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1.  An underground tale: contribution of microbial activity to plant iron acquisition via ecological processes 
Annals of Botany  2013;113(1):7-18.
Iron (Fe) deficiency in crops is a worldwide agricultural problem. Plants have evolved several strategies to enhance Fe acquisition, but increasing evidence has shown that the intrinsic plant-based strategies alone are insufficient to avoid Fe deficiency in Fe-limited soils. Soil micro-organisms also play a critical role in plant Fe acquisition; however, the mechanisms behind their promotion of Fe acquisition remain largely unknown.
This review focuses on the possible mechanisms underlying the promotion of plant Fe acquisition by soil micro-organisms.
Fe-deficiency-induced root exudates alter the microbial community in the rhizosphere by modifying the physicochemical properties of soil, and/or by their antimicrobial and/or growth-promoting effects. The altered microbial community may in turn benefit plant Fe acquisition via production of siderophores and protons, both of which improve Fe bioavailability in soil, and via hormone generation that triggers the enhancement of Fe uptake capacity in plants. In addition, symbiotic interactions between micro-organisms and host plants could also enhance plant Fe acquisition, possibly including: rhizobium nodulation enhancing plant Fe uptake capacity and mycorrhizal fungal infection enhancing root length and the nutrient acquisition area of the root system, as well as increasing the production of Fe3+ chelators and protons.
PMCID: PMC3864720  PMID: 24265348
Hormones; iron deficiency; microbial community structure; siderophore; symbiosis
2.  Regulation of root morphogenesis in arbuscular mycorrhizae: what role do fungal exudates, phosphate, sugars and hormones play in lateral root formation? 
Annals of Botany  2013;113(1):19-33.
Arbuscular mycorrhizae (AMs) form a widespread root–fungus symbiosis that improves plant phosphate (Pi) acquisition and modifies the physiology and development of host plants. Increased branching is recognized as a general feature of AM roots, and has been interpreted as a means of increasing suitable sites for colonization. Fungal exudates, which are involved in the dialogue between AM fungi and their host during the pre-colonization phase, play a well-documented role in lateral root (LR) formation. In addition, the increased Pi content of AM plants, in relation to Pi-starved controls, as well as changes in the delivery of carbohydrates to the roots and modulation of phytohormone concentration, transport and sensitivity, are probably involved in increasing root system branching.
This review discusses the possible causes of increased branching in AM plants. The differential root responses to Pi, sugars and hormones of potential AM host species are also highlighted and discussed in comparison with those of the non-host Arabidopsis thaliana.
Fungal exudates are probably the main compounds regulating AM root morphogenesis during the first colonization steps, while a complex network of interactions governs root development in established AMs. Colonization and high Pi act synergistically to increase root branching, and sugar transport towards the arbusculated cells may contribute to LR formation. In addition, AM colonization and high Pi generally increase auxin and cytokinin and decrease ethylene and strigolactone levels. With the exception of cytokinins, which seem to regulate mainly the root:shoot biomass ratio, these hormones play a leading role in governing root morphogenesis, with strigolactones and ethylene blocking LR formation in the non-colonized, Pi-starved plants, and auxin inducing them in colonized plants, or in plants grown under high Pi conditions.
PMCID: PMC3864729  PMID: 24227446
Arbuscular mycorrhizae; root branching; lateral roots; fungal exudates; phosphate; sugars; auxin; cytokinins; ethylene; strigolactones; Arabidopsis thaliana
3.  Learning from halophytes: physiological basis and strategies to improve abiotic stress tolerance in crops 
Annals of Botany  2013;112(7):1209-1221.
Global annual losses in agricultural production from salt-affected land are in excess of US$12 billion and rising. At the same time, a significant amount of arable land is becoming lost to urban sprawl, forcing agricultural production into marginal areas. Consequently, there is a need for a major breakthrough in crop breeding for salinity tolerance. Given the limited range of genetic diversity in this trait within traditional crops, stress tolerance genes and mechanisms must be identified in extremophiles and then introduced into traditional crops.
Scope and Conclusions
This review argues that learning from halophytes may be a promising way of achieving this goal. The paper is focused around two central questions: what are the key physiological mechanisms conferring salinity tolerance in halophytes that can be introduced into non-halophyte crop species to improve their performance under saline conditions and what specific genes need to be targeted to achieve this goal? The specific traits that are discussed and advocated include: manipulation of trichome shape, size and density to enable their use for external Na+ sequestration; increasing the efficiency of internal Na+ sequestration in vacuoles by the orchestrated regulation of tonoplast NHX exchangers and slow and fast vacuolar channels, combined with greater cytosolic K+ retention; controlling stomata aperture and optimizing water use efficiency by reducing stomatal density; and efficient control of xylem ion loading, enabling rapid shoot osmotic adjustment while preventing prolonged Na+ transport to the shoot.
PMCID: PMC3806534  PMID: 24085482
Salinity; drought; stomata; vacuole; epidermal bladder; trichome; sodium sequestration; cytosolic potassium; xylem loading; osmotic adjustment; membrane potential
4.  Harnessing apomictic reproduction in grasses: what we have learned from Paspalum 
Annals of Botany  2013;112(5):767-787.
Apomixis is an alternative route of plant reproduction that produces individuals genetically identical to the mother plant through seeds. Apomixis is desirable in agriculture, because it guarantees the perpetuation of superior genotypes (i.e. heterotic hybrid seeds) by self-seeding without loss of hybrid vigour. The Paspalum genus, an archetypal model system for mining apomixis gene(s), is composed of about 370 species that have extremely diverse reproductive systems, including self-incompatibility, self-fertility, full sexual reproduction, and facultative or obligate apomixis. Barriers to interspecific hybridization are relaxed in this genus, allowing the production of new hybrids from many different parental combinations. Paspalum is also tolerant to various parental genome contributions to the endosperm, allowing analyses of how sexually reproducing crop species might escape from dosage effects in the endosperm.
In this article, the available literature characterizing apomixis in Paspalum spp. and its use in breeding is critically reviewed. In particular, a comparison is made across species of the structure and function of the genomic region controlling apomixis in order to identify a common core region shared by all apomictic Paspalum species and where apomixis genes are likely to be localized. Candidate genes are discussed, either as possible genetic determinants (including homologs to signal transduction and RNA methylation genes) or as downstream factors (such as cell-to-cell signalling and auxin response genes) depending, respectively, on their co-segregation with apomixis or less. Strategies to validate the role of candidate genes in apomictic process are also discussed, with special emphasis on plant transformation in natural apomictic species.
PMCID: PMC3747805  PMID: 23864004
Apomixis; comparative mapping; molecular markers; Paspalum; transcriptomic analysis
5.  Metabolomics of forage plants: a review 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(6):1281-1290.
Forage plant breeding is under increasing pressure to deliver new cultivars with improved yield, quality and persistence to the pastoral industry. New innovations in DNA sequencing technologies mean that quantitative trait loci analysis and marker-assisted selection approaches are becoming faster and cheaper, and are increasingly used in the breeding process with the aim to speed it up and improve its precision. High-throughput phenotyping is currently a major bottle neck and emerging technologies such as metabolomics are being developed to bridge the gap between genotype and phenotype; metabolomics studies on forages are reviewed in this article.
Major challenges for pasture production arise from the reduced availability of resources, mainly water, nitrogen and phosphorus, and metabolomics studies on metabolic responses to these abiotic stresses in Lolium perenne and Lotus species will be discussed here. Many forage plants can be associated with symbiotic microorganisms such as legumes with nitrogen fixing rhizobia, grasses and legumes with phosphorus-solubilizing arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and cool temperate grasses with fungal anti-herbivorous alkaloid-producing Neotyphodium endophytes and metabolomics studies have shown that these associations can significantly affect the metabolic composition of forage plants. The combination of genetics and metabolomics, also known as genetical metabolomics can be a powerful tool to identify genetic regions related to specific metabolites or metabolic profiles, but this approach has not been widely adopted for forages yet, and we argue here that more studies are needed to improve our chances of success in forage breeding.
Metabolomics combined with other ‘-omics’ technologies and genome sequencing can be invaluable tools for large-scale geno- and phenotyping of breeding populations, although the implementation of these approaches in forage breeding programmes still lags behind. The majority of studies using metabolomics approaches have been performed with model species or cereals and findings from these studies are not easily translated to forage species. To be most effective these approaches should be accompanied by whole-plant physiology and proof of concept (modelling) studies. Wider considerations of possible consequences of novel traits on the fitness of new cultivars and symbiotic associations need also to be taken into account.
PMCID: PMC3478039  PMID: 22351485
Metabolomics; forage plants; Lolium perenne; drought stress, nutrient stress; Neotyphodium spp. endophytes; Medicago sativa; Lotus spp.; arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; rhizobia; metabolic profiling; genetical metabolomics
6.  Advanced phenotyping offers opportunities for improved breeding of forage and turf species 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(6):1271-1279.
Background and Aims
Advanced phenotyping, i.e. the application of automated, high-throughput methods to characterize plant architecture and performance, has the potential to accelerate breeding progress but is far from being routinely used in current breeding approaches. In forage and turf improvement programmes, in particular, where breeding populations and cultivars are characterized by high genetic diversity and substantial genotype × environment interactions, precise and efficient phenotyping is essential to meet future challenges imposed by climate change, growing demand and declining resources.
This review highlights recent achievements in the establishment of phenotyping tools and platforms. Some of these tools have originally been established in remote sensing, some in precision agriculture, while others are laboratory-based imaging procedures. They quantify plant colour, spectral reflection, chlorophyll-fluorescence, temperature and other properties, from which traits such as biomass, architecture, photosynthetic efficiency, stomatal aperture or stress resistance can be derived. Applications of these methods in the context of forage and turf breeding are discussed.
Progress in cutting-edge molecular breeding tools is beginning to be matched by progress in automated non-destructive imaging methods. Joint application of precise phenotyping machinery and molecular tools in optimized breeding schemes will improve forage and turf breeding in the near future and will thereby contribute to amended performance of managed grassland agroecosystems.
PMCID: PMC3478040  PMID: 22362662
Forage; turf; breeding; phenotyping; growth; biomass; imaging; marker-assisted selection; remote sensing
7.  A functional trait perspective on plant invasion 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(1):141-153.
Background and Aims
Global environmental change will affect non-native plant invasions, with profound potential impacts on native plant populations, communities and ecosystems. In this context, we review plant functional traits, particularly those that drive invader abundance (invasiveness) and impacts, as well as the integration of these traits across multiple ecological scales, and as a basis for restoration and management.
We review the concepts and terminology surrounding functional traits and how functional traits influence processes at the individual level. We explore how phenotypic plasticity may lead to rapid evolution of novel traits facilitating invasiveness in changing environments and then ‘scale up’ to evaluate the relative importance of demographic traits and their links to invasion rates. We then suggest a functional trait framework for assessing per capita effects and, ultimately, impacts of invasive plants on plant communities and ecosystems. Lastly, we focus on the role of functional trait-based approaches in invasive species management and restoration in the context of rapid, global environmental change.
To understand how the abundance and impacts of invasive plants will respond to rapid environmental changes it is essential to link trait-based responses of invaders to changes in community and ecosystem properties. To do so requires a comprehensive effort that considers dynamic environmental controls and a targeted approach to understand key functional traits driving both invader abundance and impacts. If we are to predict future invasions, manage those at hand and use restoration technology to mitigate invasive species impacts, future research must focus on functional traits that promote invasiveness and invader impacts under changing conditions, and integrate major factors driving invasions from individual to ecosystem levels.
PMCID: PMC3380596  PMID: 22589328
Climate change; non-native plant; plant invasion; functional traits; plant traits; invasiveness; invader impacts
8.  How much better are females? The occurrence of female advantage, its proximal causes and its variation within and among gynodioecious species 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(3):505-519.
Gynodioecy is a reproductive system of interest for evolutionary biologists, as it poses the question of how females can be maintained while competing with hermaphrodites that possess both male and female functions. One necessary condition for the maintenance of this polymorphism is the occurrence of a female advantage, i.e. a better seed production or quality by females compared with hermaphrodites. Theoretically, its magnitude can be low when sterility mutations are cytoplasmic, while a 2-fold advantage is needed in the case of nuclear sterility. Such a difference is often thought to be due to reduced inbreeding depression in obligatory outcrossed females. Finally, variation in sex ratio and female advantage occur among populations of some gynodioecious species, though the prevalence of such variation is unknown.
By reviewing and analysing the data published on 48 gynodioecious species, we examined three important issues about female advantage. (1) Are reduced selfing and inbreeding depression likely to be the major cause of female advantage? (2) What is the magnitude of female advantage and does it fit theoretical predictions? (3) Does the occurrence or the magnitude of female advantage vary among populations within species and why?
It was found that a female advantage occurred in 40 species, with a magnitude comprised between 1 and 2 in the majority of cases. In many species, reduced selfing may not be a necessary cause of this advantage. Finally, female advantage varied among populations in some species, but both positive and negative correlations were found with female frequency. The role of reduced selfing in females for the evolution of gynodioecy, as well as the various processes that affect sex ratios and female advantage in populations are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3278283  PMID: 21459860
Female advantage; female compensation; male sterility; gynodioecy; inbreeding depression; mating system; resource allocation; sex ratio; self-incompatibility
9.  Clarifying Baker's Law 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(3):633-641.
Baker's Law states that colonization by self-compatible organisms is more likely to be successful than colonization by self-incompatible organisms because of the ability for self-compatible organisms to produce offspring without pollination agents. This simple model has proved very successful in plant ecology and has been applied to various contexts, including colonizing or ruderal species, islands colonizers, invasive species or mating system variation across distribution ranges. Moreover, it is one of the only models in population biology linking two traits of major importance in ecology, namely dispersal and mating system. Although Baker's Law has stimulated a large number of empirical studies reporting the association of self-fertilization and colonizing ability in various contexts, the data have not established a general pattern for the association of traits.
In this paper, a critical position is adopted to discuss and clarify Baker's Law. From the literature referring to Baker's Law, an analysis made regarding how mating success is considered in such studies and discrepancies with population genetics theory of mating systems are highlighted. The data reporting the association of self-fertilization and colonizing ability are also briefly reviewed and the potential bias in interpretation is discussed. Lastly, a recent theoretical model analysing the link between colonizing ability and self-fertilization is considered.
Evolutionary predictions are actually more complex than Baker's intuitive arguments. It appears that Baker's Law encompasses a variety of ecological scenarios, which cannot be considered a priori as equivalent. Questioning what has been considered as self-evident for more than 50 years seems a reasonable objective to analyse in-depth dispersal and mating system traits.
PMCID: PMC3278284  PMID: 21685434
Self-fertilization; dispersal; syndrome; Baker's Law; empirical data; models
10.  Mating system shifts on the trailing edge 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(3):613-620.
The trailing edges of species ranges are becoming a subject of increasing interest as the environment changes due to global warming. Trailing edge populations are likely to face extinction because of a decline in numbers and an inability to evolve new adaptations with sufficient speed. Discussions of character change in the trailing edge have focused on physiological, exomorphic and phenological traits. The mating pattern within populations has not been part of the discourse, in spite of the fact that the mating pattern may affect the ability of populations to respond to environmental change and to maintain their sizes. In this paper, the case is made that a substantial increase in self-fertilization rates may occur via plastic responses to stress.
Scope and Conclusions
Small populations on the trailing edge are especially vulnerable to environmental change because of inadequate levels of cross-fertilization. Evidence is presented that a deficiency of cross-seed production is due to inadequate pollinator services and a paucity of self-incompatibility alleles within populations. Evidence also is presented that if plants are self-compatible, self-fertilization may compensate in part for this deficiency through a stress-induced increase in levels of self-compatibility and stress-induced alterations in floral morphology that elevate self-pollination. Whereas increased self-fertility may afford populations the time to adapt to their changing environments, it can be concluded that increased selfing is not a panacea for the ills of environmental change, because it will lead to substantial reductions in genetic diversity, which may render adaptation unlikely.
PMCID: PMC3278285  PMID: 21980190
Environmental change; mating system; phenotypic plasticity; self-fertilization; self-pollination; trailing edge
11.  Gynodioecy to dioecy: are we there yet? 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(3):531-543.
The ‘gynodioecy–dioecy pathway’ is considered to be one of the most important evolutionary routes from hermaphroditism to separate sexes (dioecy). Despite a large accumulation of evidence for female seed fertility advantages in gynodioecious species (females and hermaphrodites coexist) in support of the first step in the gynodioecy–dioecy pathway, we still have very little evidence for the second step, i.e. the transition from gynodioecy to dioecy.
We review the literature to evaluate whether basic predictions by theory are supported. To establish whether females' seed fertility advantage and frequencies are sufficient to favour the invasion of males, we review these for species along the gynodioecy–dioecy pathway published in the last 5 years. We then review the empirical evidence for predictions deriving from the second step, i.e. hermaphrodites' male fertility increases with female frequency, selection favours greater male fertility in hermaphrodites in gynodioecious species, and, where males and hermaphrodites coexist with females (subdioecy), males have greater male fertility than hermaphrodites. We review how genetic control and certain ecological features (pollen limitation, selfing, plasticity in sex expression and antagonists) influence the trajectory of a population along the gynodioecy–dioecy pathway.
Females tend to have greater seed fertility advantages over hermaphrodites where the two coexist, and this advantage is positively correlated with female frequency across species, as predicted by theory. A limited number of studies in subdioecious species have demonstrated that males have an advantage over hermaphrodites, as also predicted by theory. However, less evidence exists for phenotypic selection to increase male traits of hermaphrodites or for increasing male function of hermaphrodites in populations with high female frequency. A few key case studies underline the importance of examining multiple components of male fertility and the roles of pollen limitation, selfing and plasticity, when evaluating advantages. We conclude that we do not yet have a full understanding of the transition from gynodioecy to dioecy.
PMCID: PMC3278288  PMID: 21807691
Breeding system; dioecy; gynodioecy; male fertility; pollen limitation; plasticity; sex ratio; sexual systems; subdioecy; trioecy
12.  The relative importance of reproductive assurance and automatic selection as hypotheses for the evolution of self-fertilization 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(3):553-562.
The field of plant mating-system evolution has long been interested in understanding why selfing evolves from outcrossing. Many possible mechanisms drive this evolutionary trend, but most research has focused upon the transmission advantage of selfing and its ability to provide reproductive assurance when cross-pollination is uncertain. We discuss the shared conceptual framework of these ideas and their empirical support that is emerging from tests of their predictions over the last 25 years.
These two hypotheses are derived from the same strategic framework. The transmission advantage hypothesis involves purely gene-level selection, with reproductive assurance involving an added component of individual-level selection. Support for both of these ideas has been garnered from population-genetic tests of their predictions. Studies in natural populations often show that selfing increases seed production, but it is not clear if this benefit is sufficient to favour the evolution of selfing, and the ecological agents limiting outcross pollen are often not identified. Pollen discounting appears to be highly variable and important in systems where selfing involves multiple floral adaptations, yet seed discounting has rarely been investigated. Although reproductive assurance appears likely as a leading factor facilitating the evolution of selfing, studies must account for both seed and pollen discounting to adequately test this hypothesis.
The transmission advantage and reproductive assurance ideas describe components of gene transmission that favour selfing. Future work should move beyond their dichotomous presentation and focus upon understanding whether selection through pollen, seed or both explains the spread of selfing-rate modifiers in plant populations.
PMCID: PMC3278291  PMID: 21937484
Demography; inbreeding depression; mating systems; outcrossing; pollen discounting; pollination; seed discounting
13.  Quite a few reasons for calling carnivores ‘the most wonderful plants in the world’ 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(1):47-64.
A plant is considered carnivorous if it receives any noticeable benefit from catching small animals. The morphological and physiological adaptations to carnivorous existence is most complex in plants, thanks to which carnivorous plants have been cited by Darwin as ‘the most wonderful plants in the world’. When considering the range of these adaptations, one realizes that the carnivory is a result of a multitude of different features.
This review discusses a selection of relevant articles, culled from a wide array of research topics on plant carnivory, and focuses in particular on physiological processes associated with active trapping and digestion of prey. Carnivory offers the plants special advantages in habitats where nutrient supply is scarce. Counterbalancing costs are the investments in synthesis and the maintenance of trapping organs and hydrolysing enzymes. With the progress in genetic, molecular and microscopic techniques, we are well on the way to a full appreciation of various aspects of plant carnivory.
Sufficiently complex to be of scientific interest and finite enough to allow conclusive appraisal, carnivorous plants can be viewed as unique models for the examination of rapid organ movements, plant excitability, enzyme secretion, nutrient absorption, food-web relationships, phylogenetic and intergeneric relationships or structural and mineral investment in carnivory.
PMCID: PMC3241575  PMID: 21937485
Carnivorous plants; model plants; traps; rapid organ movements; gland functioning; nutrient absorption; action potentials; plant excitability; plant indicators
14.  Abscisic acid and CO2 signalling via calcium sensitivity priming in guard cells, new CDPK mutant phenotypes and a method for improved resolution of stomatal stimulus–response analyses 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(1):5-17.
Stomatal guard cells are the regulators of gas exchange between plants and the atmosphere. Ca2+-dependent and Ca2+-independent mechanisms function in these responses. Key stomatal regulation mechanisms, including plasma membrane and vacuolar ion channels have been identified and are regulated by the free cytosolic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]cyt).
Here we show that CO2-induced stomatal closing is strongly impaired under conditions that prevent intracellular Ca2+ elevations. Moreover, Ca2+ oscillation-induced stomatal closing is partially impaired in knock-out mutations in several guard cell-expressed Ca2+-dependent protein kinases (CDPKs) here, including the cpk4cpk11 double and cpk10 mutants; however, abscisic acid-regulated stomatal movements remain relatively intact in the cpk4cpk11 and cpk10 mutants. We further discuss diverse studies of Ca2+ signalling in guard cells, discuss apparent peculiarities, and pose novel open questions. The recently proposed Ca2+ sensitivity priming model could account for many of the findings in the field. Recent research shows that the stomatal closing stimuli abscisic acid and CO2 enhance the sensitivity of stomatal closing mechanisms to intracellular Ca2+, which has been termed ‘calcium sensitivity priming’. The genome of the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana encodes for over 250 Ca2+-sensing proteins, giving rise to the question, how can specificity in Ca2+ responses be achieved? Calcium sensitivity priming could provide a key mechanism contributing to specificity in eukaryotic Ca2+ signal transduction, a topic of central interest in cell signalling research. In this article we further propose an individual stomatal tracking method for improved analyses of stimulus-regulated stomatal movements in Arabidopsis guard cells that reduces noise and increases fidelity in stimulus-regulated stomatal aperture responses ( Box 1). This method is recommended for stomatal response research, in parallel to previously adopted blind analyses, due to the relatively small and diverse sizes of stomatal apertures in the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana.
PMCID: PMC3241576  PMID: 21994053
Stomata; ABA; guard cell; Ca2+; CDPK; calcium sensitivity priming; carbon dioxide; Arabidopsis thaliana
15.  The more the better? The role of polyploidy in facilitating plant invasions 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(1):19-45.
Biological invasions are a major ecological and socio-economic problem in many parts of the world. Despite an explosion of research in recent decades, much remains to be understood about why some species become invasive whereas others do not. Recently, polyploidy (whole genome duplication) has been proposed as an important determinant of invasiveness in plants. Genome duplication has played a major role in plant evolution and can drastically alter a plant's genetic make-up, morphology, physiology and ecology within only one or a few generations. This may allow some polyploids to succeed in strongly fluctuating environments and/or effectively colonize new habitats and, thus, increase their potential to be invasive.
We synthesize current knowledge on the importance of polyploidy for the invasion (i.e. spread) of introduced plants. We first aim to elucidate general mechanisms that are involved in the success of polyploid plants and translate this to that of plant invaders. Secondly, we provide an overview of ploidal levels in selected invasive alien plants and explain how ploidy might have contributed to their success.
Polyploidy can be an important factor in species invasion success through a combination of (1) ‘pre-adaptation’, whereby polyploid lineages are predisposed to conditions in the new range and, therefore, have higher survival rates and fitness in the earliest establishment phase; and (2) the possibility for subsequent adaptation due to a larger genetic diversity that may assist the ‘evolution of invasiveness’. Alternatively, polyploidization may play an important role by (3) restoring sexual reproduction following hybridization or, conversely, (4) asexual reproduction in the absence of suitable mates. We, therefore, encourage invasion biologists to incorporate assessments of ploidy in their studies of invasive alien species.
PMCID: PMC3241594  PMID: 22040744
Biological invasions; genome size; invasiveness; invasion ecology; polyploidy; whole genome duplication
16.  Epigenetic imbalance and the floral developmental abnormality of the in vitro-regenerated oil palm Elaeis guineensis 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(8):1453-1462.
The large-scale clonal propagation of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is being stalled by the occurrence of the mantled somaclonal variation. Indeed, this abnormality which presents a homeotic-like conversion of male floral organs into carpelloid structures, hampers oil production since the supernumerary female organs are either sterile or produce fruits with poor oil yields.
In the last 15 years, the prevailing point of view on the origin of the mantled floral phenotype has evolved from a random mutation event triggered by in vitro culture to a hormone-dependent dysfunction of gene regulation processes. In this review, we retrace the history of the research on the mantled variation in the light of the parallel advances made in the understanding of plant development regulation in model systems and more specifically in the role of epigenetic mechanisms. An overview of the current state of oil palm genomic and transcriptomic resources, which are key to any comparison with model organisms, is given. We show that, while displaying original characteristics, the mantled phenotype of oil palm is morphologically, and possibly molecularly, related to MADS-box genes mutants described in model plants. We also discuss the occurrence of comparable floral phenotypes in other palm species.
Beyond its primary interest in the search for discriminating markers against an economically crippling phenotype, the study of the mantled abnormality also provides a unique opportunity to investigate the regulation of reproductive development in a perennial tropical palm. On the basis of recent results, we propose that future efforts should concentrate on the epigenetic regulation targeting MADS-box genes and transposable elements of oil palm, since both types of sequences are most likely to be involved in the mantled variant phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3219487  PMID: 21224269
Epigenetics; flower development; clonal fidelity; MADS-box; mantled phenotype; somaclonal variation; transposable elements; Elaeis guineensis
17.  Geographical ecology of the palms (Arecaceae): determinants of diversity and distributions across spatial scales 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(8):1391-1416.
The palm family occurs in all tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. Palms are of high ecological and economical importance, and display complex spatial patterns of species distributions and diversity.
This review summarizes empirical evidence for factors that determine palm species distributions, community composition and species richness such as the abiotic environment (climate, soil chemistry, hydrology and topography), the biotic environment (vegetation structure and species interactions) and dispersal. The importance of contemporary vs. historical impacts of these factors and the scale at which they function is discussed. Finally a hierarchical scale framework is developed to guide predictor selection for future studies.
Determinants of palm distributions, composition and richness vary with spatial scale. For species distributions, climate appears to be important at landscape and broader scales, soil, topography and vegetation at landscape and local scales, hydrology at local scales, and dispersal at all scales. For community composition, soil appears important at regional and finer scales, hydrology, topography and vegetation at landscape and local scales, and dispersal again at all scales. For species richness, climate and dispersal appear to be important at continental to global scales, soil at landscape and broader scales, and topography at landscape and finer scales. Some scale–predictor combinations have not been studied or deserve further attention, e.g. climate on regional to finer scales, and hydrology and topography on landscape and broader scales. The importance of biotic interactions – apart from general vegetation structure effects – for the geographic ecology of palms is generally underexplored. Future studies should target scale–predictor combinations and geographic domains not studied yet. To avoid biased inference, one should ideally include at least all predictors previously found important at the spatial scale of investigation.
PMCID: PMC3219491  PMID: 21712297
Arecaceae; biotic interactions; climate; dispersal limitation; geographic ecology; hydrology; Palmae; spatial scale; species distributions; species richness; soil; topography
18.  Environmental regulation of sex determination in oil palm: current knowledge and insights from other species 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(8):1529-1537.
The African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is a monoecious species of the palm subfamily Arecoideae. It may be qualified as ‘temporally dioecious’ in that it produces functionally unisexual male and female inflorescences in an alternating cycle on the same plant, resulting in an allogamous mode of reproduction. The ‘sex ratio’ of an oil palm stand is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. In particular, the enhancement of male inflorescence production in response to water stress has been well documented.
This paper presents a review of our current understanding of the sex determination process in oil palm and discusses possible insights that can be gained from other species. Although some informative phenological studies have been carried out, nothing is as yet known about the genetic basis of sex determination in oil palm, nor the mechanisms by which this process is regulated. Nevertheless new genomics-based techniques, when combined with field studies and biochemical and molecular cytological-based approaches, should provide a new understanding of the complex processes governing oil palm sex determination in the foreseeable future. Current hypotheses and strategies for future research are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3219494  PMID: 21712294
Sex determination; oil palm; Elaeis guineensis; inflorescence; monoecious; temporal dioecy; flowering
19.  Twenty-five years of progress in understanding pollination mechanisms in palms (Arecaceae) 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(8):1503-1516.
With more than 90 published studies of pollination mechanisms, the palm family is one of the better studied tropical families of angiosperms. Understanding palm–pollinator interactions has implications for tropical silviculture, agroforestry and horticulture, as well as for our understanding of palm evolution and diversification. We review the rich literature on pollination mechanisms in palms that has appeared since the last review of palm pollination studies was published 25 years ago.
Scope and Conclusions
Visitors to palm inflorescences are attracted by rewards such as food, shelter and oviposition sites. The interaction between the palm and its visiting fauna represents a trade-off between the services provided by the potential pollinators and the antagonistic activities of other insect visitors. Evidence suggests that beetles constitute the most important group of pollinators in palms, followed by bees and flies. Occasional pollinators include mammals (e.g. bats and marsupials) and even crabs. Comparative studies of palm–pollinator interactions in closely related palm species document transitions in floral morphology, phenology and anatomy correlated with shifts in pollination vectors. Synecological studies show that asynchronous flowering and partitioning of pollinator guilds may be important regulators of gene flow between closely related sympatric taxa and potential drivers of speciation processes. Studies of larger plant–pollinator networks point out the importance of competition for pollinators between palms and other flowering plants and document how the insect communities in tropical forest canopies probably influence the reproductive success of palms. However, published studies have a strong geographical bias towards the South American region and a taxonomic bias towards the tribe Cocoseae. Future studies should try to correct this imbalance to provide a more representative picture of pollination mechanisms and their evolutionary implications across the entire family.
PMCID: PMC3219497  PMID: 21831852
Palm-pollinator interactions; cantharophily; mellitophily; myophily; co-evolutionary relationships; Arecaceae
20.  Flavonols: old compounds for old roles 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(7):1225-1233.
New roles for flavonoids, as developmental regulators and/or signalling molecules, have recently been proposed in eukaryotic cells exposed to a wide range of environmental stimuli. In plants, these functions are actually restricted to flavonols, the ancient and widespread class of flavonoids. In mosses and liverworts, the whole set of genes for flavonol biosynthesis – CHS, CHI, F3H, FLS and F3′H – has been detected. The flavonol branch pathway has remained intact for millions of years, and is almost exclusively involved in the responses of plants to a wide array of stressful agents, despite the fact that evolution of flavonoid metabolism has produced >10 000 structures.
Here the emerging functional roles of flavonoids in the responses of present-day plants to different stresses are discussed based on early, authoritative views of their primary functions during the colonization of land by plants. Flavonols are not as efficient as other secondary metabolites in absorbing wavelengths in the 290–320 nm spectral region, but display the greatest potential to keep stress-induced changes in cellular reactive oxygen species homeostasis under control, and to regulate the development of individual organs and the whole plant. Very low flavonol concentrations, as probably occurred in early terrestrial plants, may fully accomplish these regulatory functions.
During the last two decades the routine use of genomic, chromatography/mass spectrometry and fluorescence microimaging techniques has provided new insights into the regulation of flavonol metabolism as well as on the inter- and intracellular distribution of stress-responsive flavonols. These findings offer new evidence on how flavonols may have performed a wide array of functional roles during the colonization of land by plants. In our opinion this ancient flavonoid class is still playing the same old and robust roles in present-day plants.
PMCID: PMC3197460  PMID: 21880658
Auxin transport; early flavonoid genes; evolution of early terrestrial plants; flavonol metabolism; Myb genes; ROS scavengers; stress-responsive flavonoids; sub-cellular flavonoid distribution; UV-B screening
21.  S-RNase-based self-incompatibility in Petunia inflata 
Annals of Botany  2010;108(4):637-646.
For the Solanaceae-type self-incompatibility, also possessed by Rosaceae and Plantaginaceae, the specificity of self/non-self interactions between pollen and pistil is controlled by two polymorphic genes at the S-locus: the S-locus F-box gene (SLF or SFB) controls pollen specificity and the S-RNase gene controls pistil specificity.
This review focuses on the work from the authors' laboratory using Petunia inflata (Solanaceae) as a model. Here, recent results on the identification and functional studies of S-RNase and SLF are summarized and a protein-degradation model is proposed to explain the biochemical mechanism for specific rejection of self-pollen tubes by the pistil.
The protein-degradation model invokes specific degradation of non-self S-RNases in the pollen tube mediated by an SLF, and can explain compatible versus incompatible pollination and the phenomenon of competitive interaction, where SI breaks down in pollen carrying two different S-alleles. In Solanaceae, Plantaginaceae and subfamily Maloideae of Rosaceae, there also exist multiple S-locus-linked SLF/SFB-like genes that potentially function as the pollen S-gene. To date, only three such genes, all in P. inflata, have been examined, and they do not function as the pollen S-gene in the S-genotype backgrounds tested. Interestingly, subfamily Prunoideae of Rosaceae appears to possess only a single SLF/SFB gene, and competitive interaction, observed in Solanaceae, Plantaginaceae and subfamily Maloideae, has not been observed. Thus, although the cytotoxic function of S-RNase is an integral part of SI in Solanaceae, Plantaginaceae and Rosaceae, the function of SLF/SFB may have diverged. This highlights the complexity of the S-RNase-based SI mechanism. The review concludes by discussing some key experiments that will further advance our understanding of this self/non-self discrimination mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3170144  PMID: 21193481
Competitive interaction; Petunia inflata; Plantaginaceae; protein degradation; Rosaceae; self-incompatibility; S-locus F-box protein; Solanaceae; S-RNase; ubiquitination
22.  Pollen tube growth and guidance: roles of small, secreted proteins 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(4):627-636.
Pollination is a crucial step in angiosperm (flowering plant) reproduction. Highly orchestrated pollen–pistil interactions and signalling events enable plant species to avoid inbreeding and outcrossing as a species-specific barrier. In compatible pollination, pollen tubes carrying two sperm cells grow through the pistil transmitting tract and are precisely guided to the ovules, discharging the sperm cells to the embryo sac for fertilization.
In Lilium longiflorum pollination, growing pollen tubes utilize two critical mechanisms, adhesion and chemotropism, for directional growth to the ovules. Among several molecular factors discovered in the past decade, two small, secreted cysteine-rich proteins have been shown to play major roles in pollen tube adhesion and reorientation bioassays: stigma/style cysteine-rich adhesin (SCA, approx. 9·3 kDa) and chemocyanin (approx. 9·8 kDa). SCA, a lipid transfer protein (LTP) secreted from the stylar transmitting tract epidermis, functions in lily pollen tube tip growth as well as in forming the adhesive pectin matrix at the growing pollen tube wall back from the tip. Lily chemocyanin is a plantacyanin family member and acts as a directional cue for reorienting pollen tubes. Recent consecutive studies revealed that Arabidopsis thaliana homologues for SCA and chemocyanin play pivotal roles in tip polarity and directionality of pollen tube growth, respectively. This review outlines the biological roles of various secreted proteins in angiosperm pollination, focusing on plant LTPs and chemocyanin.
PMCID: PMC3170145  PMID: 21307038
Angiosperm fertilization; Arabidopsis thaliana; chemocyanin; cysteine-rich peptides (CRPs); Lilium longiflorum; lipid transfer proteins (LTPs); plantacyanins; pollen tube tip growth; stigma/style cysteine-rich adhesin (SCA)
23.  Using maize as a model to study pollen tube growth and guidance, cross-incompatibility and sperm delivery in grasses 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(4):727-737.
In contrast to animals and lower plants such as mosses and ferns, sperm cells of flowering plants (angiosperms) are immobile and require transportation to the female gametes via the vegetative pollen tube cell to achieve double fertilization. The path of the pollen tube towards the female gametophyte (embryo sac) has been intensively studied in many intra- and interspecific crossing experiments with the aim of increasing the gene pool of crop plants for greater yield, improved biotic and abiotic stress resistance, and for introducing new agronomic traits. Many attempts to hybridize different species or genotypes failed due to the difficulty for the pollen tubes in reaching the female gametophyte. Detailed studies showed that these processes are controlled by various self-incompatible (intraspecific) and cross-incompatible (interspecific) hybridization mechanisms.
Understanding the molecular mechanisms of crossing barriers is therefore of great interest in plant reproduction, evolution and breeding research. In particular, pre-zygotic hybridization barriers related to pollen tube germination, growth, guidance and sperm delivery, which are considered the major hybridization controls in nature and thus also contribute to species isolation and speciation, have been intensively investigated. Despite this general interest, surprisingly little is known about these processes in the most important agronomic plant family, the Gramineae, Poaceae or grasses. Small polymorphic proteins and their receptors, degradation of sterility locus proteins and general compounds such as calcium, γ-aminobutyric acid or nitric oxide have been shown to be involved in progamic pollen germination, adhesion, tube growth and guidance, as well as sperm release. Most advances have been made in the Brassicaceae, Papaveraceae, Linderniaceae and Solanaceae families including their well-understood self-incompatibility (SI) systems. Grass species evolved similar mechanisms to control the penetration and growth of self-pollen to promote intraspecific outcrossing and to prevent fertilization by alien sperm cells. However, in the Poaceae, the underlying molecular mechanisms are still largely unknown.
We propose to develop maize (Zea mays) as a model to investigate the above-described processes to understand the associated intra- and interspecific crossing barriers in grasses. Many genetic, cellular and biotechnological tools including the completion of a reference genome (inbred line B73) have been established in the last decade and many more maize inbred genomes are expected to be available soon. Moreover, a cellular marker line database as well as large transposon insertion collections and improved Agrobacterium transformation protocols are now available. Additionally, the processes described above are well studied at the morphological level and a number of mutants have been described already, awaiting disclosure of the relevant genes. The identification of the first key players in pollen tube growth, guidance and burst show maize to be an excellent grass model to investigate these processes in more detail. Here we provide an overview of our current understanding of these processes in Poaceae with a focus on maize, and also include relevant discoveries in eudicot model species.
PMCID: PMC3170146  PMID: 21345919
Maize; male germline; sperm cell; interspecific crosses; self- and cross-incompatibility; pollen tube growth and guidance; fertilization; reproductive isolation
24.  Proteins implicated in mediating self-incompatibility-induced alterations to the actin cytoskeleton of Papaver pollen 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(4):659-675.
Background and Aims
Sexual reproduction in angiosperms involves a network of signalling and interactions between pollen and pistil. To promote out-breeding, an additional layer of interactions, involving self-incompatibility (SI), is used to prevent self-fertilization. SI is generally controlled by the S-locus, and comprises allelic pollen and pistil S-determinants. This provides the basis of recognition, and consequent rejection, of incompatible pollen. In Papaver rhoeas, SI involves interaction of pistil PrsS and pollen PrpS, triggering a Ca2+-dependent signalling network. This results in rapid and distinctive alterations to both the actin and microtubule cytoskeleton being triggered in ‘self’ pollen. Some of these alterations are implicated in mediating programmed cell death, involving activation of several caspase-like proteases.
Here we review and discuss our current understanding of the cytoskeletal alterations induced in incompatible pollen during SI and their relationship with programmed cell death. We focus on data relating to the formation of F-actin punctate foci, which have, to date, not been well characterized. The identification of two actin-binding proteins that interact with these structures are reviewed. Using an approach that enriched for F-actin from SI-induced pollen tubes using affinity purification followed by mass spectrometry, further proteins were identified as putative interactors with the F-actin foci in an SI situation.
Key Results
Previously two important actin-binding proteins, CAP and ADF, had been identified whose localization altered with SI, both showing co-localization with the F-actin punctate foci based on immunolocalization studies. Further analysis has identified differences between proteins associated with F-actin from SI-induced pollen samples and those associated with F-actin in untreated pollen. This provides candidate proteins implicated in either the formation or stabilization of the punctate actin structures formed during SI.
This review brings together for the first time, our current understanding of proteins and events involved in SI-induced signalling to the actin cytoskeleton in incompatible Papaver pollen.
PMCID: PMC3170148  PMID: 21320881
Actin cytoskeleton; actin-binding proteins; mass spectrometry; Papaver rhoeas; pollen; self-incompatibility; signalling
25.  Why do so many petals have conical epidermal cells? 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(4):609-616.
The conical epidermal cells found on the petals of most Angiosperm species are so widespread that they have been used as markers of petal identity, but their function has only been analysed in recent years. This review brings together diverse data on the role of these cells in pollination biology.
The published effects of conical cells on petal colour, petal reflexing, scent production, petal wettability and pollinator grip on the flower surface are considered. Of these factors, pollinator grip has been shown to be of most significance in the well-studied Antirrhinum majus/bumble-bee system. Published data on the relationship between epidermal cell morphology and floral temperature were limited, so an analysis of the effects of cell shape on floral temperature in Antirrhinum is presented here. Statistically significant warming by conical cells was not detected, although insignificant trends towards faster warming at dawn were found, and it was also found that flat-celled flowers could be warmer on warm days. The warming observed is less significant than that achieved by varying pigment content. However, the possibility that the effect of conical cells on temperature might be biologically significant in certain specific instances such as marginal habitats or weather conditions cannot be ruled out.
Conical epidermal cells can influence a diverse set of petal properties. The fitness benefits they provide to plants are likely to vary with pollinator and habitat, and models are now required to understand how these different factors interact.
PMCID: PMC3170151  PMID: 21470973
Antirrhinum majus; conical cell; epidermis; floral scent; floral temperature; flower colour; grip; petal; pollination; wettability

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