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1.  The 2HA line of Medicago truncatula has characteristics of an epigenetic mutant that is weakly ethylene insensitive 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:174.
The Medicago truncatula 2HA seed line is highly embryogenic while the parental line Jemalong rarely produces embryos. The 2HA line was developed from one of the rare Jemalong regenerates and this method for obtaining a highly regenerable genotype in M. truncatula is readily reproducible suggesting an epigenetic mechanism. Microarray transcriptomic analysis showed down regulation of an ETHYLENE INSENSITIVE 3-like gene in 2HA callus which provided an approach to investigating epigenetic regulation of genes related to ethylene signalling and the 2HA phenotype. Ethylene is involved in many developmental processes including somatic embryogenesis (SE) and is associated with stress responses.
Microarray transcriptomic analysis showed a significant number of up-regulated transcripts in 2HA tissue culture, including nodule and embryo specific genes and transposon-like genes, while only a few genes were down-regulated, including an EIN3-like gene we called MtEIL1. This reduced expression was associated with ethylene insensitivity of 2HA plants that was further investigated. The weak ethylene insensitivity affected root and nodule development. Sequencing of MtEIL1 found no difference between 2HA and wild-type plants. DNA methylation analysis of MtEIL1 revealed significant difference between 2HA and wild-type plants. Tiling arrays demonstrated an elevated level of miRNA in 2HA plants that hybridised to the antisense strand of the MtEIL1 gene. AFLP-like methylation profiling revealed more differences in DNA methylation between 2HA and wild-type. Segregation analysis demonstrated the recessive nature of the eil1 phenotype and the dominant nature of the SE trait.
We have demonstrated that EIL1 of Medicago truncatula (MtEIL1) is epigenetically silenced in the 2HA seed line. The possible cause is an elevated level of miRNA that targets its 3’UTR and is also associated with DNA methylation of MtEIL1. Down regulation of MtEIL1 makes it possible to form nodules in the presence of ethylene and affects root growth under normal conditions. Segregation analysis showed no association between MtEIL1 expression and SE in culture but the role and mechanism of ethylene signalling in the process of plant regeneration through SE requires further investigation. The work also suggests that epigenetic changes to a particular gene induced in culture can be fixed in regenerated plants.
PMCID: PMC4082419  PMID: 24952658
2HA seed line; Somatic embryogenesis; Ethylene insensitivity; Nodulation; Root growth; Medicago truncatula; Epigenetics; DNA methylation; miRNA
3.  Genome-wide transcriptional analysis of super-embryogenic Medicago truncatula explant cultures 
BMC Plant Biology  2008;8:110.
The Medicago truncatula (M. truncatula) line 2HA has a 500-fold greater capacity to regenerate plants in culture by somatic embryogenesis than its wild type progenitor Jemalong. To understand the molecular basis for the regeneration capacity of this super-embryogenic line 2HA, using Affymetrix GeneChip®, we have compared transcriptomes of explant leaf cultures of these two lines that were grown on media containing the auxin NAA (1-naphthaleneacetic acid) and the cytokinin BAP (6-benzylaminopurine) for two weeks, an early time point for tissue culture proliferation.
Using Affymetrix GeneChip®, GCRMA normalisation and statistical analysis, we have shown that more than 196 and 49 probe sets were significantly (p < 0.05) up- or down-regulated respectively more than 2 fold in expression. We have utilised GeneBins, a database for classifying gene expression data to distinguish differentially displayed pathways among these two cultures which showed changes in number of biochemical pathways including carbon and flavonoid biosynthesis, phytohormone biosynthesis and signalling. The up-regulated genes in the embryogenic 2HA culture included nodulins, transporters, regulatory genes, embryogenesis related arabinogalactans and genes involved in redox homeostasis, the transition from vegetative growth to reproductive growth and cytokinin signalling. Down-regulated genes included protease inhibitors, wound-induced proteins, and genes involved in biosynthesis and signalling of phytohormones auxin, gibberellin and ethylene. These changes indicate essential differences between the super-embryogenic line 2HA and Jemalong not only in many aspects of biochemical pathways but also in their response to auxin and cytokinin. To validate the GeneChip results, we used quantitative real-time RT-PCR to examine the expression of the genes up-regulated in 2HA such as transposase, RNA-directed DNA polymerase, glycoside hydrolase, RESPONSE REGULATOR 10, AGAMOUS-LIKE 20, flower promoting factor 1, nodulin 3, fasciclin and lipoxygenase, and a down-regulated gene ETHYLENE INSENSITIVE 3, all of which positively correlated with the microarray data.
We have described the differences in transcriptomes between the M. truncatula super-embryogenic line 2HA and its non-embryogenic progenitor Jemalong at an early time point. This data will facilitate the mapping of regulatory and metabolic networks involved in the gaining totipotency and regeneration capacity in M. truncatula and provides candidate genes for functional analysis.
PMCID: PMC2605756  PMID: 18950541
4.  Transcriptional profiling of Medicago truncatula meristematic root cells 
BMC Plant Biology  2008;8:21.
The root apical meristem of crop and model legume Medicago truncatula is a significantly different stem cell system to that of the widely studied model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana. In this study we used the Affymetrix Medicago GeneChip® to compare the transcriptomes of meristem and non-meristematic root to identify root meristem specific candidate genes.
Using mRNA from root meristem and non-meristem we were able to identify 324 and 363 transcripts differentially expressed from the two regions. With bioinformatics tools developed to functionally annotate the Medicago genome array we could identify significant changes in metabolism, signalling and the differentially expression of 55 transcription factors in meristematic and non-meristematic roots.
This is the first comprehensive analysis of M. truncatula root meristem cells using this genome array. This data will facilitate the mapping of regulatory and metabolic networks involved in the open root meristem of M. truncatula and provides candidates for functional analysis.
PMCID: PMC2277415  PMID: 18302802
5.  Bioinformatic analysis of the CLE signaling peptide family 
BMC Plant Biology  2008;8:1.
Plants encode a large number of leucine-rich repeat receptor-like kinases. Legumes encode several LRR-RLK linked to the process of root nodule formation, the ligands of which are unknown. To identify ligands for these receptors, we used a combination of profile hidden Markov models and position-specific iterative BLAST, allowing us to detect new members of the CLV3/ESR (CLE) protein family from publicly available sequence databases.
We identified 114 new members of the CLE protein family from various plant species, as well as five protein sequences containing multiple CLE domains. We were able to cluster the CLE domain proteins into 13 distinct groups based on their pairwise similarities in the primary CLE motif. In addition, we identified secondary motifs that coincide with our sequence clusters. The groupings based on the CLE motifs correlate with known biological functions of CLE signaling peptides and are analogous to groupings based on phylogenetic analysis and ectopic overexpression studies. We tested the biological function of two of the predicted CLE signaling peptides in the legume Medicago truncatula. These peptides inhibit the activity of the root apical and lateral root meristems in a manner consistent with our functional predictions based on other CLE signaling peptides clustering in the same groups.
Our analysis provides an identification and classification of a large number of novel potential CLE signaling peptides. The additional motifs we found could lead to future discovery of recognition sites for processing peptidases as well as predictions for receptor binding specificity.
PMCID: PMC2254619  PMID: 18171480

Results 1-5 (5)