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1.  Deciphering gamma-decalactone biosynthesis in strawberry fruit using a combination of genetic mapping, RNA-Seq and eQTL analyses 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:218.
Understanding the basis for volatile organic compound (VOC) biosynthesis and regulation is of great importance for the genetic improvement of fruit flavor. Lactones constitute an essential group of fatty acid-derived VOCs conferring peach-like aroma to a number of fruits including peach, plum, pineapple and strawberry. Early studies on lactone biosynthesis suggest that several enzymatic pathways could be responsible for the diversity of lactones, but detailed information on them remained elusive. In this study, we have integrated genetic mapping and genome-wide transcriptome analysis to investigate the molecular basis of natural variation in γ-decalactone content in strawberry fruit.
As a result, the fatty acid desaturase FaFAD1 was identified as the gene underlying the locus at LGIII-2 that controls γ-decalactone production in ripening fruit. The FaFAD1 gene is specifically expressed in ripe fruits and its expression fully correlates with the presence of γ-decalactone in all 95 individuals of the mapping population. In addition, we show that the level of expression of FaFAH1, with similarity to cytochrome p450 hydroxylases, significantly correlates with the content of γ-decalactone in the mapping population. The analysis of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) suggests that the product of this gene also has a regulatory role in the biosynthetic pathway of lactones.
Altogether, this study provides mechanistic information of how the production of γ-decalactone is naturally controlled in strawberry, and proposes enzymatic activities necessary for the formation of this VOC in plants.
PMCID: PMC4023230  PMID: 24742100
Aroma; Crop improvement; Desaturase; Flavor; Hydroxylase; Lactone; eQTL
2.  The Strawberry Pathogenesis-related 10 (PR-10) Fra a Proteins Control Flavonoid Biosynthesis by Binding to Metabolic Intermediates* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2013;288(49):35322-35332.
Background: Suppression of Fra a gene expression leads to down-regulation of color-producing flavonoid biosynthesis in strawberry.
Results: Fra proteins can bind natural flavonoids, which induce conformational changes in conserved loop regions.
Conclusion: Fra a proteins control flavonoid biosynthesis through binding to metabolic intermediates.
Significance: PR-10 proteins may play a role in the control of secondary metabolism through binding of metabolites to their ligand-binding cavities.
Pathogenesis-related 10 (PR-10) proteins are involved in many aspects of plant biology but their molecular function is still unclear. They are related by sequence and structural homology to mammalian lipid transport and plant abscisic acid receptor proteins and are predicted to have cavities for ligand binding. Recently, three new members of the PR-10 family, the Fra a proteins, have been identified in strawberry, where they are required for the activity of the flavonoid biosynthesis pathway, which is essential for the development of color and flavor in fruits. Here, we show that Fra a proteins bind natural flavonoids with different selectivity and affinities in the low μm range. The structural analysis of Fra a 1 E and a Fra a 3-catechin complex indicates that loops L3, L5, and L7 surrounding the ligand-binding cavity show significant flexibility in the apo forms but close over the ligand in the Fra a 3-catechin complex. Our findings provide mechanistic insight on the function of Fra a proteins and suggest that PR-10 proteins, which are widespread in plants, may play a role in the control of secondary metabolic pathways by binding to metabolic intermediates.
PMCID: PMC3853281  PMID: 24133217
Crystal Structure; Flavonoids; Plant Biochemistry; Plant Molecular Biology; Secondary Metabolism
3.  Ethylene is involved in strawberry fruit ripening in an organ-specific manner 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;64(14):4421-4439.
The fruit of the strawberry Fragaria×ananassa has traditionally been classified as non-climacteric because its ripening process is not governed by ethylene. However, previous studies have reported the timely endogenous production of minor amounts of ethylene by the fruit as well as the differential expression of genes of the ethylene synthesis, reception, and signalling pathways during fruit development. Mining of the Fragaria vesca genome allowed for the identification of the two main ethylene biosynthetic genes, 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) synthase and ACC oxidase. Their expression pattern during fruit ripening was found to be stage and organ (achene or receptacle) specific. Strawberry plants with altered sensitivity to ethylene could be employed to unravel the role of ethylene in the ripening process of the strawberry fruit. To this end, independent lines of transgenic strawberry plants were generated that overexpress the Arabidopsis etr1-1 mutant ethylene receptor, which is a dominant negative allele, causing diminished sensitivity to ethylene. Genes involved in ethylene perception as well as in its related downstream processes, such as flavonoid biosynthesis, pectin metabolism, and volatile biosynthesis, were differently expressed in two transgenic tissues, the achene and the receptacle. The different transcriptional responsiveness of the achene and the receptacle to ethylene was also revealed by the metabolic profiling of the primary metabolites in these two organs. The free amino acid content was higher in the transgenic lines compared with the control in the mature achene, while glucose and fructose, and citric and malic acids were at lower levels. In the receptacle, the most conspicuous change in the transgenic lines was the depletion of the tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates at the white stage of development, most probably as a consequence of diminished respiration. The results are discussed in the context of the importance of ethylene during strawberry fruit ripening.
PMCID: PMC3808323  PMID: 24098047
Ethylene; fruit; metabolic profiling; non-climacteric; ripening; strawberry.
4.  Genetic and genome-wide transcriptomic analyses identify co-regulation of oxidative response and hormone transcript abundance with vitamin C content in tomato fruit 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:187.
L-ascorbic acid (AsA; vitamin C) is essential for all living plants where it functions as the main hydrosoluble antioxidant. It has diverse roles in the regulation of plant cell growth and expansion, photosynthesis, and hormone-regulated processes. AsA is also an essential component of the human diet, being tomato fruit one of the main sources of this vitamin. To identify genes responsible for AsA content in tomato fruit, transcriptomic studies followed by clustering analysis were applied to two groups of fruits with contrasting AsA content. These fruits were identified after AsA profiling of an F8 Recombinant Inbred Line (RIL) population generated from a cross between the domesticated species Solanum lycopersicum and the wild relative Solanum pimpinellifollium.
We found large variability in AsA content within the RIL population with individual RILs with up to 4-fold difference in AsA content. Transcriptomic analysis identified genes whose expression correlated either positively (PVC genes) or negatively (NVC genes) with the AsA content of the fruits. Cluster analysis using SOTA allowed the identification of subsets of co-regulated genes mainly involved in hormones signaling, such as ethylene, ABA, gibberellin and auxin, rather than any of the known AsA biosynthetic genes. Data mining of the corresponding PVC and NVC orthologs in Arabidopis databases identified flagellin and other ROS-producing processes as cues resulting in differential regulation of a high percentage of the genes from both groups of co-regulated genes; more specifically, 26.6% of the orthologous PVC genes, and 15.5% of the orthologous NVC genes were induced and repressed, respectively, under flagellin22 treatment in Arabidopsis thaliana.
Results here reported indicate that the content of AsA in red tomato fruit from our selected RILs are not correlated with the expression of genes involved in its biosynthesis. On the contrary, the data presented here supports that AsA content in tomato fruit co-regulates with genes involved in hormone signaling and they are dependent on the oxidative status of the fruit.
PMCID: PMC3462723  PMID: 22583865
5.  Golgi Apparatus-Localized Synaptotagmin 2 Is Required for Unconventional Secretion in Arabidopsis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26477.
Most secretory proteins contain signal peptides that direct their sorting to the ER and secreted via the conventional ER/Golgi transport pathway, while some signal-peptide-lacking proteins have been shown to export through ER/Golgi independent secretory pathways. Hygromycin B is an aminoglycoside antibiotic produced by Streptomyces hygroscopicus that is active against both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. The hygromycin phosphotransferase (HYGR) can phosphorylate and inactivate the hygromycin B, and has been widely used as a positive selective marker in the construction of transgenic plants. However, the localization and trafficking of HYGR in plant cells remain unknown. Synaptotagmins (SYTs) are involved in controlling vesicle endocytosis and exocytosis as calcium sensors in animal cells, while their functions in plant cells are largely unclear.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We found Arabidopsis synaptotagmin SYT2 was localized on the Golgi apparatus by immunofluorescence and immunogold labeling. Surprisingly, co-expression of SYT2 and HYGR caused hypersensitivity of the transgenic Arabidopsis plants to hygromycin B. HYGR, which lacks a signal sequence, was present in the cytoplasm as well as in the extracellular space in HYGR-GFP transgenic Arabidopsis plants and its secretion is not sensitive to brefeldin A treatment, suggesting it is not secreted via the conventional secretory pathway. Furthermore, we found that HYGR-GFP was truncated at carboxyl terminus of HYGR shortly after its synthesis, and the cells deficient SYT2 failed to efficiently truncate HYGR-GFP,resulting in HYGR-GFP accumulated in prevacuoles/vacuoles, indicating that SYT2 was involved in HYGR-GFP trafficking and secretion.
These findings reveal for the first time that SYT2 is localized on the Golgi apparatus and regulates HYGR-GFP secretion via the unconventional protein transport from the cytosol to the extracelluar matrix in plant cells.
PMCID: PMC3225361  PMID: 22140429
6.  Regulation of L-ascorbic acid content in strawberry fruits 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;62(12):4191-4201.
Plants have several L-ascorbic acid (AsA) biosynthetic pathways, but the contribution of each one to the synthesis of AsA varyies between different species, organs, and developmental stages. Strawberry (Fragaria×ananassa) fruits are rich in AsA. The pathway that uses D-galacturonate as the initial substrate is functional in ripe fruits, but the contribution of other pathways to AsA biosynthesis has not been studied. The transcription of genes encoding biosynthetic enzymes such as D-galacturonate reductase (FaGalUR) and myo-inositol oxygenase (FaMIOX), and the AsA recycling enzyme monodehydroascorbate reductase (FaMDHAR) were positively correlated with the increase in AsA during fruit ripening. Fruit storage for 72 h in a cold room reduced the AsA content by 30%. Under an ozone atmosphere, this reduction was 15%. Ozone treatment increased the expression of the FaGalUR, FaMIOX, and L-galactose-1-phosphate phosphatase (FaGIPP) genes, and transcription of the L-galactono-1,4-lactone dehydrogenase (FaGLDH) and FAMDHAR genes was higher in the ozone-stored than in the air-stored fruits. Analysis of AsA content in a segregating population from two strawberry cultivars showed high variability, which did not correlate with the transcription of any of the genes studied. Study of GalUR protein in diverse cultivars of strawberry and different Fragaria species showed that a correlation between GalUR and AsA content was apparent in most cases, but it was not general. Three alleles were identified in strawberry, but any sequence effect on the AsA variability was eliminated by analysis of the allele-specific expression. Taken together, these results indicate that FaGalUR shares the control of AsA levels with other enzymes and regulatory elements in strawberry fruit.
PMCID: PMC3153677  PMID: 21561953
L-Ascorbic acid; D-galacturonic acid reductase; fruit ripening; gene expression; strawberry; oxidative stress
7.  Generation and analysis of ESTs from strawberry (Fragaria xananassa) fruits and evaluation of their utility in genetic and molecular studies 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:503.
Cultivated strawberry is a hybrid octoploid species (Fragaria xananassa Duchesne ex. Rozier) whose fruit is highly appreciated due to its organoleptic properties and health benefits. Despite recent studies on the control of its growth and ripening processes, information about the role played by different hormones on these processes remains elusive. Further advancement of this knowledge is hampered by the limited sequence information on genes from this species, despite the abundant information available on genes from the wild diploid relative Fragaria vesca. However, the diploid species, or one ancestor, only partially contributes to the genome of the cultivated octoploid. We have produced a collection of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from different cDNA libraries prepared from different fruit parts and developmental stages. The collection has been analysed and the sequence information used to explore the involvement of different hormones in fruit developmental processes, and for the comparison of transcripts in the receptacle of ripe fruits of diploid and octoploid species. The study is particularly important since the commercial fruit is indeed an enlarged flower receptacle with the true fruits, the achenes, on the surface and connected through a network of vascular vessels to the central pith.
We have sequenced over 4,500 ESTs from Fragaria xananassa, thus doubling the number of ESTs available in the GenBank of this species. We then assembled this information together with that available from F. xananassa resulting a total of 7,096 unigenes. The identification of SSRs and SNPs in many of the ESTs allowed their conversion into functional molecular markers. The availability of libraries prepared from green growing fruits has allowed the cloning of cDNAs encoding for genes of auxin, ethylene and brassinosteroid signalling processes, followed by expression studies in selected fruit parts and developmental stages. In addition, the sequence information generated in the project, jointly with previous information on sequences from both F. xananassa and F. vesca, has allowed designing an oligo-based microarray that has been used to compare the transcriptome of the ripe receptacle of the diploid and octoploid species. Comparison of the transcriptomes, grouping the genes by biological processes, points to differences being quantitative rather than qualitative.
The present study generates essential knowledge and molecular tools that will be useful in improving investigations at the molecular level in cultivated strawberry (F. xananassa). This knowledge is likely to provide useful resources in the ongoing breeding programs. The sequence information has already allowed the development of molecular markers that have been applied to germplasm characterization and could be eventually used in QTL analysis. Massive transcription analysis can be of utility to target specific genes to be further studied, by their involvement in the different plant developmental processes.
PMCID: PMC2996999  PMID: 20849591
8.  Analysis of the arabidopsis dry2/sqe1-5 mutant suggests a role for sterols in signaling 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2009;4(9):873-874.
Sterols play multi-faceted roles in all eukaryotes. In plants, there are mounting evidences pointing to sterols, other than BRs, can act as signaling molecules. The Arabidopsis dry2/sqe1-5 mutant has multiple developmental defects caused by a point mutation in the SQE1 gene that generates a hypomorphic allele. SQE1 encodes a squalene epoxidase, which converts squalene into 2,3-oxidosqualene the precursor of plant sterols. Genetic, molecular and biochemical analyses suggest that dry2/sqe1-5 defective phenotypes cannot be simply explained by a depletion of bulk sterols but rather by altered ROS. It remains to be elucidated whether the altered ROS production of the mutant is caused by membrane composition, which in turn affect the lipid rafts composition and/or an altered signaling.
PMCID: PMC2802798  PMID: 19847116
sterol; signaling; squalene epoxidase; dry2/sqe1-5; reactive oxygen species; arabidopsis
9.  TPR Proteins in Plant Hormone Signaling 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2006;1(5):229-230.
There is a large number of proteins in nature containing Tetratrico Peptide Repeats (TPRs). TPR motifs are defined as a protein-protein interaction module involved in regulation of different cellular functions. We have recently identified TTL1 as a protein containing TPR motifs required for abscisic acid responses and osmotic stress tolerance. In recent years several of these proteins have been found to be essential for responses to other hormones such ethylene, cytokinin, gibberelling and auxin in Arabidopsis. Thus, proteins containing TPRs are emerging as essential determinants for signal transduction pathways mediated by most plant hormones.
PMCID: PMC2634123  PMID: 19704665
tetratricopeptide repeat; TPR domain; hormone signaling; TTL1; ABA; osmotic stress
10.  The Tomato Sequencing Project, the First Cornerstone of the International Solanaceae Project (SOL) 
The genome of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is being sequenced by an international consortium of 10 countries (Korea, China, the United Kingdom, India, The Netherlands, France, Japan, Spain, Italy and the United States) as part of a larger initiative called the ‘International Solanaceae Genome Project (SOL): Systems Approach to Diversity and Adaptation’. The goal of this grassroots initiative, launched in November 2003, is to establish a network of information, resources and scientists to ultimately tackle two of the most significant questions in plant biology and agriculture: (1) How can a common set of genes/proteins give rise to a wide range of morphologically and ecologically distinct organisms that occupy our planet? (2) How can a deeper understanding of the genetic basis of plant diversity be harnessed to better meet the needs of society in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner? The Solanaceae and closely related species such as coffee, which are included in the scope of the SOL project, are ideally suited to address both of these questions. The first step of the SOL project is to use an ordered BAC approach to generate a high quality sequence for the euchromatic portions of the tomato as a reference for the Solanaceae. Due to the high level of macro and micro-synteny in the Solanaceae the BAC-by-BAC tomato sequence will form the framework for shotgun sequencing of other species. The starting point for sequencing the genome is BACs anchored to the genetic map by overgo hybridization and AFLP technology. The overgos are derived from approximately 1500 markers from the tomato high density F2-2000 genetic map ( These seed BACs will be used as anchors from which to radiate the tiling path using BAC end sequence data. Annotation will be performed according to SOL project guidelines. All the information generated under the SOL umbrella will be made available in a comprehensive website. The information will be interlinked with the ultimate goal that the comparative biology of the Solanaceae—and beyond—achieves a context that will facilitate a systems biology approach.
PMCID: PMC2447522  PMID: 18629226

Results 1-10 (10)