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1.  Antagonistic Regulation of Arabidopsis Growth by Brassinosteroids and Abiotic Stresses 
Molecules and Cells  2014;37(11):795-803.
To withstand ever-changing environmental stresses, plants are equipped with phytohormone-mediated stress resistance mechanisms. Salt stress triggers abscisic acid (ABA) signaling, which enhances stress tolerance at the expense of growth. ABA is thought to inhibit the action of growth-promoting hormones, including brassinosteroids (BRs). However, the regulatory mechanisms that coordinate ABA and BR activity remain to be discovered. We noticed that ABA-treated seedlings exhibited small, round leaves and short roots, a phenotype that is characteristic of the BR signaling mutant, brassinosteroid insensitive1-9 (bri1-9). To identify genes that are antagonistically regulated by ABA and BRs, we examined published Arabidopsis microarray data sets. Of the list of genes identified, those upregulated by ABA but downregulated by BRs were enriched with a BRRE motif in their promoter sequences. After validating the microarray data using quantitative RT-PCR, we focused on RD26, which is induced by salt stress. Histochemical analysis of transgenic Arabidopsis plants expressing RD26pro:GUS revealed that the induction of GUS expression after NaCl treatment was suppressed by co-treatment with BRs, but enhanced by co-treatment with propiconazole, a BR biosynthetic inhibitor. Similarly, treatment with bikinin, an inhibitor of BIN2 kinase, not only inhibited RD26 expression, but also reduced the survival rate of the plant following exposure to salt stress. Our results suggest that ABA and BRs act antagonistically on their target genes at or after the BIN2 step in BR signaling pathways, and suggest a mechanism by which plants fine-tune their growth, particularly when stress responses and growth compete for resources.
PMCID: PMC4255099  PMID: 25377253
ABA; abiotic stress; BIN2; brassinosteroids; RD26; Root
2.  Brassinosteroids Regulate Plant Growth through Distinct Signaling Pathways in Selaginella and Arabidopsis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81938.
Brassinosteroids (BRs) are growth-promoting steroid hormones that regulate diverse physiological processes in plants. Most BR biosynthetic enzymes belong to the cytochrome P450 (CYP) family. The gene encoding the ultimate step of BR biosynthesis in Arabidopsis likely evolved by gene duplication followed by functional specialization in a dicotyledonous plant-specific manner. To gain insight into the evolution of BRs, we performed a genomic reconstitution of Arabidopsis BR biosynthetic genes in an ancestral vascular plant, the lycophyte Selaginella moellendorffii. Selaginella contains four members of the CYP90 family that cluster together in the CYP85 clan. Similar to known BR biosynthetic genes, the Selaginella CYP90s exhibit eight or ten exons and Selaginella produces a putative BR biosynthetic intermediate. Therefore, we hypothesized that Selaginella CYP90 genes encode BR biosynthetic enzymes. In contrast to typical CYPs in Arabidopsis, Selaginella CYP90E2 and CYP90F1 do not possess amino-terminal signal peptides, suggesting that they do not localize to the endoplasmic reticulum. In addition, one of the three putative CYP reductases (CPRs) that is required for CYP enzyme function co-localized with CYP90E2 and CYP90F1. Treatments with a BR biosynthetic inhibitor, propiconazole, and epi-brassinolide resulted in greatly retarded and increased growth, respectively. This suggests that BRs promote growth in Selaginella, as they do in Arabidopsis. However, BR signaling occurs through different pathways than in Arabidopsis. A sequence homologous to the Arabidopsis BR receptor BRI1 was absent in Selaginella, but downstream components, including BIN2, BSU1, and BZR1, were present. Thus, the mechanism that initiates BR signaling in Selaginella seems to differ from that in Arabidopsis. Our findings suggest that the basic physiological roles of BRs as growth-promoting hormones are conserved in both lycophytes and Arabidopsis; however, different BR molecules and BRI1-based membrane receptor complexes evolved in these plants.
PMCID: PMC3862569  PMID: 24349155
3.  Overexpression of 3β-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases/C-4 Decarboxylases Causes Growth Defects Possibly Due to Abnormal Auxin Transport in Arabidopsis 
Molecules and Cells  2012;34(1):77-84.
Sterols play crucial roles as membrane components and precursors of steroid hormones (e.g., brassinosteroids, BR). Within membranes, sterols regulate membrane permeability and fluidity by interacting with other lipids and proteins. Sterols are frequently enriched in detergent-insoluble membranes (DIMs), which organize molecules involved in specialized signaling processes, including auxin transporters. To be fully functional, the two methyl groups at the C-4 position of cycloartenol, a precursor of plant sterols, must be removed by bifunctional 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases/C-4 decarboxylases (3βHSD/D). To understand the role of 3βHSD/D in Arabidopsis development, we analyzed the phenotypes of knock-out mutants and overexpression lines of two 3βHSD/D genes (At1g47290 and At2g26260). Neither single nor double knock-out mutants displayed a noticeable phenotype; however, overexpression consistently resulted in plants with wrinkled leaves and short inflorescence internodes. Interestingly, the internode growth defects were opportunistic; even within a plant, some stems were more severely affected than others. Endogenous levels of BRs were not altered in the overexpression lines, suggesting that the growth defect is not primarily due to a flaw in BR biosynthesis. To determine if overexpression of the sterol biosynthetic genes affects the functions of membrane-localized auxin transporters, we subjected plants to the auxin efflux carrier inhibitor, 1-N-naphthylphthalamic acid (NPA). Whereas the gravity vectors of wild-type roots became randomly scattered in response to NPA treatment, those of the over-expression lines continued to grow in the direction of gravity. Overexpression of the two Arabidopsis 3βHSD/D genes thus appears to affect auxin transporter activity, possibly by altering sterol composition in the membranes.
PMCID: PMC3887785  PMID: 22673766
3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase; brassinosteroids; membrane raft; NPA; sterol
4.  Propiconazole Is a Specific and Accessible Brassinosteroid (BR) Biosynthesis Inhibitor for Arabidopsis and Maize 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36625.
Brassinosteroids (BRs) are steroidal hormones that play pivotal roles during plant development. In addition to the characterization of BR deficient mutants, specific BR biosynthesis inhibitors played an essential role in the elucidation of BR function in plants. However, high costs and limited availability of common BR biosynthetic inhibitors constrain their key advantage as a species-independent tool to investigate BR function. We studied propiconazole (Pcz) as an alternative to the BR inhibitor brassinazole (Brz). Arabidopsis seedlings treated with Pcz phenocopied BR biosynthetic mutants. The steady state mRNA levels of BR, but not gibberellic acid (GA), regulated genes increased proportional to the concentrations of Pcz. Moreover, root inhibition and Pcz-induced expression of BR biosynthetic genes were rescued by 24epi-brassinolide, but not by GA3 co-applications. Maize seedlings treated with Pcz showed impaired mesocotyl, coleoptile, and true leaf elongation. Interestingly, the genetic background strongly impacted the tissue specific sensitivity towards Pcz. Based on these findings we conclude that Pcz is a potent and specific inhibitor of BR biosynthesis and an alternative to Brz. The reduced cost and increased availability of Pcz, compared to Brz, opens new possibilities to study BR function in larger crop species.
PMCID: PMC3348881  PMID: 22590578
5.  Arabidopsis brassinosteroid biosynthetic mutant dwarf7-1 exhibits slower rates of cell division and shoot induction 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:270.
Plant growth depends on both cell division and cell expansion. Plant hormones, including brassinosteroids (BRs), are central to the control of these two cellular processes. Despite clear evidence that BRs regulate cell elongation, their roles in cell division have remained elusive.
Here, we report results emphasizing the importance of BRs in cell division. An Arabidopsis BR biosynthetic mutant, dwarf7-1, displayed various characteristics attributable to slower cell division rates. We found that the DWARF4 gene which encodes for an enzyme catalyzing a rate-determining step in the BR biosynthetic pathways, is highly expressed in the actively dividing callus, suggesting that BR biosynthesis is necessary for dividing cells. Furthermore, dwf7-1 showed noticeably slower rates of callus growth and shoot induction relative to wild-type control. Flow cytometric analyses of the nuclei derived from either calli or intact roots revealed that the cell division index, which was represented as the ratio of cells at the G2/M vs. G1 phases, was smaller in dwf7-1 plants. Finally, we found that the expression levels of the genes involved in cell division and shoot induction, such as PROLIFERATING CELL NUCLEAR ANTIGEN2 (PCNA2) and ENHANCER OF SHOOT REGENERATION2 (ESR2), were also lower in dwf7-1 as compared with wild type.
Taken together, results of callus induction, shoot regeneration, flow cytometry, and semi-quantitative RT-PCR analysis suggest that BRs play important roles in both cell division and cell differentiation in Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC3017067  PMID: 21143877
6.  Darkness and gulliver2/phyB mutation decrease the abundance of phosphorylated BZR1 to activate brassinosteroid signaling in Arabidopsis 
The Plant Journal  2014;77(5):737-747.
Light is essential for plant survival; as such, plants flexibly adjust their growth and development to best harvest light energy. Brassinosteroids (BRs), plant growth-promoting steroid hormones, are essential for this plasticity of development. However, the precise mechanisms underlying BR-mediated growth under different light conditions remain largely unknown. Here, we show that darkness increases the activity of the BR-specific transcription factor, BZR1, by decreasing the phosphorylated (inactive) form of BZR1 in a proteasome-dependent manner. We observed that COP1, a dark-activated ubiquitin ligase, captures and degrades the inactive form of BZR1. In support of this, BZR1 is abundant in the cop1-4 mutant. The removal of phosphorylated BZR1 in darkness increases the ratio of dephosphorylated to phosphorylated forms of BZR1, thus increasing the chance of active homodimers forming between dephosphorylated BZR1 proteins. Furthermore, a transcriptome analysis revealed the identity of genes that are likely to contribute to the differential growth of hypocotyls in light conditions. Transgenic misexpression of three genes under the 35S promoter in light conditions resulted in elongated petioles and hypocotyls. Our results suggest that light conditions directly control BR signaling by modulating BZR1 stability, and consequently by establishing light-dependent patterns of hypocotyl growth in Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC4282538  PMID: 24387668
brassinosteroids; photomorphogenesis; hypocotyl elongation; proteasome; brassinazole; Arabidopsis thaliana

Results 1-6 (6)