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1.  Alternative splicing and nonsense-mediated decay of circadian clock genes under environmental stress conditions in Arabidopsis 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:136.
Background
The circadian clock enables living organisms to anticipate recurring daily and seasonal fluctuations in their growth habitats and synchronize their biology to the environmental cycle. The plant circadian clock consists of multiple transcription-translation feedback loops that are entrained by environmental signals, such as light and temperature. In recent years, alternative splicing emerges as an important molecular mechanism that modulates the clock function in plants. Several clock genes are known to undergo alternative splicing in response to changes in environmental conditions, suggesting that the clock function is intimately associated with environmental responses via the alternative splicing of the clock genes. However, the alternative splicing events of the clock genes have not been studied at the molecular level.
Results
We systematically examined whether major clock genes undergo alternative splicing under various environmental conditions in Arabidopsis. We also investigated the fates of the RNA splice variants of the clock genes. It was found that the clock genes, including EARLY FLOWERING 3 (ELF3) and ZEITLUPE (ZTL) that have not been studied in terms of alternative splicing, undergo extensive alternative splicing through diverse modes of splicing events, such as intron retention, exon skipping, and selection of alternative 5′ splice site. Their alternative splicing patterns were differentially influenced by changes in photoperiod, temperature extremes, and salt stress. Notably, the RNA splice variants of TIMING OF CAB EXPRESSION 1 (TOC1) and ELF3 were degraded through the nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) pathway, whereas those of other clock genes were insensitive to NMD.
Conclusion
Taken together, our observations demonstrate that the major clock genes examined undergo extensive alternative splicing under various environmental conditions, suggesting that alternative splicing is a molecular scheme that underlies the linkage between the clock and environmental stress adaptation in plants. It is also envisioned that alternative splicing of the clock genes plays more complex roles than previously expected.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-14-136
PMCID: PMC4035800  PMID: 24885185
Arabidopsis thaliana; Circadian clock; Transcription factor; Alternative splicing; Nonsense-mediated decay (NMD); Environmental stress
2.  Molecular and functional characterization of cold-responsive C-repeat binding factors from Brachypodium distachyon 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:15.
Background
Adverse environmental conditions severely influence various aspects of plant growth and developmental processes, causing worldwide reduction of crop yields. The C-repeat binding factors (CBFs) are critical transcription factors constituting the gene regulatory network that mediates the acclimation process to low temperatures. They regulate a large number of cold-responsive genes, including COLD-REGULATED (COR) genes, via the CBF-COR regulon. Recent studies have shown that the CBF transcription factors also play a role in plant responses to drought and salt stresses. Putative CBF gene homologues and their downstream genes are also present in the genome of Brachypodium distachyon, which is perceived as a monocot model in recent years. However, they have not been functionally characterized at the molecular level.
Results
Three CBF genes that are responsive to cold were identified from Brachypodium, designated BdCBF1, BdCBF2, and BdCBF3, and they were functionally characterized by molecular biological and transgenic approaches in Brachypodium and Arabidopsis thaliana. Our results demonstrate that the BdCBF genes contribute to the tolerance response of Brachypodium to cold, drought, and salt stresses by regulating downstream targets, such as DEHYDRIN5.1 (Dhn5.1) and COR genes. The BdCBF genes are induced under the environmental stress conditions. The BdCBF proteins possess transcriptional activation activity and bind directly to the promoters of the target genes. Transgenic Brachypodium plants overexpressing the BdCBF genes exhibited enhanced resistance to drought and salt stresses as well as low temperatures, and accordingly endogenous contents of proline and soluble sugars were significantly elevated in the transgenic plants. The BdCBF transcription factors are also functional in the heterologous system Arabidopsis. Transgenic Arabidopsis plants overexpressing the BdCBF genes were also tolerant to freezing, drought, and salt stresses, and a set of stress-responsive genes was upregulated in the transgenic Arabidopsis plants.
Conclusions
Taken together, our results strongly support that the BdCBF transcription factors are key regulators of cold stress responses in Brachypodium and the CBF-mediated cold stress signaling pathway is conserved in this plant species. We believe that this study would confer great impact on stress biology in monocot species and could be applied to engineer abiotic stress tolerance of bioenergy grass species.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-14-15
PMCID: PMC3898008  PMID: 24405987
Brachypodium distachyon; C-repeat binding factor (CBF); COLD-REGULATED (COR); Abiotic stress tolerance; Arabidopsis thaliana
3.  Natural variation in floral nectar proteins of two Nicotiana attenuata accessions 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:101.
Background
Floral nectar (FN) contains not only energy-rich compounds to attract pollinators, but also defense chemicals and several proteins. However, proteomic analysis of FN has been hampered by the lack of publically available sequence information from nectar-producing plants. Here we used next-generation sequencing and advanced proteomics to profile FN proteins in the opportunistic outcrossing wild tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata.
Results
We constructed a transcriptome database of N. attenuata and characterized its nectar proteome using LC-MS/MS. The FN proteins of N. attenuata included nectarins, sugar-cleaving enzymes (glucosidase, galactosidase, and xylosidase), RNases, pathogen-related proteins, and lipid transfer proteins. Natural variation in FN proteins of eleven N. attenuata accessions revealed a negative relationship between the accumulation of two abundant proteins, nectarin1b and nectarin5. In addition, microarray analysis of nectary tissues revealed that protein accumulation in FN is not simply correlated with the accumulation of transcripts encoding FN proteins and identified a group of genes that were specifically expressed in the nectary.
Conclusions
Natural variation of identified FN proteins in the ecological model plant N. attenuata suggests that nectar chemistry may have a complex function in plant-pollinator-microbe interactions.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-101
PMCID: PMC3728157  PMID: 23848992
LC-MS/MS; Nectar protein; Nectarin; Nicotiana attenuata
4.  Identification and characterization of circadian clock genes in a native tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:172.
Background
A plant’s endogenous clock (circadian clock) entrains physiological processes to light/dark and temperature cycles. Forward and reverse genetic approaches in Arabidopsis have revealed the mechanisms of the circadian clock and its components in the genome. Similar approaches have been used to characterize conserved clock elements in several plant species. A wild tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata has been studied extensively to understand responses to biotic or abiotic stress in the glasshouse and also in their native habitat. During two decades of field experiment, we observed several diurnal rhythmic traits of N. attenuata in nature. To expand our knowledge of circadian clock function into the entrainment of traits important for ecological processes, we here report three core clock components in N. attenuata.
Results
Protein similarity and transcript accumulation allowed us to isolate orthologous genes of the core circadian clock components, LATE ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL (LHY), TIMING OF CAB EXPRESSION 1/PSEUDO-RESPONSE REGULATOR 1 (TOC1/PRR1), and ZEITLUPE (ZTL). Transcript accumulation of NaLHY peaked at dawn and NaTOC1 peaked at dusk in plants grown under long day conditions. Ectopic expression of NaLHY and NaZTL in Arabidopsis resulted in elongated hypocotyl and late-flowering phenotypes. Protein interactions between NaTOC1 and NaZTL were confirmed by yeast two-hybrid assays. Finally, when NaTOC1 was silenced in N. attenuata, late-flowering phenotypes under long day conditions were clearly observed.
Conclusions
We identified three core circadian clock genes in N. attenuata and demonstrated the functional and biochemical conservation of NaLHY, NaTOC1, and NaZTL.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-172
PMCID: PMC3489836  PMID: 23006446
Circadian clock; Flowering time; NaLHY; NaTOC1; NaZTL; Nicotiana attenuata; Protein interaction
5.  Exploring valid reference genes for gene expression studies in Brachypodium distachyon by real-time PCR 
BMC Plant Biology  2008;8:112.
Background
The wild grass species Brachypodium distachyon (Brachypodium hereafter) is emerging as a new model system for grass crop genomics research and biofuel grass biology. A draft nuclear genome sequence is expected to be publicly available in the near future; an explosion of gene expression studies will undoubtedly follow. Therefore, stable reference genes are necessary to normalize the gene expression data.
Results
A systematic exploration of suitable reference genes in Brachypodium is presented here. Nine reference gene candidates were chosen, and their gene sequences were obtained from the Brachypodium expressed sequence tag (EST) databases. Their expression levels were examined by quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) using 21 different Brachypodium plant samples, including those from different plant tissues and grown under various growth conditions. Effects of plant growth hormones were also visualized in the assays. The expression stability of the candidate genes was evaluated using two analysis software packages, geNorm and NormFinder. In conclusion, the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme 18 gene (UBC18) was validated as a suitable reference gene across all the plant samples examined. While the expression of the polyubiquitin genes (Ubi4 and Ubi10) was most stable in different plant tissues and growth hormone-treated plant samples, the expression of the S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase gene (SamDC) ranked was most stable in plants grown under various environmental stresses.
Conclusion
This study identified the reference genes that are most suitable for normalizing the gene expression data in Brachypodium. These reference genes will be particularly useful when stress-responsive genes are analyzed in order to produce transgenic plants that exhibit enhanced stress resistance.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-112
PMCID: PMC2588586  PMID: 18992143

Results 1-5 (5)