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1.  Myo-inositol oxygenase is important for the removal of excess myo-inositol from syncytia induced by Heterodera schachtii in Arabidopsis roots 
The New Phytologist  2013;201(2):476-485.
The enzyme myo-inositol oxygenase is the key enzyme of a pathway leading from myo-inositol to UDP-glucuronic acid. In Arabidopsis, myo-inositol oxygenase is encoded by four genes. All genes are strongly expressed in syncytia induced by the beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii in Arabidopsis roots. Here, we studied the effect of a quadruple myo-inositol oxygenase mutant on nematode development. We performed metabolite profiling of syncytia induced in roots of the myo-inositol oxygenase quadruple mutant. The role of galactinol in syncytia was studied using Arabidopsis lines with elevated galactinol levels and by supplying galactinol to wild-type seedlings. The quadruple myo-inositol oxygenase mutant showed a significant reduction in susceptibility to H. schachtii, and syncytia had elevated myo-inositol and galactinol levels and an elevated expression level of the antimicrobial thionin gene Thi2.1. This reduction in susceptibility could also be achieved by exogenous application of galactinol to wild-type seedlings. The primary function of myo-inositol oxygenase for syncytium development is probably not the production of UDP-glucuronic acid as a precursor for cell wall polysaccharides, but the reduction of myo-inositol levels and thereby a reduction in the galactinol level to avoid the induction of defence-related genes.
PMCID: PMC4285123  PMID: 24117492
Arabidopsis; ascorbic acid; galactinol; Heterodera schachtii; myo-inositol oxygenase; roots; syncytium
2.  Self-processing of a barley subtilase expressed in E. coli 
Protein Expression and Purification  2014;101(100):76-83.
•The barley subtilase BAJ93208 has been expressed in the cytoplasm of E. coli C3030.•Self processing occurred at the N and C-terminus.•The Ser556Ala mutant was inactive and showed no self processing.
The barley protease BAJ93208 belongs to the subtilase family of serine proteases. We have expressed BAJ93208 in the cytoplasm of the Escherichiacoli strain SHuffle C3030 using a rhamnose-inducible promoter. The expression construct included a (His)6-tag at the N-terminus and a strep-tag at the C-terminus. Western blot analysis revealed that the protein was processed at the N- and C-terminus. To exclude that this processing was due to contaminating E. coli proteases, a mutated BAJ93208 protease was constructed. This inactive mutant was not processed, demonstrating that the processing was an autocatalytic process. To define the exact cleavage sites mass spectrometry was used which detected four differently processed versions of the protease. At the N-terminus, the self-processing removed the internal inhibitor and an additional 19 amino acids. At the C-terminus there was a cleavage site after Ala765 which also removed the strep-tag. This explained the inability to detect the purified (His)6-BAJ93208-strep protease with an anti-strep-tag antibody. Finally, an additional alanine was removed either at the N-terminus (Ala119) or at the C-terminus (Ala764).
PMCID: PMC4148201  PMID: 24927642
Thionin; Subtilase; Proprotein
3.  The Beet Cyst Nematode Heterodera schachtii Modulates the Expression of WRKY Transcription Factors in Syncytia to Favour Its Development in Arabidopsis Roots 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102360.
Cyst nematodes invade the roots of their host plants as second stage juveniles and induce a syncytium which is the only source of nutrients throughout their life. A recent transcriptome analysis of syncytia induced by the beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii in Arabidopsis roots has shown that thousands of genes are up-regulated or down-regulated in syncytia as compared to root segments from uninfected plants. Among the down-regulated genes are many which code for WRKY transcription factors. Arabidopsis contains 66 WRKY genes with 59 represented by the ATH1 GeneChip. Of these, 28 were significantly down-regulated and 6 up-regulated in syncytia as compared to control root segments. We have studied here the down-regulated genes WRKY6, WRKY11, WRKY17 and WRKY33 in detail. We confirmed the down-regulation in syncytia with promoter::GUS lines. Using various overexpression lines and mutants it was shown that the down-regulation of these WRKY genes is important for nematode development, probably through interfering with plant defense reactions. In case of WRKY33, this might involve the production of the phytoalexin camalexin.
PMCID: PMC4102525  PMID: 25033038
4.  The plant cell wall in the feeding sites of cyst nematodes 
Plant parasitic cyst nematodes (genera Heterodera and Globodera) are serious pests for many crops. They enter the host roots as migratory second stage juveniles (J2) and migrate intracellularly toward the vascular cylinder using their stylet and a set of cell wall degrading enzymes produced in the pharyngeal glands. They select an initial syncytial cell (ISC) within the vascular cylinder or inner cortex layers to induce the formation of a multicellular feeding site called a syncytium, which is the only source of nutrients for the parasite during its entire life. A syncytium can consist of more than hundred cells whose protoplasts are fused together through local cell wall dissolutions. While the nematode produces a cocktail of cell wall degrading and modifying enzymes during migration through the root, the cell wall degradations occurring during syncytium development are due to the plants own cell wall modifying and degrading proteins. The outer syncytial cell wall thickens to withstand the increasing osmotic pressure inside the syncytium. Furthermore, pronounced cell wall ingrowths can be formed on the outer syncytial wall at the interface with xylem vessels. They increase the surface of the symplast-apoplast interface, thus enhancing nutrient uptake into the syncytium. Processes of cell wall degradation, synthesis and modification in the syncytium are facilitated by a variety of plant proteins and enzymes including expansins, glucanases, pectate lyases and cellulose synthases, which are produced inside the syncytium or in cells surrounding the syncytium.
PMCID: PMC3958752  PMID: 24678316
cell wall ingrowths; cell wall openings; cyst nematodes; feeding site; syncytium
5.  The AAP gene family for amino acid permeases contributes to development of the cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii in roots of Arabidopsis☆ 
Plant Physiology and Biochemistry  2013;70(100):379-386.
The beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii is able to infect Arabidopsis plants and induce feeding sites in the root. These syncytia are the only source of nutrients for the nematodes throughout their life and are a nutrient sink for the host plant. We have studied here the role of amino acid transporters for nematode development. Arabidopsis contains a large number of different amino acid transporters in several gene families but those of the AAP family were found to be especially expressed in syncytia. Arabidopsis contains 8 AAP genes and they were all strongly expressed in syncytia with the exception of AAP5 and AAP7, which were slightly downregulated. We used promoter::GUS lines and in situ RT-PCR to confirm the expression of several AAP genes and LHT1, a lysine- and histidine-specific amino acid transporter, in syncytia. The strong expression of AAP genes in syncytia indicated that these transporters are important for the transport of amino acids into syncytia and we used T-DNA mutants for several AAP genes to test for their influence on nematode development. We found that mutants of AAP1, AAP2, and AAP8 significantly reduced the number of female nematodes developing on these plants. Our study showed that amino acid transport into syncytia is important for the development of the nematodes.
•Arabidopsis AAP genes for amino acid permeases are strongly expressed in syncytia.•Mutants of AAP1, AAP2, and AAP8 reduced the number of developing female nematodes.•Amino acid transport into syncytia is important for the development of the nematodes.
PMCID: PMC3737465  PMID: 23831821
Amino acid transporter; Syncytium; Heterodera schachtii; Arabidopsis; Roots
6.  Comparison of Expression Vectors for Transient Expression of Recombinant Proteins in Plants 
Production of recombinant proteins in plants is of increasing importance for practical applications. However, the production of stable transformed transgenic plants is a lengthy procedure. Transient expression, on the other hand, can deliver recombinant proteins within a week, and many viral vectors have been constructed for that purpose. Each of them is reported to be highly efficient, robust and cost-effective. Here, a variety of expression vectors which were designed for transient and stable plant transformation, including pPZP3425, pPZP5025, pPZPTRBO, pJLTRBO, pEAQ-HT and pBY030-2R, was compared for the expression of green fluorescent protein and β-glucuronidase in Nicotiana benthamiana by Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression. Our results show that pPZPTRBO, pJLTRBO and pEAQ-HT had comparable expression levels without co-infiltration of a RNA-silencing inhibitor. The other vectors, including the non-viral vectors pPZP5025 and pPZP3425, needed co-infiltration of the RNA-silencing inhibitor P19 to give good expression levels.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11105-013-0614-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3881577  PMID: 24415845
Transient expression; Recombinant protein; Agroinfiltration; Viral vector; pPZP vector family
7.  Comparison of periplasmic and intracellular expression of Arabidopsis thionin proproteins in E. coli 
Biotechnology Letters  2013;35(7):1085-1091.
Thionins are antimicrobial plant peptides produced as preproproteins consisting of a signal peptide, the thionin domain, and a so-called acidic domain. Only thionin itself has been isolated from plants. To study the processing of the precursor, it has to be produced in a heterologous system. Since both domains contain several cysteines and, due to the known antimicrobial activity of the thionin, we tested the expression of all four Arabidopsis proproteins as fusion proteins. Periplasmic expression as fusion with maltose binding protein was not successful but cytoplasmic expression as His-tagged TRX fusion proteins with a TEV recognition sequence resulted in proteins of correct size. Use of the SHuffle strain C3030 further improved the expression. Fusion proteins inhibited growth of Escherichia coli. They could be cleaved by TEV protease, releasing authentic proproteins without any additional amino acid at the N-terminus.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10529-013-1180-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3677976  PMID: 23515894
Fusion protein; His-tag; Maltose-binding protein; Tobacco etch virus; Thionin; Thioredoxin
8.  Overexpression of the transcription factor RAP2.6 leads to enhanced callose deposition in syncytia and enhanced resistance against the beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii in Arabidopsis roots 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:47.
Cyst nematodes invade the roots of their host plants as second stage juveniles and induce a syncytium which is their source of nutrients throughout their life. A transcriptome analysis of syncytia induced by the beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii in Arabidopsis roots has shown that gene expression in the syncytium is different from that of the root with thousands of genes upregulated or downregulated. Among the downregulated genes are many which code for defense-related proteins. One gene which is strongly downregulated codes for the ethylene response transcription factor RAP2.6. The genome of Arabidopsis contains 122 ERF transcription factor genes which are involved in a variety of developmental and stress responses.
Expression of RAP2.6 was studied with RT-PCR and a promoter::GUS line. During normal growth conditions the gene was expressed especially in roots and stems. It was inducible by Pseudomonas syringae but downregulated in syncytia from a very early time point on. Overexpression of the gene enhanced the resistance against H. schachtii which was seen by a lower number of nematodes developing on these plants as well as smaller syncytia and smaller female nematodes. A T-DNA mutant had a reduced RAP2.6 transcript level but this did not further increase the susceptibility against H. schachtii. Neither overexpression lines nor mutants had an effect on P. syringae. Overexpression of RAP2.6 led to an elevated expression of JA-responsive genes during early time points after infection by H. schachtii. Syncytia developing on overexpression lines showed enhanced deposition of callose.
Our results showed that H. schachtii infection is accompanied by a downregulation of RAP2.6. It seems likely that the nematodes use effectors to actively downregulate the expression of this and other defense-related genes to avoid resistance responses of the host plant. Enhanced resistance of RAP2.6 overexpression lines seemed to be due to enhanced callose deposition at syncytia which might interfere with nutrient import into syncytia.
PMCID: PMC3623832  PMID: 23510309
9.  Cell Wall Ingrowths in Nematode Induced Syncytia Require UGD2 and UGD3 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41515.
The cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii infects roots of Arabidopsis plants and establishes feeding sites called syncytia, which are the only nutrient source for nematodes. Development of syncytia is accompanied by changes in cell wall structures including the development of cell wall ingrowths. UDP-glucuronic acid is a precursor of several cell wall polysaccharides and can be produced by UDP-glucose dehydrogenase through oxidation of UDP-glucose. Four genes in Arabidopsis encode this enzyme. Promoter::GUS analysis revealed that UGD2 and UGD3 were expressed in syncytia as early as 1 dpi while expression of UGD1 and UGD4 could only be detected starting at 2 dpi. Infection assays showed no differences between Δugd1 and Δugd4 single mutants and wild type plants concerning numbers of males and females and the size of syncytia and cysts. On single mutants of Δugd2 and Δugd3, however, less and smaller females, and smaller syncytia formed compared to wild type plants. The double mutant ΔΔugd23 had a stronger effect than the single mutants. These data indicate that UGD2 and UGD3 but not UGD1 and UGD4 are important for syncytium development. We therefore studied the ultrastructure of syncytia in the ΔΔugd23 double mutant. Syncytia contained an electron translucent cytoplasm with degenerated cellular organelles and numerous small vacuoles instead of the dense cytoplasm as in syncytia developing in wild type roots. Typical cell wall ingrowths were missing in the ΔΔugd23 double mutant. Therefore we conclude that UGD2 and UGD3 are needed for the production of cell wall ingrowths in syncytia and that their lack leads to a reduced host suitability for H. schachtii resulting in smaller syncytia, lower number of developing nematodes, and smaller females.
PMCID: PMC3406070  PMID: 22848518
10.  pMAA-Red: a new pPZP-derived vector for fast visual screening of transgenic Arabidopsis plants at the seed stage 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:37.
The production of transgenic plants, either for the overproduction of the protein of interest, for promoter: reporter lines, or for the downregulation of genes is an important prerequisite in modern plant research but is also very time-consuming.
We have produced additions to the pPZP family of vectors. Vector pPZP500 (derived from pPZP200) is devoid of NotI sites and vector pPZP600 (derived from pPZP500) contains a bacterial kanamycin resistance gene. Vector pMAA-Red contains a Pdf2.1: DsRed marker and a CaMV:: GUS cassette within the T-DNA and is useful for the production of promoter: GUS lines and overexpression lines. The Pdf2.1 promoter is expressed in seeds and syncytia induced by the beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachti in Arabidopsis roots. Transgenic seeds show red fluorescence which can be used for selection and the fluorescence level is indicative of the expression level of the transgene. The advantage is that plants can be grown on soil and that expression of the marker can be directly screened at the seed stage which saves time and resources. Due to the expression of the Pdf2.1: DsRed marker in syncytia, the vector is especially useful for the expression of a gene of interest in syncytia.
The vector pMAA-Red allows for fast and easy production of transgenic Arabidopsis plants with a strong expression level of the gene of interest.
PMCID: PMC3478159  PMID: 22747516
Transient expression; pPZP family vectors; Marker gene; Agroinfiltration; DsRed; Agrobacterium; Arabidopsis transformation
11.  The promoter of a plant defensin gene directs specific expression in nematode-induced syncytia in Arabidopsis roots 
Plant Physiology and Biochemistry  2011;49(10):1100-1107.
The beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii induces a feeding site, called syncytium, in roots of host plants. In Arabidopsis, one of the genes whose expression is strongly induced in these structures is Pdf2.1 which codes for an antimicrobial plant defensin. Arabidopsis has 13 plant defensin genes. Besides Pdf2.1, the Pdf2.2 and Pdf2.3 genes were strongly expressed in syncytia and therefore the expression of all three Pdf genes was studied in detail. The promoter of the Pdf2.1 gene turned out to be an interesting candidate to drive a syncytium-specific expression of foreign genes as RT-PCR showed that apart from the feeding site it was only expressed in siliques (seeds). The Pdf2.2 and Pdf2.3 genes were in addition expressed in seedlings, roots, leaves, stems, and flowers. These results were supported by the analysis of promoter::GUS lines. After infection with H. schachtii all GUS lines showed a strong staining in syncytia at 5 and 15 dpi. This expression pattern was confirmed by in situ RT-PCR.
► 3 plant defensin genes are strongly expressed in syncytia. ► Pdf2.1 is expressed in syncytia and seeds. ► The Pdf2.1 promoter is useful for the expression of foreign genes in syncytia.
PMCID: PMC3185291  PMID: 21813283
Plant defensin; Antimicrobial peptide; Syncytium; Heterodera schachtii; Arabidopsis; Roots; Dpi, days post infection
12.  Diversity and activity of sugar transporters in nematode-induced root syncytia 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2009;60(11):3085-3095.
The plant-parasitic nematode Heterodera schachtii stimulates plant root cells to form syncytial feeding structures which synthesize all nutrients required for successful nematode development. Cellular re-arrangements and modified metabolism of the syncytia are accompanied by massive intra- and intercellular solute allocations. In this study the expression of all genes annotated as sugar transporters in the Arabidopsis Membrane Protein Library was investigated by Affymetrix gene chip analysis in young and fully developed syncytia compared with non-infected Arabidopsis thaliana roots. The expression of three highly up-regulated (STP12, MEX1, and GTP2) and three highly down-regulated genes (SFP1, STP7, and STP4) was analysed by quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR). The most up-regulated gene (STP12) was chosen for further in-depth studies using in situ RT-PCR and a nematode development assay with a T-DNA insertion line revealing a significant reduction of male nematode development. The specific role of STP12 expression in syncytia of male juveniles compared with those of female juveniles was further shown by qRT-PCR. In order to provide evidence for sugar transporter activity across the plasma membrane of syncytia, fluorescence-labelled glucose was used and membrane potential recordings following the application of several sugars were performed. Analyses of soluble sugar pools revealed a highly specific composition in syncytia. The presented work demonstrates that sugar transporters are specifically expressed and active in syncytia, indicating a profound role in inter- and intracelluar transport processes.
PMCID: PMC2718214  PMID: 19487386
Electrophysiology; gene chip; Heterodera schachtii; in situ RT-PCR; sugar transporter; syncytium
13.  The transcriptome of syncytia induced by the cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii in Arabidopsis roots 
The Plant Journal   2008;57(5):771-784.
Arabidopsis thaliana is a host for the sugar beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii. Juvenile nematodes invade the roots and induce the development of a syncytium, which functions as a feeding site for the nematode. Here, we report on the transcriptome of syncytia induced in the roots of Arabidopsis. Microaspiration was employed to harvest pure syncytium material, which was then used to prepare RNA for hybridization to Affymetrix GeneChips. Initial data analysis showed that the gene expression in syncytia at 5 and 15 days post-infection did not differ greatly, and so both time points were compared together with control roots. Out of a total of 21 138 genes, 18.4% (3893) had a higher expression level and 15.8% (3338) had a lower expression level in syncytia, as compared with control roots, using a multiple-testing corrected false discovery rate of below 5%. A gene ontology (GO) analysis of up- and downregulated genes showed that categories related to high metabolic activity were preferentially upregulated. A principal component analysis was applied to compare the transcriptome of syncytia with the transcriptome of different Arabidopsis organs (obtained by the AtGenExpress project), and with specific root tissues. This analysis revealed that syncytia are transcriptionally clearly different from roots (and all other organs), as well as from other root tissues.
PMCID: PMC2667683  PMID: 18980640
Arabidopsis; plant pathogen; Heterodera schachtii; syncytium; transcriptome; Affymetrix GeneChip
14.  An Arabidopsis ATPase gene involved in nematode-induced syncytium development and abiotic stress responses 
The Plant Journal  2013;74(5):852-866.
The beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii induces syncytia in the roots of Arabidopsis thaliana, which are its only nutrient source. One gene, At1g64110, that is strongly up-regulated in syncytia as shown by RT-PCR, quantitative RT-PCR, in situ RT-PCR and promoter::GUS lines, encodes an AAA+-type ATPase. Expression of two related genes in syncytia, At4g28000 and At5g52882, was not detected or not different from control root segments. Using amiRNA lines and T-DNA mutants, we show that At1g64110 is important for syncytium and nematode development. At1g64110 was also inducible by wounding, jasmonic acid, salicylic acid, heat and cold, as well as drought, sodium chloride, abscisic acid and mannitol, indicating involvement of this gene in abiotic stress responses. We confirmed this using two T-DNA mutants that were more sensitive to abscisic acid and sodium chloride during seed germination and root growth. These mutants also developed significantly smaller roots in response to abscisic acid and sodium chloride. An in silico analysis showed that ATPase At1g64110 (and also At4g28000 and At5g52882) belong to the ‘meiotic clade’ of AAA proteins that includes proteins such as Vps4, katanin, spastin and MSP1.
PMCID: PMC3712482  PMID: 23480402
Arabidopsis thaliana; Heterodera schachtii; syncytium; AAA+ ATPase; GUS; amiRNA; abiotic stress; DAA1

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