absolute increase within 45 days of growth). The levels of de novo methylation were inherited by the offspring without any visible discontinuation. A secondary callus regeneration step could interfere with the establishment of gene silencing and we found successfully restored transgene expression in the offspring of several regenerants.
The unpredictability of the gene silencing process requires a thorough selection and early detection of unstable plant lines. De novo methylation of the transgenes was acquired solely during vegetative development and did not require a generational change for its establishment or enhancement. A secondary callus regeneration step provides a convenient way to rescue transgene expression without causing undesirable morphological effects, which is essential for experiments that use transformed plants in the analysis of ecologically important traits.
In a wild tobacco plant, Nicotiana attenuata, two mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), salicylic acid-induced protein kinase (SIPK) and wound-induced protein kinase (WIPK), play central roles in modulating herbivory-induced phytohormone and anti-herbivore secondary metabolites. However, the identities of their upstream MAPK kinases (MAPKKs) were elusive. Ectopic overexpression studies in N. benthamiana and N. tabacum suggested that two MAPKKs, MKK1 and MEK2, may activate SIPK and WIPK. The homologues of MKK1 and MEK2 were cloned in N. attenuata (NaMKK1 and NaMEK2) and a virus-induced gene silencing approach was used to knock-down the transcript levels of these MAPKK genes. Plants silenced in NaMKK1 and NaMEK2 were treated with wounding or simulated herbivory by applying the oral secretions of the specialist herbivore Manduca sexta to wounds. MAPK activity assay indicated that after wounding or simulated herbivory NaMKK1 is not required for the phosphorylation of NaSIPK and NaWIPK; in contrast, NaMEK2 and other unknown MAPKKs are important for simulated herbivory-elicited activation of NaSIPK and NaWIPK, and after wounding NaMEK2 probably does not activate NaWIPK but plays a minor role in activating NaSIPK. Consistently, NaMEK2 and certain other MAPKKs, but not NaMKK1, are needed for wounding- and simulated herbivory-elicited accumulation of jasmonic acid (JA), JA–isoleucine, and ethylene. Furthermore, both NaMEK2 and NaMKK1 regulate the levels of trypsin proteinase inhibitors. The findings underscore the complexity of MAPK signalling pathways and highlight the importance of MAPKKs in regulating wounding- and herbivory-induced responses.
Defence; ethylene; herbivory; jasmonic acid; mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase; trypsin proteinase inhibitors