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1.  Developmentally distinct activities of the exocyst enable rapid cell elongation and determine meristem size during primary root growth in Arabidopsis 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14(1):386.
Exocytosis is integral to root growth: trafficking components of systems that control growth (e.g., PIN auxin transport proteins) to the plasma membrane, and secreting materials that expand the cell wall to the apoplast. Spatiotemporal regulation of exocytosis in eukaryotes often involves the exocyst, an octameric complex that tethers selected secretory vesicles to specific sites on the plasma membrane and facilitates their exocytosis. We evaluated Arabidopsis lines with mutations in four exocyst components (SEC5, SEC8, EXO70A1 and EXO84B) to explore exocyst function in primary root growth.
The mutants have root growth rates that are 82% to 11% of wild-type. Even in lines with the most severe defects, the organization of the quiescent center and tissue layers at the root tips appears similar to wild-type, although meristematic, transition, and elongation zones are shorter. Reduced cell production rates in the mutants are due to the shorter meristems, but not to lengthened cell cycles. Additionally, mutants demonstrate reduced anisotropic cell expansion in the elongation zone, but not the meristematic zone, resulting in shorter mature cells that are similar in shape to wild-type. As expected, hypersensitivity to brefeldin A links the mutant root growth defect to altered vesicular trafficking. Several experimental approaches (e.g., dose–response measurements, localization of signaling components) failed to identify aberrant auxin or brassinosteroid signaling as a primary driver for reduced root growth in exocyst mutants.
The exocyst participates in two spatially distinct developmental processes, apparently by mechanisms not directly linked to auxin or brassinosteroid signaling pathways, to help establish root meristem size, and to facilitate rapid cell expansion in the elongation zone.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0386-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302519  PMID: 25551204
Exocyst; Root growth; Meristem; Cell expansion; Auxin; Brassinosteroid
2.  Discovery of novel transcripts and gametophytic functions via RNA-seq analysis of maize gametophytic transcriptomes 
Genome Biology  2014;15(7):414.
Plant gametophytes play central roles in sexual reproduction. A hallmark of the plant life cycle is that gene expression is required in the haploid gametophytes. Consequently, many mutant phenotypes are expressed in this phase.
We perform a quantitative RNA-seq analysis of embryo sacs, comparator ovules with the embryo sacs removed, mature pollen, and seedlings to assist the identification of gametophyte functions in maize. Expression levels were determined for annotated genes in both gametophytes, and novel transcripts were identified from de novo assembly of RNA-seq reads. Transposon-related transcripts are present in high levels in both gametophytes, suggesting a connection between gamete production and transposon expression in maize not previously identified in any female gametophytes. Two classes of small signaling proteins and several transcription factor gene families are enriched in gametophyte transcriptomes. Expression patterns of maize genes with duplicates in subgenome 1 and subgenome 2 indicate that pollen-expressed genes in subgenome 2 are retained at a higher rate than subgenome 2 genes with other expression patterns. Analysis of available insertion mutant collections shows a statistically significant deficit in insertions in gametophyte-expressed genes.
This analysis, the first RNA-seq study to compare both gametophytes in a monocot, identifies maize gametophyte functions, gametophyte expression of transposon-related sequences, and unannotated, novel transcripts. Reduced recovery of mutations in gametophyte-expressed genes is supporting evidence for their function in the gametophytes. Expression patterns of extant, duplicated maize genes reveals that selective pressures based on male gametophytic function have likely had a disproportionate effect on plant genomes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13059-014-0414-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4309534  PMID: 25084966
3.  Dissecting a Hidden Gene Duplication: The Arabidopsis thaliana SEC10 Locus 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94077.
Repetitive sequences present a challenge for genome sequence assembly, and highly similar segmental duplications may disappear from assembled genome sequences. Having found a surprising lack of observable phenotypic deviations and non-Mendelian segregation in Arabidopsis thaliana mutants in SEC10, a gene encoding a core subunit of the exocyst tethering complex, we examined whether this could be explained by a hidden gene duplication. Re-sequencing and manual assembly of the Arabidopsis thaliana SEC10 (At5g12370) locus revealed that this locus, comprising a single gene in the reference genome assembly, indeed contains two paralogous genes in tandem, SEC10a and SEC10b, and that a sequence segment of 7 kb in length is missing from the reference genome sequence. Differences between the two paralogs are concentrated in non-coding regions, while the predicted protein sequences exhibit 99% identity, differing only by substitution of five amino acid residues and an indel of four residues. Both SEC10 genes are expressed, although varying transcript levels suggest differential regulation. Homozygous T-DNA insertion mutants in either paralog exhibit a wild-type phenotype, consistent with proposed extensive functional redundancy of the two genes. By these observations we demonstrate that recently duplicated genes may remain hidden even in well-characterized genomes, such as that of A. thaliana. Moreover, we show that the use of the existing A. thaliana reference genome sequence as a guide for sequence assembly of new Arabidopsis accessions or related species has at least in some cases led to error propagation.
PMCID: PMC3984084  PMID: 24728280
4.  Genome-wide discovery and characterization of maize long non-coding RNAs 
Genome Biology  2014;15(2):R40.
Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are transcripts that are 200 bp or longer, do not encode proteins, and potentially play important roles in eukaryotic gene regulation. However, the number, characteristics and expression inheritance pattern of lncRNAs in maize are still largely unknown.
By exploiting available public EST databases, maize whole genome sequence annotation and RNA-seq datasets from 30 different experiments, we identified 20,163 putative lncRNAs. Of these lncRNAs, more than 90% are predicted to be the precursors of small RNAs, while 1,704 are considered to be high-confidence lncRNAs. High confidence lncRNAs have an average transcript length of 463 bp and genes encoding them contain fewer exons than annotated genes. By analyzing the expression pattern of these lncRNAs in 13 distinct tissues and 105 maize recombinant inbred lines, we show that more than 50% of the high confidence lncRNAs are expressed in a tissue-specific manner, a result that is supported by epigenetic marks. Intriguingly, the inheritance of lncRNA expression patterns in 105 recombinant inbred lines reveals apparent transgressive segregation, and maize lncRNAs are less affected by cis- than by trans-genetic factors.
We integrate all available transcriptomic datasets to identify a comprehensive set of maize lncRNAs, provide a unique annotation resource of the maize genome and a genome-wide characterization of maize lncRNAs, and explore the genetic control of their expression using expression quantitative trait locus mapping.
PMCID: PMC4053991  PMID: 24576388
5.  Arabidopsis Myosin XI-K Localizes to the Motile Endomembrane Vesicles Associated with F-actin 
Plant myosins XI were implicated in cell growth, F-actin organization, and organelle transport, with myosin XI-K being a critical contributor to each of these processes. However, subcellular localization of myosins and the identity of their principal cargoes remain poorly understood. Here, we generated a functionally competent, fluorescent protein-tagged, myosin XI-K, and investigated its spatial distribution within Arabidopsis cells. This myosin was found to associate primarily not with larger organelles (e.g., Golgi) as was broadly assumed, but with endomembrane vesicles trafficking along F-actin. Subcellular localization and fractionation experiments indicated that the nature of myosin-associated vesicles is organ- and cell type-specific. In leaves, a large proportion of these vesicles aligned and co-fractionated with a motile endoplasmic reticulum (ER) subdomain. In roots, non-ER vesicles were a dominant myosin cargo. Myosin XI-K showed a striking polar localization at the tips of growing, but not mature, root hairs. These results strongly suggest that a major mechanism whereby myosins contribute to plant cell physiology is vesicle transport, and that this activity can be regulated depending on the growth phase of a cell.
PMCID: PMC3432474  PMID: 22969781
Arabidopsis; myosin XI; filamentous actin; endomembrane vesicles; transport vesicles

Results 1-5 (5)