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1.  Dynamic distribution patterns of ribosomal DNA and chromosomal evolution in Paphiopedilum, a lady's slipper orchid 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:126.
Paphiopedilum is a horticulturally and ecologically important genus of ca. 80 species of lady's slipper orchids native to Southeast Asia. These plants have long been of interest regarding their chromosomal evolution, which involves a progressive aneuploid series based on either fission or fusion of centromeres. Chromosome number is positively correlated with genome size, so rearrangement processes must include either insertion or deletion of DNA segments. We have conducted Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) studies using 5S and 25S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) probes to survey for rearrangements, duplications, and phylogenetically-correlated variation within Paphiopedilum. We further studied sequence variation of the non-transcribed spacers of 5S rDNA (5S-NTS) to examine their complex duplication history, including the possibility that concerted evolutionary forces may homogenize diversity.
5S and 25S rDNA loci among Paphiopedilum species, representing all key phylogenetic lineages, exhibit a considerable diversity that correlates well with recognized evolutionary groups. 25S rDNA signals range from 2 (representing 1 locus) to 9, the latter representing hemizygosity. 5S loci display extensive structural variation, and show from 2 specific signals to many, both major and minor and highly dispersed. The dispersed signals mainly occur at centromeric and subtelomeric positions, which are hotspots for chromosomal breakpoints. Phylogenetic analysis of cloned 5S rDNA non-transcribed spacer (5S-NTS) sequences showed evidence for both ancient and recent post-speciation duplication events, as well as interlocus and intralocus diversity.
Paphiopedilum species display many chromosomal rearrangements - for example, duplications, translocations, and inversions - but only weak concerted evolutionary forces among highly duplicated 5S arrays, which suggests that double-strand break repair processes are dynamic and ongoing. These results make the genus a model system for the study of complex chromosomal evolution in plants.
PMCID: PMC3184063  PMID: 21910890
2.  Transcriptomics and molecular evolutionary rate analysis of the bladderwort (Utricularia), a carnivorous plant with a minimal genome 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:101.
The carnivorous plant Utricularia gibba (bladderwort) is remarkable in having a minute genome, which at ca. 80 megabases is approximately half that of Arabidopsis. Bladderworts show an incredible diversity of forms surrounding a defined theme: tiny, bladder-like suction traps on terrestrial, epiphytic, or aquatic plants with a diversity of unusual vegetative forms. Utricularia plants, which are rootless, are also anomalous in physiological features (respiration and carbon distribution), and highly enhanced molecular evolutionary rates in chloroplast, mitochondrial and nuclear ribosomal sequences. Despite great interest in the genus, no genomic resources exist for Utricularia, and the substitution rate increase has received limited study.
Here we describe the sequencing and analysis of the Utricularia gibba transcriptome. Three different organs were surveyed, the traps, the vegetative shoot bodies, and the inflorescence stems. We also examined the bladderwort transcriptome under diverse stress conditions. We detail aspects of functional classification, tissue similarity, nitrogen and phosphorus metabolism, respiration, DNA repair, and detoxification of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Long contigs of plastid and mitochondrial genomes, as well as sequences for 100 individual nuclear genes, were compared with those of other plants to better establish information on molecular evolutionary rates.
The Utricularia transcriptome provides a detailed genomic window into processes occurring in a carnivorous plant. It contains a deep representation of the complex metabolic pathways that characterize a putative minimal plant genome, permitting its use as a source of genomic information to explore the structural, functional, and evolutionary diversity of the genus. Vegetative shoots and traps are the most similar organs by functional classification of their transcriptome, the traps expressing hydrolytic enzymes for prey digestion that were previously thought to be encoded by bacteria. Supporting physiological data, global gene expression analysis shows that traps significantly over-express genes involved in respiration and that phosphate uptake might occur mainly in traps, whereas nitrogen uptake could in part take place in vegetative parts. Expression of DNA repair and ROS detoxification enzymes may be indicative of a response to increased respiration. Finally, evidence from the bladderwort transcriptome, direct measurement of ROS in situ, and cross-species comparisons of organellar genomes and multiple nuclear genes supports the hypothesis that increased nucleotide substitution rates throughout the plant may be due to the mutagenic action of amplified ROS production.
PMCID: PMC3141634  PMID: 21639913
3.  Large scale interaction analysis predicts that the Gerbera hybrida floral E function is provided both by general and specialized proteins 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:129.
The ornamental plant Gerbera hybrida bears complex inflorescences with morphologically distinct floral morphs that are specific to the sunflower family Asteraceae. We have previously characterized several MADS box genes that regulate floral development in Gerbera. To study further their behavior in higher order complex formation according to the quartet model, we performed yeast two- and three-hybrid analysis with fourteen Gerbera MADS domain proteins to analyze their protein-protein interaction potential.
The exhaustive pairwise interaction analysis showed significant differences in the interaction capacity of different Gerbera MADS domain proteins compared to other model plants. Of particular interest in these assays was the behavior of SEP-like proteins, known as GRCDs in Gerbera. The previously described GRCD1 and GRCD2 proteins, which are specific regulators involved in stamen and carpel development, respectively, showed very limited pairwise interactions, whereas the related GRCD4 and GRCD5 factors displayed hub-like positions in the interaction map. We propose GRCD4 and GRCD5 to provide a redundant and general E function in Gerbera, comparable to the SEP proteins in Arabidopsis. Based on the pairwise interaction data, combinations of MADS domain proteins were further subjected to yeast three-hybrid assays. Gerbera B function proteins showed active behavior in ternary complexes. All Gerbera SEP-like proteins with the exception of GRCD1 were excellent partners for B function proteins, further implicating the unique role of GRCD1 as a whorl- and flower-type specific C function partner.
Gerbera MADS domain proteins exhibit both conserved and derived behavior in higher order protein complex formation. This protein-protein interaction data can be used to classify and compare Gerbera MADS domain proteins to those of Arabidopsis and Petunia. Combined with our reverse genetic studies of Gerbera, these results reinforce the roles of different genes in the floral development of Gerbera. Building up the elaborate capitulum of Gerbera calls for modifications and added complexity in MADS domain protein behavior compared to the more simple flowers of, e.g., Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC3017775  PMID: 20579338
4.  Characterization of SQUAMOSA-like genes in Gerbera hybrida, including one involved in reproductive transition 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:128.
The flowering process in plants proceeds through the induction of an inflorescence meristem triggered by several pathways. Many of the genes associated with both the flowering process and floral architecture encode transcription factors of the MADS domain family. Gerbera, a member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae, bears compressed inflorescence heads (capitula) with three different flower types characterized by differences in both sexuality and floral symmetry. To understand how such a complex inflorescence structure is achieved at the molecular level, we have characterized the array of Gerbera MADS box genes. The high number of SQUAMOSA-like genes in Gerbera compared to other model species raised the question as to whether they may relate to Gerbera's complex inflorescence structure and whether or not a homeotic A function is present.
In this paper we describe six Gerbera genes related to the SQUAMOSA/APETALA1/FRUITFULL genes of snapdragon and Arabidopsis. Based on phylogenetic analysis of the entire gene lineage, our data indicates that GSQUA1 and GSQUA3 are members of the SQUA/AP1 clade, while GSQUA2, GSQUA4, GSQUA5 and GSQUA6 are co-orthologs of the Arabidopsis FUL gene. GSQUA1/GSQUA3 and GSQUA4/GSQUA5/GSQUA6, respectively, represent several gene duplication events unknown in the model systems that may be specific to either Gerbera or Asteraceae. GSQUA genes showed specific expression profiles. GSQUA1, GSQUA2, and GSQUA5 were inflorescence abundant, while GSQUA3, GSQUA4, and GSQUA6 expression was also detected in vegetative organs. Overexpression of GSQUA2 in Gerbera led to accelerated flowering, dwarfism and vegetative abnormalities, all new and specific phenomena observed in transgenic Gerbera plants with modified MADS box gene expression.
Based on expression patterns, none of the Gerbera SQUA-like genes are likely to control flower organ identity in the sense of the floral A function. However, our data shows that the FUL-like gene GSQUA2 plays a vital role in meristem transition. The roles of other GSQUA-genes in Gerbera floral development are intriguing, but require still further study.
PMCID: PMC3017819  PMID: 20579337
5.  An expressed sequence tag (EST) library from developing fruits of an Hawaiian endemic mint (Stenogyne rugosa, Lamiaceae): characterization and microsatellite markers 
BMC Plant Biology  2006;6:16.
The endemic Hawaiian mints represent a major island radiation that likely originated from hybridization between two North American polyploid lineages. In contrast with the extensive morphological and ecological diversity among taxa, ribosomal DNA sequence variation has been found to be remarkably low. In the past few years, expressed sequence tag (EST) projects on plant species have generated a vast amount of publicly available sequence data that can be mined for simple sequence repeats (SSRs). However, these EST projects have largely focused on crop or otherwise economically important plants, and so far only few studies have been published on the use of intragenic SSRs in natural plant populations. We constructed an EST library from developing fleshy nutlets of Stenogyne rugosa principally to identify genetic markers for the Hawaiian endemic mints.
The Stenogyne fruit EST library consisted of 628 unique transcripts derived from 942 high quality ESTs, with 68% of unigenes matching Arabidopsis genes. Relative frequencies of Gene Ontology functional categories were broadly representative of the Arabidopsis proteome. Many unigenes were identified as putative homologs of genes that are active during plant reproductive development. A comparison between unigenes from Stenogyne and tomato (both asterid angiosperms) revealed many homologs that may be relevant for fruit development. Among the 628 unigenes, a total of 44 potentially useful microsatellite loci were predicted. Several of these were successfully tested for cross-transferability to other Hawaiian mint species, and at least five of these demonstrated interesting patterns of polymorphism across a large sample of Hawaiian mints as well as close North American relatives in the genus Stachys.
Analysis of this relatively small EST library illustrated a broad GO functional representation. Many unigenes could be annotated to involvement in reproductive development. Furthermore, first tests of microsatellite primer pairs have proven promising for the use of Stenogyne rugosa EST SSRs for evolutionary and phylogeographic studies of the Hawaiian endemic mints and their close relatives. Given that allelic repeat length variation in developmental genes of other organisms has been linked with morphological evolution, these SSRs may also prove useful for analyses of phenotypic differences among Hawaiian mints.
PMCID: PMC1560379  PMID: 16928278
6.  Patterns of MADS-box gene expression mark flower-type development in Gerbera hybrida (Asteraceae) 
BMC Plant Biology  2006;6:11.
The inflorescence of the cut-flower crop Gerbera hybrida (Asteraceae) consists of two principal flower types, ray and disc, which form a tightly packed head, or capitulum. Despite great interest in plant morphological evolution and the tractability of the gerbera system, very little is known regarding genetic mechanisms involved in flower type specification. Here, we provide comparative staging of ray and disc flower development and microarray screening for differentially expressed genes, accomplished via microdissection of hundreds of coordinately developing flower primordia.
Using a 9K gerbera cDNA microarray we identified a number of genes with putative specificity to individual flower types. Intrestingly, several of these encode homologs of MADS-box transcription factors otherwise known to regulate flower organ development. From these and previously obtained data, we hypothesize the functions and protein-protein interactions of several gerbera MADS-box factors.
Our RNA expression results suggest that flower-type specific MADS protein complexes may play a central role in differential development of ray and disc flowers across the gerbera capitulum, and that some commonality is shared with known protein functions in floral organ determination. These findings support the intriguing conjecture that the gerbera flowering head is more than a mere floral analog at the level of gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC1525168  PMID: 16762082
7.  Phylogenetic diversification of glycogen synthase kinase 3/SHAGGY-like kinase genes in plants 
BMC Plant Biology  2006;6:3.
The glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3)/SHAGGY-like kinases (GSKs) are non-receptor serine/threonine protein kinases that are involved in a variety of biological processes. In contrast to the two members of the GSK3 family in mammals, plants appear to have a much larger set of divergent GSK genes. Plant GSKs are encoded by a multigene family; analysis of the Arabidopsis genome revealed the existence of 10 GSK genes that fall into four major groups. Here we characterized the structure of Arabidopsis and rice GSK genes and conducted the first broad phylogenetic analysis of the plant GSK gene family, covering a taxonomically diverse array of algal and land plant sequences.
We found that the structure of GSK genes is generally conserved in Arabidopsis and rice, although we documented examples of exon expansion and intron loss. Our phylogenetic analyses of 139 sequences revealed four major clades of GSK genes that correspond to the four subgroups initially recognized in Arabidopsis. ESTs from basal angiosperms were represented in all four major clades; GSK homologs from the basal angiosperm Persea americana (avocado) appeared in all four clades. Gymnosperm sequences occurred in clades I, III, and IV, and a sequence of the red alga Porphyra was sister to all green plant sequences.
Our results indicate that (1) the plant-specific GSK gene lineage was established early in the history of green plants, (2) plant GSKs began to diversify prior to the origin of extant seed plants, (3) three of the four major clades of GSKs present in Arabidopsis and rice were established early in the evolutionary history of extant seed plants, and (4) diversification into four major clades (as initially reported in Arabidopsis) occurred either just prior to the origin of the angiosperms or very early in angiosperm history.
PMCID: PMC1524769  PMID: 16504046
8.  Floral gene resources from basal angiosperms for comparative genomics research 
BMC Plant Biology  2005;5:5.
The Floral Genome Project was initiated to bridge the genomic gap between the most broadly studied plant model systems. Arabidopsis and rice, although now completely sequenced and under intensive comparative genomic investigation, are separated by at least 125 million years of evolutionary time, and cannot in isolation provide a comprehensive perspective on structural and functional aspects of flowering plant genome dynamics. Here we discuss new genomic resources available to the scientific community, comprising cDNA libraries and Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) sequences for a suite of phylogenetically basal angiosperms specifically selected to bridge the evolutionary gaps between model plants and provide insights into gene content and genome structure in the earliest flowering plants.
Random sequencing of cDNAs from representatives of phylogenetically important eudicot, non-grass monocot, and gymnosperm lineages has so far (as of 12/1/04) generated 70,514 ESTs and 48,170 assembled unigenes. Efficient sorting of EST sequences into putative gene families based on whole Arabidopsis/rice proteome comparison has permitted ready identification of cDNA clones for finished sequencing. Preliminarily, (i) proportions of functional categories among sequenced floral genes seem representative of the entire Arabidopsis transcriptome, (ii) many known floral gene homologues have been captured, and (iii) phylogenetic analyses of ESTs are providing new insights into the process of gene family evolution in relation to the origin and diversification of the angiosperms.
Initial comparisons illustrate the utility of the EST data sets toward discovery of the basic floral transcriptome. These first findings also afford the opportunity to address a number of conspicuous evolutionary genomic questions, including reproductive organ transcriptome overlap between angiosperms and gymnosperms, genome-wide duplication history, lineage-specific gene duplication and functional divergence, and analyses of adaptive molecular evolution. Since not all genes in the floral transcriptome will be associated with flowering, these EST resources will also be of interest to plant scientists working on other functions, such as photosynthesis, signal transduction, and metabolic pathways.
PMCID: PMC1083416  PMID: 15799777

Results 1-8 (8)