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1.  Mutation of the RDR1 gene caused genome-wide changes in gene expression, regional variation in small RNA clusters and localized alteration in DNA methylation in rice 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:177.
Endogenous small (sm) RNAs (primarily si- and miRNAs) are important trans/cis-acting regulators involved in diverse cellular functions. In plants, the RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RDRs) are essential for smRNA biogenesis. It has been established that RDR2 is involved in the 24 nt siRNA-dependent RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway. Recent studies have suggested that RDR1 is involved in a second RdDM pathway that relies mostly on 21 nt smRNAs and functions to silence a subset of genomic loci that are usually refractory to the normal RdDM pathway in Arabidopsis. Whether and to what extent the homologs of RDR1 may have similar functions in other plants remained unknown.
We characterized a loss-of-function mutant (Osrdr1) of the OsRDR1 gene in rice (Oryza sativa L.) derived from a retrotransposon Tos17 insertion. Microarray analysis identified 1,175 differentially expressed genes (5.2% of all expressed genes in the shoot-tip tissue of rice) between Osrdr1 and WT, of which 896 and 279 genes were up- and down-regulated, respectively, in Osrdr1. smRNA sequencing revealed regional alterations in smRNA clusters across the rice genome. Some of the regions with altered smRNA clusters were associated with changes in DNA methylation. In addition, altered expression of several miRNAs was detected in Osrdr1, and at least some of which were associated with altered expression of predicted miRNA target genes. Despite these changes, no phenotypic difference was identified in Osrdr1 relative to WT under normal condition; however, ephemeral phenotypic fluctuations occurred under some abiotic stress conditions.
Our results showed that OsRDR1 plays a role in regulating a substantial number of endogenous genes with diverse functions in rice through smRNA-mediated pathways involving DNA methylation, and which participates in abiotic stress response.
PMCID: PMC4083042  PMID: 24980094
Gene expression; Epigenetics; Small RNA; DNA methylation; RDR1; Oryza sativa L
2.  Overexpression of GmAKT2 potassium channel enhances resistance to soybean mosaic virus 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:154.
Soybean mosaic virus (SMV) is the most prevalent viral disease in many soybean production areas. Due to a large number of SMV resistant loci and alleles, SMV strains and the rapid evolution in avirulence/effector genes, traditional breeding for SMV resistance is complex. Genetic engineering is an effective alternative method for improving SMV resistance in soybean. Potassium (K+) is the most abundant inorganic solute in plant cells, and is involved in plant responses to abiotic and biotic stresses. Studies have shown that altering the level of K+ status can reduce the spread of the viral diseases. Thus K+ transporters are putative candidates to target for soybean virus resistance.
The addition of K+ fertilizer significantly reduced SMV incidence. Analysis of K+ channel gene expression indicated that GmAKT2, the ortholog of Arabidopsis K+ weak channel encoding gene AKT2, was significantly induced by SMV inoculation in the SMV highly-resistant genotype Rsmv1, but not in the susceptible genotype Ssmv1. Transgenic soybean plants overexpressing GmAKT2 were produced and verified by Southern blot and RT-PCR analysis. Analysis of K+ concentrations on different leaves of both the transgenic and the wildtype (Williams 82) plants revealed that overexpression of GmAKT2 significantly increased K+ concentrations in young leaves of plants. In contrast, K+ concentrations in the old leaves of the GmAKT2-Oe plants were significantly lower than those in WT plants. These results indicated that GmAKT2 acted as a K+ transporter and affected the distribution of K+ in soybean plants. Starting from 14 days after inoculation (DAI) of SMV G7, severe mosaic symptoms were observed on the WT leaves. In contrast, the GmAKT2-Oe plants showed no symptom of SMV infection. At 14 and 28 DAI, the amount of SMV RNA in WT plants increased 200- and 260- fold relative to GmAKT2-Oe plants at each time point. Thus, SMV development was significantly retarded in GmAKT2-overexpressing transgenic soybean plants.
Overexpression of GmAKT2 significantly enhanced SMV resistance in transgenic soybean. Thus, alteration of K+ transporter expression is a novel molecular approach for enhancing SMV resistance in soybean.
PMCID: PMC4074861  PMID: 24893844
Soybean mosaic virus; Resistance; Potassium channel; GmAKT2
3.  Tissue culture-induced genetic and epigenetic alterations in rice pure-lines, F1 hybrids and polyploids 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:77.
Genetic and epigenetic alterations can be invoked by plant tissue culture, which may result in heritable changes in phenotypes, a phenomenon collectively termed somaclonal variation. Although extensive studies have been conducted on the molecular nature and spectrum of tissue culture-induced genomic alterations, the issue of whether and to what extent distinct plant genotypes, e.g., pure-lines, hybrids and polyploids, may respond differentially to the tissue culture condition remains poorly understood.
We investigated tissue culture-induced genetic and epigenetic alterations in a set of rice genotypes including two pure-lines (different subspecies), a pair of reciprocal F1 hybrids parented by the two pure-lines, and a pair of reciprocal tetraploids resulted from the hybrids. Using two molecular markers, amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) and methylation-sensitive amplified polymorphism (MSAP), both genetic and DNA methylation alterations were detected in calli and regenerants from all six genotypes, but genetic alteration is more prominent than epigenetic alteration. While significant genotypic difference was observed in frequencies of both types of alterations, only genetic alteration showed distinctive features among the three types of genomes, with one hybrid (N/9) being exceptionally labile. Surprisingly, difference in genetic alteration frequencies between the pair of reciprocal F1 hybrids is much greater than that between the two pure-line subspecies. Difference also exists in the pair of reciprocal tetraploids, but is to a less extent than that between the hybrids. The steady-state transcript abundance of genes involved in DNA repair and DNA methylation was significantly altered in both calli and regenerants, and some of which were correlated with the genetic and/or epigenetic alterations.
Our results, based on molecular marker analysis of ca. 1,000 genomic loci, document that genetic alteration is the major cause of somaclonal variation in rice, which is concomitant with epigenetic alterations. Perturbed expression by tissue culture of a set of 41 genes encoding for enzymes involved in DNA repair and DNA methylation is associated with both genetic and epigenetic alterations. There exist fundamental differences among distinct genotypes, pure-lines, hybrids and tetraploids, in propensities of generating both genetic and epigenetic alterations under the tissue culture condition. Parent-of-origin has a conspicuous effect on the alteration frequencies.
PMCID: PMC3648424  PMID: 23642214
4.  Effects of salt stress on ion balance and nitrogen metabolism of old and young leaves in rice (Oryza sativa L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:194.
It is well known that salt stress has different effects on old and young tissues. However, it remains largely unexplored whether old and young tissues have different regulatory mechanism during adaptation of plants to salt stress. The aim of this study was to investigate whether salt stress has different effects on the ion balance and nitrogen metabolism in the old and young leaves of rice, and to compare functions of both organs in rice salt tolerance.
Rice protected young leaves from ion harm via the large accumulation of Na+ and Cl− in old leaves. The up-regulation of OsHKT1;1, OsHAK10 and OsHAK16 might contribute to accumulation of Na+ in old leaves under salt stress. In addition, lower expression of OsHKT1;5 and OsSOS1 in old leaves may decrease frequency of retrieving Na+ from old leaf cells. Under salt stress, old leaves showed higher concentration of NO3− content than young leaves. Up-regulation of OsNRT1;2, a gene coding nitrate transporter, might contribute to the accumulation of NO3− in the old leaves of salt stressed-rice. Salt stress clearly up-regulated the expression of OsGDH2 and OsGDH3 in old leaves, while strongly down-regulated expression of OsGS2 and OsFd-GOGAT in old leaves.
The down-regulation of OsGS2 and OsFd-GOGAT in old leaves might be a harmful response to excesses of Na+ and Cl−. Under salt stress, rice might accumulate Na+ and Cl− to toxic levels in old leaves. This might influence photorespiration process, reduce NH4+ production from photorespiration, and immediately down-regulate the expression of OsGS2 and OsFd-GOGAT in old leaves of salt stressed rice. Excesses of Na+ and Cl− also might change the pathway of NH4+ assimilation in old leaves of salt stressed rice plants, weaken GOGAT/GS pathway and elevate GDH pathway.
PMCID: PMC3496643  PMID: 23082824
Salt stress; Rice; Nitrogen metabolism; Gene expression; Old and young leaves
5.  Changes in DNA methylation and transgenerational mobilization of a transposable element (mPing) by the Topoisomerase II inhibitor, Etoposide, in rice 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:48.
Etoposide (epipodophyllotoxin) is a chemical commonly used as an anti-cancer drug which inhibits DNA synthesis by blocking topoisomerase II activity. Previous studies in animal cells have demonstrated that etoposide constitutes a genotoxic stress which may induce genomic instability including mobilization of normally quiescent transposable elements (TEs). However, it remained unknown whether similar genetically mutagenic effects could be imposed by etoposide in plant cells. Also, no information is available with regard to whether the drug may cause a perturbation of epigenetic stability in any organism.
To investigate whether etoposide could generate genetic and/or epigenetic instability in plant cells, we applied etoposide to germinating seeds of six cultivated rice (Oryza sativa L.) genotypes including both subspecies, japonica and indica. Based on the methylation-sensitive gel-blotting results, epigenetic changes in DNA methylation of three TEs (Tos17, Osr23 and Osr36) and two protein-encoding genes (Homeobox and CDPK-related genes) were detected in the etoposide-treated plants (S0 generation) in four of the six studied japonica cultivars, Nipponbare, RZ1, RZ2, and RZ35, but not in the rest japonica cultivar (Matsumae) and the indica cultivar (93-11). DNA methylation changes in the etoposide-treated S0 rice plants were validated by bisulfite sequencing at both of two analyzed loci (Tos17 and Osr36). Transpositional activity was tested for eight TEs endogenous to the rice genome in both the S0 plants and their selfed progenies (S1 and S2) of one of the cultivars, RZ1, which manifested heritable phenotypic variations. Results indicated that no transposition occurred in the etoposide-treated S0 plants for any of the TEs. Nonetheless, a MITE transposon, mPing, showed rampant mobilization in the S1 and S2 progenies descended from the drug-treated S0 plants.
Our results demonstrate that etoposide imposes a similar genotoxic stress on plant cells as it does on animal and human cells, which may induce transgenerational genomic instability by instigating transpositional activation of otherwise dormant TEs. In addition, we show for the first time that etoposide may induce epigenetic instability in the form of altered DNA methylation patterns in eukaryotes. However, penetrance of the genotoxic effects of etoposide on plant cells, as being reflected as genetic and epigenetic instability, appears to be in a strictly genotype- and/or generation-dependent manner.
PMCID: PMC3480845  PMID: 22482475
6.  Transpositional reactivation of the Dart transposon family in rice lines derived from introgressive hybridization with Zizania latifolia 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:190.
It is widely recognized that interspecific hybridization may induce "genome shock", and lead to genetic and epigenetic instabilities in the resultant hybrids and/or backcrossed introgressants. A prominent component involved in the genome shock is reactivation of cryptic transposable elements (TEs) in the hybrid genome, which is often associated with alteration in the elements' epigenetic modifications like cytosine DNA methylation. We have previously reported that introgressants derived from hybridization between Oryza sativa (rice) and Zizania latifolia manifested substantial methylation re-patterning and rampant mobilization of two TEs, a copia retrotransposon Tos17 and a MITE mPing. It was not known however whether other types of TEs had also been transpositionally reactivated in these introgressants, their relevance to alteration in cytosine methylation, and their impact on expression of adjacent cellular genes.
We document in this study that the Dart TE family was transpositionally reactivated followed by stabilization in all three studied introgressants (RZ1, RZ2 and RZ35) derived from introgressive hybridization between rice (cv. Matsumae) and Z. latifolia, while the TEs remained quiescent in the recipient rice genome. Transposon-display (TD) and sequencing verified the element's mobility and mapped the excisions and re-insertions to the rice chromosomes. Methylation-sensitive Southern blotting showed that the Dart TEs were heavily methylated along their entire length, and moderate alteration in cytosine methylation patterns occurred in the introgressants relative to their rice parental line. Real-time qRT-PCR quantification on the relative transcript abundance of six single-copy genes flanking the newly excised or inserted Dart-related TE copies indicated that whereas marked difference in the expression of all four genes in both tissues (leaf and root) were detected between the introgressants and their rice parental line under both normal and various stress conditions, the difference showed little association with the presence or absence of the newly mobilized Dart-related TEs.
Introgressive hybridization has induced transpositional reactivation of the otherwise immobile Dart-related TEs in the parental rice line (cv. Matsumae), which was accompanied with a moderate alteration in the element's cytosine methylation. Significant difference in expression of the Dart-adjacent genes occurred between the introgressants and their rice parental line under both normal and various abiotic stress conditions, but the alteration in gene expression was not coupled with the TEs.
PMCID: PMC2956540  PMID: 20796287
7.  Tissue culture-induced transpositional activity of mPing is correlated with cytosine methylation in rice 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:91.
mPing is an endogenous MITE in the rice genome, which is quiescent under normal conditions but can be induced towards mobilization under various stresses. The cellular mechanism responsible for modulating the activity of mPing remains unknown. Cytosine methylation is a major epigenetic modification in most eukaryotes, and the primary function of which is to serve as a genome defense system including taming activity of transposable elements (TEs). Given that tissue-culture is capable of inducing both methylation alteration and mPing transposition in certain rice genotypes, it provides a tractable system to investigate the possible relationship between the two phenomena.
mPing transposition and cytosine methylation alteration were measured in callus and regenerated plants in three rice (ssp. indica) genotypes, V14, V27 and R09. All three genotypes showed transposition of mPing, though at various frequencies. Cytosine methylation alteration occurred both at the mPing-flanks and at random loci sampled globally in callus and regenerated plants of all three genotypes. However, a sharp difference in the changing patterns was noted between the mPing-flanks and random genomic loci, with a particular type of methylation modification, i.e., CNG hypermethylation, occurred predominantly at the mPing-flanks. Pearson's test on pairwise correlations indicated that mPing activity is positively correlated with specific patterns of methylation alteration at random genomic loci, while the element's immobility is positively correlated with methylation levels of the mPing's 5'-flanks. Bisulfite sequencing of two mPing-containing loci showed that whereas for the immobile locus loss of CG methylation in the 5'-flank was accompanied by an increase in CHG methylation, together with an overall increase in methylation of all three types (CG, CHG and CHH) in the mPing-body region, for the active locus erasure of CG methylation in the 5'-flank was not followed by such a change.
Our results documented that tissue culture-induced mPing activity in rice ssp. indica is correlated with alteration in cytosine methylation patterns at both random genomic loci and the elements' flanks, while the stability of mPing positively correlates with enhanced methylation levels of both the flanks and probably the elements per se. Thus, our results implicate a possible role of cytosine methylation in maintaining mPing stability under normal conditions, and in releasing the element's activity as a consequence of epigenetic perturbation in a locus-specific manner under certain stress conditions.
PMCID: PMC2715021  PMID: 19604382
8.  Molecular characterization of a rice mutator-phenotype derived from an incompatible cross-pollination reveals transgenerational mobilization of multiple transposable elements and extensive epigenetic instability 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:63.
Inter-specific hybridization occurs frequently in plants, which may induce genetic and epigenetic instabilities in the resultant hybrids, allopolyploids and introgressants. It remains unclear however whether pollination by alien pollens of an incompatible species may impose a "biological stress" even in the absence of genome-merger or genetic introgression, whereby genetic and/or epigenetic instability of the maternal recipient genome might be provoked.
We report here the identification of a rice mutator-phenotype from a set of rice plants derived from a crossing experiment involving two remote and apparently incompatible species, Oryza sativa L. and Oenothera biennis L. The mutator-phenotype (named Tong211-LP) showed distinct alteration in several traits, with the most striking being substantially enlarged panicles. Expectably, gel-blotting by total genomic DNA of the pollen-donor showed no evidence for introgression. Characterization of Tong211-LP (S0) and its selfed progenies (S1) ruled out contamination (via seed or pollen) or polyploidy as a cause for its dramatic phenotypic changes, but revealed transgenerational mobilization of several previously characterized transposable elements (TEs), including a MITE (mPing), and three LTR retrotransposons (Osr7, Osr23 and Tos17). AFLP and MSAP fingerprinting revealed extensive, transgenerational alterations in cytosine methylation and to a less extent also genetic variation in Tong211-LP and its immediate progenies. mPing mobility was found to correlate with cytosine methylation alteration detected by MSAP but not with genetic variation detected by AFLP. Assay by q-RT-PCR of the steady-state transcript abundance of a set of genes encoding for the various putative DNA methyltransferases, 5-methylcytosine DNA glycosylases, and small interference RNA (siRNA) pathway-related proteins showed that, relative to the rice parental line, heritable perturbation in expression of 12 out of the 13 genes occurred in the mutator-phenotype and its sefled progenies.
Transgenerational epigenetic instability in the form of altered cytosine methylation and its associated TE activity occurred in a rice mutator-phenotype produced by pollinating the rice stigma with pollens of O. biennis. Heritably perturbed homeostatic expression-state of genes involved in maintenance of chromatin structure is likely an underlying cause for the alien pollination-induced transgenerational epigenetic/genetic instability, and which occurred apparently without entailing genome merger or genetic introgression.
PMCID: PMC2696445  PMID: 19476655

Results 1-8 (8)