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1.  OsYSL18 is a rice iron(III)–deoxymugineic acid transporter specifically expressed in reproductive organs and phloem of lamina joints 
Plant Molecular Biology  2009;70(6):681-692.
Iron uptake and translocation in plants are important processes for both plant and human nutrition, whereas relatively little is known about the molecular mechanisms of iron transport within the plant body. Several reports have shown that yellow stripe 1 (YS1) and YS1-like (YSL) transporters mediate metal-phytosiderophore uptake and/or metal-nicotianamine translocation. Among the 18 YSL genes in rice (OsYSLs), OsYSL18 is predicted to encode a polypeptide of 679 amino acids containing 13 putative transmembrane domains. An OsYSL18-green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion was localized to the plasma membrane when transiently expressed in onion epidermal cells. Electrophysiological measurements using Xenopus laevis oocytes showed that OsYSL18 transports iron(III)–deoxymugineic acid, but not iron(II)–nicotianamine, zinc(II)–deoxymugineic acid, or zinc(II)–nicotianamine. Reverse transcriptase PCR analysis revealed more OsYSL18 transcripts in flowers than in shoots or roots. OsYSL18 promoter-β-glucuronidase (GUS) analysis revealed that OsYSL18 was expressed in reproductive organs including the pollen tube. In vegetative organs, OsYSL18 was specifically expressed in lamina joints, the inner cortex of crown roots, and phloem parenchyma and companion cells at the basal part of every leaf sheath. These results suggest that OsYSL18 is an iron-phytosiderophore transporter involved in the translocation of iron in reproductive organs and phloem in joints.
PMCID: PMC2706380  PMID: 19468840
Iron; Phytosiderophore; Transporter; Rice; Translocation; YS1-like gene
2.  Metal movement within the plant: contribution of nicotianamine and yellow stripe 1-like transporters 
Annals of Botany  2008;103(1):1-11.
Since the identification of the genes controlling the root acquisition of iron (Fe), the control of inter- and intracellular distribution has become an important challenge in understanding metal homeostasis. The identification of the yellow stripe-like (YSL) transporter family has paved the way to decipher the mechanisms of long-distance transport of Fe.
Once in the plant, Fe will systematically react with organic ligands whose identity is poorly known so far. Among potential ligands, nicotianamine has been identified as an important molecule for the circulation and delivery of metals since it participates in the loading of copper (Cu) and nickel in xylem and prevents Fe precipitation in leaves. Nicotianamine is a precursor of phytosiderophores, which are high-affinity Fe ligands exclusively synthesized by Poaceae species and excreted by roots for the chelation and acquisition of Fe. Maize YS1 is the founding member of a family of membrane transporters called YS1-like (YSL), which functions in root Fe–phytosiderophore uptake from the soil. Next to this well-known Fe acquisition role, most of the other YSL family members are likely to function in plant-wide distribution of metals since (a) they are produced in vascular tissues throughout the plant and (b) they are found in non-Poaceae species that do not synthesize phytosiderophores. The hypothesized activity as Fe–nicotianamine transporters of several YSL members has been demonstrated experimentally by heterologous expression in yeast or by electrophysiology in Xenopus oocytes but, despite numerous attempts, proof of the arabidopsis YSL substrate specificity is still lacking. Reverse genetics, however, has revealed a role for AtYSL members in the remobilization of Cu and zinc from senescing leaves, in the formation of pollen and in the Fe, zinc and Cu loading of seeds.
Preliminary data on the YSL family of transporters clearly argues in favour of its role in the long-distance transport of metals through and between vascular tissues to eventually support gametogenesis and embryo development.
PMCID: PMC2707284  PMID: 18977764
Metals; iron; nicotianamine; yellow stripe-like; YS1-like; circulation; transport; phytosiderophore; xylem; phloem
3.  Arabidopsis thaliana Yellow Stripe1-Like4 and Yellow Stripe1-Like6 localize to internal cellular membranes and are involved in metal ion homeostasis 
Several members of the Yellow Stripe1-Like (YSL) family of transporter proteins are able to transport metal-nicotianamine (NA) complexes. Substantial progress has been made in understanding the roles of the Arabidopsis YSLs that are most closely related to the founding member of the family, ZmYS1 (e.g., AtYSL1, AtYSL2 and AtYSL3), but there is little information concerning members of the other two well-conserved YSL clades. Here, we provide evidence that AtYSL4 and AtYSL6, which are the only genes in Arabidopsis belong to YSL Group II, are localized to vacuole membranes and to internal membranes resembling endoplasmic reticulum. Both single and double mutants for YSL4 and YSL6 were rigorously analyzed, and have surprisingly mild phenotypes, in spite of the strong and wide-ranging expression of YSL6. However, in the presence of toxic levels of Mn and Ni, plants with mutations in YSL4 and YSL6 and plants overexpressing GFP-tagged YSL6 showed growth defects, indicating a role for these transporters in heavy metal stress responses.
PMCID: PMC3724051  PMID: 23898343
nickel; nicotianamine; yellow stripe-like; metal transporters; manganese; iron; tonoplast; endomembrane
4.  Activation of Rice Yellow Stripe1-Like 16 (OsYSL16) Enhances Iron Efficiency 
Molecules and Cells  2012;33(2):117-126.
Graminaceous plants release ferric-chelating phytosiderophores that bind to iron. These ferric-phytosiderophore complexes are transported across the plasma membrane by a protein produced from Yellow Stripe 1 (YS1). Here, we report the characterization of OsYSL16, one of the YS1-like genes in rice. Real-time analysis revealed that this gene was constitutively expressed irrespective of metal status. Promoter fusions of OsYSL16 to β-glucuronidase (GUS) showed that OsYSL16 was highly expressed in the vascular tissues of the root, leaf, and spikelet, and in leaf mesophyll cells. The OsYSL16-green fluorescence protein (GFP) fusion protein was localized to the plasma membrane. From a pool of rice T-DNA insertional lines, we identified two independent activation-tagging mutants in OsYSL16. On an Fe-deficient medium, those mutants retained relatively high chlorophyll concentrations compared with the wild-type (WT) controls, indicating that they are more tolerant to a lack of iron. The Fe concentration in shoots was also higher in the OsYSL16 activation lines than in the WT. During germination, the rate of Fe-utilization from the seeds was higher in the OsYSL16 activation lines than in the WT seeds. Our results suggest that the function of OsYSL16 in Fe-homeostasis is to enable distribution of iron within a plant.
PMCID: PMC3887722  PMID: 22228180
activation tagging; homeostasis; iron
5.  Nicotianamine synthase overexpression positively modulates iron homeostasis-related genes in high iron rice 
Nearly one-third of the world population, mostly women and children, suffer from iron malnutrition and its consequences, such as anemia or impaired mental development. Biofortification of rice, which is a staple crop for nearly half of the world's population, can significantly contribute in alleviating iron deficiency. NFP rice (transgenic rice expressing nicotianamine synthase, ferritin and phytase genes) has a more than six-fold increase in iron content in polished rice grains, resulting from the synergistic action of nicotianamine synthase (NAS) and ferritin transgenes. We investigated iron homeostasis in NFP plants by analyzing the expression of 28 endogenous rice genes known to be involved in the homeostasis of iron and other metals, in iron-deficient and iron-sufficient conditions. RNA was collected from different tissues (roots, flag leaves, grains) and at three developmental stages during grain filling. NFP plants showed increased sensitivity to iron-deficiency conditions and changes in the expression of endogenous genes involved in nicotianamine (NA) metabolism, in comparison to their non-transgenic siblings (NTS). Elevated transcript levels were detected in NFP plants for several iron transporters. In contrast, expression of OsYSL2, which encodes a member of yellow stripe like protein family, and a transporter of the NA-Fe(II) complex was reduced in NFP plants under low iron conditions, indicating that expression of OsYSL2 is regulated by the endogenous iron status. Expression of the transgenes did not significantly affect overall iron homeostasis in NFP plants, which establishes the engineered push-pull mechanism as a suitable strategy to increase rice endosperm iron content.
PMCID: PMC3665926  PMID: 23755054
iron; homeostasis; NFP rice; biofortification; expression profiling
6.  Endo-(1,4)-β-Glucanase gene families in the grasses: temporal and spatial Co-transcription of orthologous genes1 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:235.
Endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase (cellulase) glycosyl hydrolase GH9 enzymes have been implicated in several aspects of cell wall metabolism in higher plants, including cellulose biosynthesis and degradation, modification of other wall polysaccharides that contain contiguous (1,4)-β-glucosyl residues, and wall loosening during cell elongation.
The endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase gene families from barley (Hordeum vulgare), maize (Zea mays), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), rice (Oryza sativa) and Brachypodium (Brachypodium distachyon) range in size from 23 to 29 members. Phylogenetic analyses show variations in clade structure between the grasses and Arabidopsis, and indicate differential gene loss and gain during evolution. Map positions and comparative studies of gene structures allow orthologous genes in the five species to be identified and synteny between the grasses is found to be high. It is also possible to differentiate between homoeologues resulting from ancient polyploidizations of the maize genome. Transcript analyses using microarray, massively parallel signature sequencing and quantitative PCR data for barley, rice and maize indicate that certain members of the endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase gene family are transcribed across a wide range of tissues, while others are specifically transcribed in particular tissues. There are strong correlations between transcript levels of several members of the endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase family and the data suggest that evolutionary conservation of transcription exists between orthologues across the grass family. There are also strong correlations between certain members of the endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase family and other genes known to be involved in cell wall loosening and cell expansion, such as expansins and xyloglucan endotransglycosylases.
The identification of these groups of genes will now allow us to test hypotheses regarding their functions and joint participation in wall synthesis, re-modelling and degradation, together with their potential role in lignocellulose conversion during biofuel production from grasses and cereal crop residues.
PMCID: PMC3557191  PMID: 23231659
Biofuels; Cell walls; Cellulases; Cellulose synthesis; Co-expression; Grasses; Stem strength
7.  Brachypodium distachyon as a model system for studies of copper transport in cereal crops 
Copper (Cu) is an essential micronutrient that performs a remarkable array of functions in plants including photosynthesis, cell wall remodeling, flowering, and seed set. Of the world's major cereal crops, wheat, barley, and oat are the most sensitive to Cu deficiency. Cu deficient soils include alkaline soils, which occupy approximately 30% of the world's arable lands, and organic soils that occupy an estimated 19% of arable land in Europe. We used Brachypodium distachyon (brachypodium) as a proxy for wheat and other grain cereals to initiate analyses of the molecular mechanisms underlying their increased susceptibility to Cu deficiency. In this report, we focus on members of the CTR/COPT family of Cu transporters because their homologs in A. thaliana are transcriptionally upregulated in Cu-limited conditions and are involved either in Cu uptake from soils into epidermal cells in the root, or long-distance transport and distribution of Cu in photosynthetic tissues. We found that of five COPT proteins in brachypodium, BdCOPT3, and BdCOPT4 localize to the plasma membrane and are transcriptionally upregulated in roots and leaves by Cu deficiency. We also found that BdCOPT3, BdCOPT4, and BdCOPT5 confer low affinity Cu transport, in contrast to their counterparts in A. thaliana that confer high affinity Cu transport. These data suggest that increased sensitivity to Cu deficiency in some grass species may arise from lower efficiency and, possibly, other properties of components of Cu uptake and tissue partitioning systems and reinforce the importance of using brachypodium as a model for the comprehensive analyses of Cu homeostasis in cereal crops.
PMCID: PMC4039008  PMID: 24910638
Brachypodium; CTR/COPT transporters; copper transport; copper homeostasis; wheat
8.  Comparative cytogenetic analysis of the genomes of the model grass Brachypodium distachyon and its close relatives 
Annals of Botany  2009;104(5):873-881.
Background and Aims
Brachypodium is a small genus of temperate grasses that comprises 12–15 species. Brachypodium distachyon is now well established as a model species for temperate cereals and forage grasses. In contrast to B. distachyon, other members of the genus have been poorly investigated at the chromosome level or not at all.
Twenty accessions comprising six species and two subspecies of Brachypodium were analysed cytogenetically. Measurements of nuclear genome size were made by flow cytometry. Chromosomal localization of 18–5·8–25S rDNA and 5S rDNA loci was performed by dual-colour fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) on enzymatically digested root-tip meristematic cells. For comparative phylogenetic analyses genomic in situ hybridization (GISH) applied to somatic chromosome preparations was used.
Key Results
All Brachypodium species examined have rather small genomes and chromosomes. Their chromosome numbers and genome sizes vary from 2n = 10 and 0·631 pg/2C in B. distachyon to 2n = 38 and 2·57 pg/2C in B. retusum, respectively. Genotypes with 18 and 28 chromosomes were found among B. pinnatum accessions. GISH analysis revealed that B. pinnatum with 28 chromosomes is most likely an interspecific hybrid between B. distachyon (2n = 10) and B. pinnatum (2n = 18). Two other species, B. phoenicoides and B. retusum, are also allopolyploids and B. distachyon or a close relative seems to be one of their putative ancestral species. In chromosomes of all species examined the 45S rDNA loci are distally distributed whereas loci for 5S rDNA are pericentromeric.
The increasing significance of B. distachyon as a model grass emphasizes the need to understand the evolutionary relationships in the genus Brachypodium and to ensure consistency in the biological nomenclature of its species. Modern molecular cytogenetic techniques such as FISH and GISH are suitable for comparative phylogenetic analyses and may provide informative chromosome- and/or genome-specific landmarks.
PMCID: PMC2749528  PMID: 19633311
5S rDNA; 25S rDNA; B. distachyon; Brachypodium; FISH; flow cytometry; GISH; nuclear genome size; ribosomal RNA genes
9.  Further characterization of ferric—phytosiderophore transporters ZmYS1 and HvYS1 in maize and barley 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2009;60(12):3513-3520.
Roots of some gramineous plants secrete phytosiderophores in response to iron deficiency and take up Fe as a ferric–phytosiderophore complex through the transporter YS1 (Yellow Stripe 1). Here, this transporter in maize (ZmYS1) and barley (HvYS1) was further characterized and compared in terms of expression pattern, diurnal change, and tissue-type specificity of localization. The expression of HvYS1 was specifically induced by Fe deficiency only in barley roots, and increased with the progress of Fe deficiency, whereas ZmYS1 was expressed in maize in the leaf blades and sheaths, crown, and seminal roots, but not in the hypocotyl. HvYS1 expression was not induced by any other metal deficiency. Furthermore, in maize leaf blades, the expression was higher in the young leaf blades showing severe chlorosis than in the old leaf blades showing no chlorosis. The expression of HvYS1 showed a distinct diurnal rhythm, reaching a maximum before the onset of phytosiderophore secretion. In contrast, ZmYS1 did not show such a rhythm in expression. Immunostaining showed that ZmYS1 was localized in the epidermal cells of both crown and lateral roots, with a polar localization at the distal side of the epidermal cells. In maize leaves, ZmYS1 was localized in mesophyll cells, but not epidermal cells. These differences in gene expression pattern and tissue-type specificity of localization suggest that HvYS1 is only involved in primary Fe acquisition by barley roots, whereas ZmYS1 is involved in both primary Fe acquisition and intracellular transport of iron and other metals in maize.
PMCID: PMC2724700  PMID: 19549626
Barley; expression pattern; iron; localization; maize; phytosiderophore; transporter
10.  Alternative Functions of Arabidopsis YELLOW STRIPE-LIKE3: From Metal Translocation to Pathogen Defense 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e98008.
YELLOW STRIPE-LIKE1 (YSL1) and YSL3 are involved in iron (Fe) and copper (Cu) translocation. Previously, we reported that upregulation of YSL1 and YSL3 under excess Cu caused high accumulation of Cu in the siz1 mutant, impaired in small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) E3 ligase. Interestingly, the siz1 mutant contains high levels of salicylic acid (SA), involved in plant defense against biotrophic pathogens. In this study, we found that YSL1 and YSL3 were upregulated by SA. SA-regulated YSL3 but not YSL1 depended on NONEXPRESSOR OF PR1 (NPR1). Susceptibility to the pathogen Pseudomonas syringe pv. tomato (Pst) DC3000 was greater for ysl3 than the wild type. Also, during Pst DC3000 infection, YSL3 was positively regulated by SA signaling through NPR1 and the upregulation was enhanced in the coi1 mutant that defective in the jasmonic acid (JA) receptor, CORONATINE INSENSITIVE1. This line of evidence indicates that the regulation of YSL3 is downstream of SA signaling and interplays with JA signaling for involvement in pathogen-induced defense. We provide new insights into the biological function of the metal transporter YSL3 in plant pathogen defense.
PMCID: PMC4028246  PMID: 24845074
11.  Identification and Characterization of NF-Y Transcription Factor Families in the Monocot Model Plant Brachypodium distachyon 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21805.
Nuclear Factor Y (NF-Y) is a heterotrimeric transcription factor composed of NF-YA, NF-YB and NF-YC proteins. Using the dicot plant model system Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis), NF-Y were previously shown to control a variety of agronomically important traits, including drought tolerance, flowering time, and seed development. The aim of the current research was to identify and characterize NF-Y families in the emerging monocot model plant Brachypodium distachyon (Brachypodium) with the long term goal of assisting in the translation of known dicot NF-Y functions to the grasses.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We identified, annotated, and further characterized 7 NF-YA, 17 NF-YB, and 12 NF-YC proteins in Brachypodium (BdNF-Y). By examining phylogenetic relationships, orthology predictions, and tissue-specific expression patterns for all 36 BdNF-Y, we proposed numerous examples of likely functional conservation between dicots and monocots. To test one of these orthology predictions, we demonstrated that a BdNF-YB with predicted orthology to Arabidopsis floral-promoting NF-Y proteins can rescue a late flowering Arabidopsis mutant.
The Brachypodium genome encodes a similar complement of NF-Y to other sequenced angiosperms. Information regarding NF-Y phylogenetic relationships, predicted orthologies, and expression patterns can facilitate their study in the grasses. The current data serves as an entry point for translating many NF-Y functions from dicots to the genetically tractable monocot model system Brachypodium. In turn, studies of NF-Y function in Brachypodium promise to be more readily translatable to the agriculturally important grasses.
PMCID: PMC3128097  PMID: 21738795
12.  Ethylene is involved in the regulation of iron homeostasis by regulating the expression of iron-acquisition-related genes in Oryza sativa 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;62(2):667-674.
Plants employ two distinct strategies to obtain iron (Fe) from the soil. In Strategy I but not Strategy II plants, Fe limitation invokes ethylene production which regulates Fe deficiency responses. Oryza sativa (rice) is the only graminaceous plant described that possesses a Strategy I-like system for iron uptake as well as the classic Strategy II system. Ethylene production of rice roots was significantly increased when grown under Fe-depleted conditions. Moreover, 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) treatment, a precursor of ethylene, conferred tolerance to Fe deficiency in rice by increasing internal Fe availability. Gene expression analysis of rice iron-regulated bHLH transcription factor OsIRO2, nicotianamine synthases 1 and 2 (NAS1 and NAS2), yellow-stripe like transporter 15 (YSL15) and iron-regulated transporter (IRT1) indicated that ethylene caused an increase in transcript abundance of both Fe (II) and Fe (III)-phytosiderophore uptake systems. RNA interference of OsIRO2 in transgenic rice showed that ethylene acted via this transcription factor to induce the expression of OsNAS1, OsNAS2, OsYSL15, and OsIRT1. By contrast, in Hordeum vulgare L. (barley), no ethylene production or ethylene-mediated effects of Fe response could be detected. In conclusion, Fe-limiting conditions increased ethylene production and signalling in rice, which is novel in Strategy II plant species.
PMCID: PMC3003810  PMID: 21112958
Ethylene; gene expression; iron homeostasis; rice; signalling pathway
13.  Comparative Genomics of Flowering Time Pathways Using Brachypodium distachyon as a Model for the Temperate Grasses 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10065.
Brachypodium distachyon (Brachypodium) is a model for the temperate grasses which include important cereals such as barley, wheat and oats. Comparison of the Brachypodium genome (accession Bd21) with those of the model dicot Arabidopsis thaliana and the tropical cereal rice (Oryza sativa) provides an opportunity to compare and contrast genetic pathways controlling important traits. We analysed the homologies of genes controlling the induction of flowering using pathways curated in Arabidopsis Reactome as a starting point. Pathways include those detecting and responding to the environmental cues of day length (photoperiod) and extended periods of low temperature (vernalization). Variation in these responses has been selected during cereal domestication, providing an interesting comparison with the wild genome of Brachypodium. Brachypodium Bd21 has well conserved homologues of circadian clock, photoperiod pathway and autonomous pathway genes defined in Arabidopsis and homologues of vernalization pathway genes defined in cereals with the exception of VRN2 which was absent. Bd21 also lacked a member of the CO family (CO3). In both cases flanking genes were conserved showing that these genes are deleted in at least this accession. Segmental duplication explains the presence of two CO-like genes in temperate cereals, of which one (Hd1) is retained in rice, and explains many differences in gene family structure between grasses and Arabidopsis. The conserved fine structure of duplications shows that they largely evolved to their present structure before the divergence of the rice and Brachypodium. Of four flowering-time genes found in rice but absent in Arabidopsis, two were found in Bd21 (Id1, OsMADS51) and two were absent (Ghd7, Ehd1). Overall, results suggest that an ancient core photoperiod pathway promoting flowering via the induction of FT has been modified by the recruitment of additional lineage specific pathways that promote or repress FT expression.
PMCID: PMC2856676  PMID: 20419097
14.  Cell wall composition throughout development for the model grass Brachypodium distachyon 
Temperate perennial grasses are important worldwide as a livestock nutritive energy source and a potential feedstock for lignocellulosic biofuel production. The annual temperate grass Brachypodium distachyon has been championed as a useful model system to facilitate biological research in agriculturally important temperate forage grasses based on phylogenetic relationships. To physically corroborate genetic predictions, we determined the chemical composition profiles of organ-specific cell walls throughout the development of two common diploid accessions of Brachypodium distachyon, Bd21-3 and Bd21. Chemical analysis was performed on cell walls isolated from distinct organs (i.e., leaves, sheaths, stems, and roots) at three developmental stages of (1) 12-day seedling, (2) vegetative-to-reproductive transition, and (3) mature seed fill. In addition, we have included cell wall analysis of embryonic callus used for genetic transformations. Composition of cell walls based on components lignin, hydroxycinnamates, uronosyls, neutral sugars, and protein suggests that Brachypodium distachyon is similar chemically to agriculturally important forage grasses. There were modest compositional differences in hydroxycinnamate profiles between accessions Bd21-3 and Bd21. In addition, when compared to agronomical important C3 grasses, more mature Brachypodium stem cell walls have a relative increase in glucose of 48% and a decrease in lignin of 36%. Though differences exist between Brachypodium and agronomical important C3 grasses, Brachypodium distachyon should be still a useful model system for genetic manipulation of cell wall composition to determine the impact upon functional characteristics such as rumen digestibility or energy conversion efficiency for bioenergy production.
PMCID: PMC3514619  PMID: 23227028
plant cell wall; biomass; Brachypodium distachyon; grass; chemical composition
15.  Genome-Wide Analysis of the MADS-Box Gene Family in Brachypodium distachyon 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84781.
MADS-box genes are important transcription factors for plant development, especially floral organogenesis. Brachypodium distachyon is a model for biofuel plants and temperate grasses such as wheat and barley, but a comprehensive analysis of MADS-box family proteins in Brachypodium is still missing. We report here a genome-wide analysis of the MADS-box gene family in Brachypodium distachyon. We identified 57 MADS-box genes and classified them into 32 MIKCc-type, 7 MIKC*-type, 9 Mα, 7 Mβ and 2 Mγ MADS-box genes according to their phylogenetic relationships to the Arabidopsis and rice MADS-box genes. Detailed gene structure and motif distribution were then studied. Investigation of their chromosomal localizations revealed that Brachypodium MADS-box genes distributed evenly across five chromosomes. In addition, five pairs of type II MADS-box genes were found on synteny blocks derived from whole genome duplication blocks. We then performed a systematic expression analysis of Brachypodium MADS-box genes in various tissues, particular floral organs. Further detection under salt, drought, and low-temperature conditions showed that some MADS-box genes may also be involved in abiotic stress responses, including type I genes. Comparative studies of MADS-box genes among Brachypodium, rice and Arabidopsis showed that Brachypodium had fewer gene duplication events. Taken together, this work provides useful data for further functional studies of MADS-box genes in Brachypodium distachyon.
PMCID: PMC3890268  PMID: 24454749
16.  Annotation and comparative analysis of the glycoside hydrolase genes in Brachypodium distachyon 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:600.
Glycoside hydrolases cleave the bond between a carbohydrate and another carbohydrate, a protein, lipid or other moiety. Genes encoding glycoside hydrolases are found in a wide range of organisms, from archea to animals, and are relatively abundant in plant genomes. In plants, these enzymes are involved in diverse processes, including starch metabolism, defense, and cell-wall remodeling. Glycoside hydrolase genes have been previously cataloged for Oryza sativa (rice), the model dicotyledonous plant Arabidopsis thaliana, and the fast-growing tree Populus trichocarpa (poplar). To improve our understanding of glycoside hydrolases in plants generally and in grasses specifically, we annotated the glycoside hydrolase genes in the grasses Brachypodium distachyon (an emerging monocotyledonous model) and Sorghum bicolor (sorghum). We then compared the glycoside hydrolases across species, at the levels of the whole genome and individual glycoside hydrolase families.
We identified 356 glycoside hydrolase genes in Brachypodium and 404 in sorghum. The corresponding proteins fell into the same 34 families that are represented in rice, Arabidopsis, and poplar, helping to define a glycoside hydrolase family profile which may be common to flowering plants. For several glycoside hydrolase familes (GH5, GH13, GH18, GH19, GH28, and GH51), we present a detailed literature review together with an examination of the family structures. This analysis of individual families revealed both similarities and distinctions between monocots and eudicots, as well as between species. Shared evolutionary histories appear to be modified by lineage-specific expansions or deletions. Within GH families, the Brachypodium and sorghum proteins generally cluster with those from other monocots.
This work provides the foundation for further comparative and functional analyses of plant glycoside hydrolases. Defining the Brachypodium glycoside hydrolases sets the stage for Brachypodium to be a grass model for investigations of these enzymes and their diverse roles in planta. Insights gained from Brachypodium will inform translational research studies, with applications for the improvement of cereal crops and bioenergy grasses.
PMCID: PMC3091745  PMID: 20973991
17.  The deposition and characterization of starch in Brachypodium distachyon  
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;65(18):5179-5192.
Highlight text
A thorough study of starch biosynthesis and deposition in a non-domesticated wild grass was performed using Brachypodium distachyon as a model.
Brachypodium distachyon is a non-domesticated cereal. Nonetheless, Brachypodium was recently introduced as a model plant for temperate cereals. This study compares grain starch metabolism in Brachypodium and barley (Hordeum vulgare). In Brachypodium, we identified and annotated 28 genes involved in starch metabolism and identified important motifs including transit peptides and putative carbohydrate-binding modules (CBMs) of the families CBM20, CBM45, CBM48, and CBM53. Starch content was markedly lower in Brachypodium grains (12%) compared to barley grains (47%). Brachypodium starch granules were doughnut shaped and bimodally distributed into distinct small B-type (2.5–10 µm) and very small C-type (0.5–2.5 µm) granules. Large A-type granules, typical of cereals, were absent. Starch-bound phosphate, important for starch degradation, was 2-fold lower in Brachypodium compared with barley indicating different requirements for starch mobilization. The amylopectin branch profiles were similar and the amylose content was only slightly higher compared with barley cv. Golden Promise. The crystallinity of Brachypodium starch granules was low (10%) compared to barley (20%) as determined by wide-angle X-ray scattering (WAXS) and molecular disorder was confirmed by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The expression profiles in grain for most genes were distinctly different for Brachypodium compared to barley, typically showing earlier decline during the course of development, which can explain the low starch content and differences in starch molecular structure and granule characteristics. High transitory starch levels were observed in leaves of Brachypodium (2.8% after 14h of light) compared to barley (1.9% after 14h of light). The data suggest important pre-domesticated features of cereals.
PMCID: PMC4157704  PMID: 25056772
Barley; Brachypodium distachyon; endosperm; grass domestication; starch biosynthesis; starch granule.
18.  Iron: an essential micronutrient for the legume-rhizobium symbiosis 
Legumes, which develop a symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, have an increased demand for iron. Iron is required for the synthesis of iron-containing proteins in the host, including the highly abundant leghemoglobin, and in bacteroids for nitrogenase and cytochromes of the electron transport chain. Deficiencies in iron can affect initiation and development of the nodule. Within root cells, iron is chelated with organic acids such as citrate and nicotianamine and distributed to other parts of the plant. Transport to the nitrogen-fixing bacteroids in infected cells of nodules is more complicated. Formation of the symbiosis results in bacteroids internalized within root cortical cells of the legume where they are surrounded by a plant-derived membrane termed the symbiosome membrane (SM). This membrane forms an interface that regulates nutrient supply to the bacteroid. Consequently, iron must cross this membrane before being supplied to the bacteroid. Iron is transported across the SM as both ferric and ferrous iron. However, uptake of Fe(II) by both the symbiosome and bacteroid is faster than Fe(III) uptake. Members of more than one protein family may be responsible for Fe(II) transport across the SM. The only Fe(II) transporter in nodules characterized to date is GmDMT1 (Glycine max divalent metal transporter 1), which is located on the SM in soybean. Like the root plasma membrane, the SM has ferric iron reductase activity. The protein responsible has not been identified but is predicted to reduce ferric iron accumulated in the symbiosome space prior to uptake by the bacteroid. With the recent publication of a number of legume genomes including Medicago truncatula and G. max, a large number of additional candidate transport proteins have been identified. Members of the NRAMP (natural resistance-associated macrophage protein), YSL (yellow stripe-like), VIT (vacuolar iron transporter), and ZIP (Zrt-, Irt-like protein) transport families show enhanced expression in nodules and are expected to play a role in the transport of iron and other metals across symbiotic membranes.
PMCID: PMC3772312  PMID: 24062758
legume–rhizobium symbiosis; nitrogen fixation; nodule; iron; symbiosome; bacteroid; symbiosome membrane
19.  Phylogenetic, Molecular, and Biochemical Characterization of Caffeic Acid o-Methyltransferase Gene Family in Brachypodium distachyon 
Caffeic acid o-methyltransferase (COMT) is one of the important enzymes controlling lignin monomer production in plant cell wall synthesis. Analysis of the genome sequence of the new grass model Brachypodium distachyon identified four COMT gene homologs, designated as BdCOMT1, BdCOMT2, BdCOMT3, and BdCOMT4. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that they belong to the COMT gene family, whereas syntenic analysis through comparisons with rice and sorghum revealed that BdCOMT4 on Chromosome 3 is the orthologous copy of the COMT genes well characterized in other grass species. The other three COMT genes are unique to Brachypodium since orthologous copies are not found in the collinear regions of rice and sorghum genomes. Expression studies indicated that all four Brachypodium COMT genes are transcribed but with distinct patterns of tissue specificity. Full-length cDNAs were cloned in frame into the pQE-T7 expression vector for the purification of recombinant Brachypodium COMT proteins. Biochemical characterization of enzyme activity and substrate specificity showed that BdCOMT4 has significant effect on a broad range of substrates with the highest preference for caffeic acid. The other three COMTs had low or no effect on these substrates, suggesting that a diversified evolution occurred on these duplicate genes that not only impacted their pattern of expression, but also altered their biochemical properties.
PMCID: PMC3562662  PMID: 23431288
20.  Genome variations account for different response to three mineral elements between Medicago truncatula ecotypes Jemalong A17 and R108 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:122.
Resequencing can be used to identify genome variations underpinning many morphological and physiological phenotypes. Legume model plant Medicago truncatula ecotypes Jemalong A17 (J. A17) and R108 differ in their responses to mineral toxicity of aluminum and sodium, and mineral deficiency of iron in growth medium. The difference may result from their genome variations, but no experimental evidence supports this hypothesis.
A total of 12,750 structure variations, 135,045 short insertions/deletions and 764,154 single nucleotide polymorphisms were identified by resequencing the genome of R108. The suppressed expression of MtAACT that encodes a putative aluminum-induced citrate efflux transporter by deletion of partial sequence of the second intron may account for the less aluminum-induced citrate exudation and greater accumulation of aluminum in roots of R108 than in roots of J. A17, thus rendering R108 more sensitive to aluminum toxicity. The higher expression-level of MtZpt2-1 encoding a TFIIIA-related transcription factor in J. A17 than R108 under conditions of salt stress can be explained by the greater number of stress-responsive elements in its promoter sequence, thus conferring J. A17 more tolerant to salt stress than R108 plants by activating the expression of downstream stress-responsive genes. YSLs (Yellow Stripe-Likes) are involved in long-distance transport of iron in plants. We found that an YSL gene was deleted in the genome of R108 plants, thus rendering R108 less tolerance to iron deficiency than J. A17 plants.
The deletion or change in several genes may account for the different responses of M. truncatula ecotypes J. A17 and R108 to mineral toxicity of aluminum and sodium as well as iron deficiency. Uncovering genome variations by resequencing is an effective method to identify different traits between species/ecotypes that are genetically related. These findings demonstrate that analyses of genome variations by resequencing can shed important light on differences in responses of M. truncatula ecotypes to abiotic stress in general and mineral stress in particular.
PMCID: PMC4031900  PMID: 24885873
Resequencing; Medicago truncatula; Aluminum toxicity; Aluminum- activated citrate transporter; Salt stress; MtZpt2-1; Iron deficiency; Yellow Stripe-Likes
21.  Disturbed Local Auxin Homeostasis Enhances Cellular Anisotropy and Reveals Alternative Wiring of Auxin-ethylene Crosstalk in Brachypodium distachyon Seminal Roots 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(6):e1003564.
Observations gained from model organisms are essential, yet it remains unclear to which degree they are applicable to distant relatives. For example, in the dicotyledon Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis), auxin biosynthesis via indole-3-pyruvic acid (IPA) is essential for root development and requires redundant TRYPTOPHAN AMINOTRANSFERASE OF ARABIDOPSIS 1 (TAA1) and TAA1-RELATED (TAR) genes. A promoter T-DNA insertion in the monocotyledon Brachypodium distachyon (Brachypodium) TAR2-LIKE gene (BdTAR2L) severely down-regulates expression, suggesting reduced tryptophan aminotransferase activity in this mutant, which thus represents a hypomorphic Bdtar2l allele (Bdtar2lhypo). Counterintuitive however, Bdtar2lhypo mutants display dramatically elongated seminal roots because of enhanced cell elongation. This phenotype is also observed in another, stronger Bdtar2l allele and can be mimicked by treating wild type with L-kynerunine, a specific TAA1/TAR inhibitor. Surprisingly, L-kynerunine-treated as well as Bdtar2l roots display elevated rather than reduced auxin levels. This does not appear to result from compensation by alternative auxin biosynthesis pathways. Rather, expression of YUCCA genes, which are rate-limiting for conversion of IPA to auxin, is increased in Bdtar2l mutants. Consistent with suppression of Bdtar2lhypo root phenotypes upon application of the ethylene precursor 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic-acid (ACC), BdYUCCA genes are down-regulated upon ACC treatment. Moreover, they are up-regulated in a downstream ethylene-signaling component homolog mutant, Bd ethylene insensitive 2-like 1, which also displays a Bdtar2l root phenotype. In summary, Bdtar2l phenotypes contrast with gradually reduced root growth and auxin levels described for Arabidopsis taa1/tar mutants. This could be explained if in Brachypodium, ethylene inhibits the rate-limiting step of auxin biosynthesis in an IPA-dependent manner to confer auxin levels that are sub-optimal for root cell elongation, as suggested by our observations. Thus, our results reveal a delicate homeostasis of local auxin and ethylene activity to control cell elongation in Brachypodium roots and suggest alternative wiring of auxin-ethylene crosstalk as compared to Arabidopsis.
Author Summary
The plant hormone auxin is pivotal for root system development. For instance, its local biosynthesis is essential for root formation and growth in the dicotyledon model Arabidopsis. Thus, increasing interference with auxin biosynthesis results in increasingly shorter roots, partly because of reduced cell elongation. In this study, we isolated a hypomorphic mutant in an auxin biosynthesis pathway enzyme in the monocotyledon model Brachypodium. Counterintuitive, this mutant displays a dramatically longer seminal root, because mature cells are thinner, more elongated and therefore more anisotropic than in wild type. Interestingly, this phenotype can be mimicked in wild type by pharmacological interference with production of a key auxin biosynthesis intermediate, but also by interference with the biosynthesis of another plant hormone, ethylene. The latter controls auxin biosynthesis in Arabidopsis roots. Surprisingly however, auxin levels in the Brachypodium mutant are elevated rather than reduced, because of a simultaneous up-regulation of the second, rate-limiting step of the pathway. Ethylene normally represses this second step, suggesting an inverted regulatory relation between the two hormones as compared to Arabidopsis. Our results point to a complex homeostatic crosstalk between auxin and ethylene in Brachypodium roots, which is fundamentally different from Arabidopsis and might be conserved in other monocotyledons.
PMCID: PMC3688705  PMID: 23840182
22.  Yeast Ysl2p, Homologous to Sec7 Domain Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors, Functions in Endocytosis and Maintenance of Vacuole Integrity and Interacts with the Arf-Like Small GTPase Arl1p 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(13):4914-4928.
We previously described the isolation of ysl2-1 due to its genetic interaction with Δypt51/vps21, a mutant with a deletion of the coding sequence for the yeast Rab5 homolog, which regulates endocytic traffic between early and late endosomes. Here we report that Ysl2p is a novel 186.8-kDa peripheral membrane protein homologous to members of the Sec7 family. We provide multiple genetic and biochemical evidence for an interaction between Ysl12p and the Arf-like protein Arl1p, consistent with a potential function as an Arf guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF). The temperature-sensitive alleles ysl2-307 and ysl2-316 are specifically defective in ligand-induced degradation of Ste2p and α-factor and exhibit vacuole fragmentation directly upon a shift to 37°C. In living cells, green fluorescent protein (GFP)-Ysl2p colocalizes with endocytic elements that accumulate FM4-64. The GFP-Ysl2p staining is sensitive to a mutation in VPS27 resulting in the formation of an aberrant class E compartment, but it is not affected by a sec7 mutation. Consistent with the idea that Ysl2p and Arl1p have closely related functions, Δarl1 cells are defective in endocytic transport and in vacuolar protein sorting.
PMCID: PMC133889  PMID: 12052896
23.  The WRKY transcription factor family in Brachypodium distachyon 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:270.
A complete assembled genome sequence of wheat is not yet available. Therefore, model plant systems for wheat are very valuable. Brachypodium distachyon (Brachypodium) is such a system. The WRKY family of transcription factors is one of the most important families of plant transcriptional regulators with members regulating important agronomic traits. Studies of WRKY transcription factors in Brachypodium and wheat therefore promise to lead to new strategies for wheat improvement.
We have identified and manually curated the WRKY transcription factor family from Brachypodium using a pipeline designed to identify all potential WRKY genes. 86 WRKY transcription factors were found, a total higher than all other current databases. We therefore propose that our numbering system (BdWRKY1-BdWRKY86) becomes the standard nomenclature. In the JGI v1.0 assembly of Brachypodium with the MIPS/JGI v1.0 annotation, nine of the transcription factors have no gene model and eleven gene models are probably incorrectly predicted. In total, twenty WRKY transcription factors (23.3%) do not appear to have accurate gene models. To facilitate use of our data, we have produced The Database of Brachypodium distachyon WRKY Transcription Factors. Each WRKY transcription factor has a gene page that includes predicted protein domains from MEME analyses. These conserved protein domains reflect possible input and output domains in signaling. The database also contains a BLAST search function where a large dataset of WRKY transcription factors, published genes, and an extensive set of wheat ESTs can be searched. We also produced a phylogram containing the WRKY transcription factor families from Brachypodium, rice, Arabidopsis, soybean, and Physcomitrella patens, together with published WRKY transcription factors from wheat. This phylogenetic tree provides evidence for orthologues, co-orthologues, and paralogues of Brachypodium WRKY transcription factors.
The description of the WRKY transcription factor family in Brachypodium that we report here provides a framework for functional genomics studies in an important model system. Our database is a resource for both Brachypodium and wheat studies and ultimately projects aimed at improving wheat through manipulation of WRKY transcription factors.
PMCID: PMC3583182  PMID: 22726208
WRKY transcription factor; Brachypodium distachyon; Wheat; Comparative genomics; Database
24.  A Division in PIN-Mediated Auxin Patterning during Organ Initiation in Grasses 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(1):e1003447.
The hormone auxin plays a crucial role in plant morphogenesis. In the shoot apical meristem, the PIN-FORMED1 (PIN1) efflux carrier concentrates auxin into local maxima in the epidermis, which position incipient leaf or floral primordia. From these maxima, PIN1 transports auxin into internal tissues along emergent paths that pattern leaf and stem vasculature. In Arabidopsis thaliana, these functions are attributed to a single PIN1 protein. Using phylogenetic and gene synteny analysis we identified an angiosperm PIN clade sister to PIN1, here termed Sister-of-PIN1 (SoPIN1), which is present in all sampled angiosperms except for Brassicaceae, including Arabidopsis. Additionally, we identified a conserved duplication of PIN1 in the grasses: PIN1a and PIN1b. In Brachypodium distachyon, SoPIN1 is highly expressed in the epidermis and is consistently polarized toward regions of high expression of the DR5 auxin-signaling reporter, which suggests that SoPIN1 functions in the localization of new primordia. In contrast, PIN1a and PIN1b are highly expressed in internal tissues, suggesting a role in vascular patterning. PIN1b is expressed in broad regions spanning the space between new primordia and previously formed vasculature, suggesting a role in connecting new organs to auxin sinks in the older tissues. Within these regions, PIN1a forms narrow canals that likely pattern future veins. Using a computer model, we reproduced the observed spatio-temporal expression and localization patterns of these proteins by assuming that SoPIN1 is polarized up the auxin gradient, and PIN1a and PIN1b are polarized to different degrees with the auxin flux. Our results suggest that examination and modeling of PIN dynamics in plants outside of Brassicaceae will offer insights into auxin-driven patterning obscured by the loss of the SoPIN1 clade in Brassicaceae.
Author Summary
Computational models and functional studies using the plant Arabidopsis thaliana have led to competing models for how the PIN-FORMED1 (PIN1) auxin transporter polarizes in the cell to create both the maxima required for organ initiation and the narrow streams required for vein patterning. Here we identify a previously uncharacterized PIN protein most closely related to PIN1 that is present in all flowering plants but lost in the Brassicaceae, including Arabidopsis. We localized this protein, here termed Sister-of-PIN1 (SoPIN1), along with duplicate members of PIN1 (PIN1a and PIN1b), in two grass species. Our localization data provide striking evidence for a spatial and temporal split between SoPIN1 and the two PIN1s during organ initiation in grasses. Based on our localization results we created a computational model showing that the observed patterns of expression and polarization of the grass PINs can emerge assuming SoPIN1 polarizes up the gradient of auxin concentration while the PIN1 members polarize with the auxin flux. This model reveals a minimal framework of necessary functions involved in auxin-transport-mediated patterning in the shoot and demonstrates that work outside of Arabidopsis is essential to understanding how auxin-transport mediates patterning in most flowering plants.
PMCID: PMC3907294  PMID: 24499933
25.  The family of DOF transcription factors in Brachypodium distachyon: phylogenetic comparison with rice and barley DOFs and expression profiling 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:202.
Transcription factors (TFs) are proteins that have played a central role both in evolution and in domestication, and are major regulators of development in living organisms. Plant genome sequences reveal that approximately 7% of all genes encode putative TFs. The DOF (DNA binding with One Finger) TF family has been associated with vital processes exclusive to higher plants and to their close ancestors (algae, mosses and ferns). These are seed maturation and germination, light-mediated regulation, phytohormone and plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses, etc. In Hordeum vulgare and Oryza sativa, 26 and 30 different Dof genes, respectively, have been annotated. Brachypodium distachyon has been the first Pooideae grass to be sequenced and, due to its genomic, morphological and physiological characteristics, has emerged as the model system for temperate cereals, such as wheat and barley.
Through searches in the B. distachyon genome, 27 Dof genes have been identified and a phylogenetic comparison with the Oryza sativa and the Hordeum vulgare DOFs has been performed. To explore the evolutionary relationship among these DOF proteins, a combined phylogenetic tree has been constructed with the Brachypodium DOFs and those from rice and barley. This phylogenetic analysis has classified the DOF proteins into four Major Cluster of Orthologous Groups (MCOGs). Using RT-qPCR analysis the expression profiles of the annotated BdDof genes across four organs (leaves, roots, spikes and seeds) has been investigated. These results have led to a classification of the BdDof genes into two groups, according to their expression levels. The genes highly or preferentially expressed in seeds have been subjected to a more detailed expression analysis (maturation, dry stage and germination).
Comparison of the expression profiles of the Brachypodium Dof genes with the published functions of closely related DOF sequences from the cereal species considered here, deduced from the phylogenetic analysis, indicates that although the expression profile has been conserved in many of the putative orthologs, in some cases duplication followed by subsequent divergence may have occurred (neo-functionalization).
PMCID: PMC3579746  PMID: 23126376

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