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1.  OPTIMAS-DW: A comprehensive transcriptomics, metabolomics, ionomics, proteomics and phenomics data resource for maize 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:245.
Background
Maize is a major crop plant, grown for human and animal nutrition, as well as a renewable resource for bioenergy. When looking at the problems of limited fossil fuels, the growth of the world’s population or the world’s climate change, it is important to find ways to increase the yield and biomass of maize and to study how it reacts to specific abiotic and biotic stress situations. Within the OPTIMAS systems biology project maize plants were grown under a large set of controlled stress conditions, phenotypically characterised and plant material was harvested to analyse the effect of specific environmental conditions or developmental stages. Transcriptomic, metabolomic, ionomic and proteomic parameters were measured from the same plant material allowing the comparison of results across different omics domains. A data warehouse was developed to store experimental data as well as analysis results of the performed experiments.
Description
The OPTIMAS Data Warehouse (OPTIMAS-DW) is a comprehensive data collection for maize and integrates data from different data domains such as transcriptomics, metabolomics, ionomics, proteomics and phenomics. Within the OPTIMAS project, a 44K oligo chip was designed and annotated to describe the functions of the selected unigenes. Several treatment- and plant growth stage experiments were performed and measured data were filled into data templates and imported into the data warehouse by a Java based import tool. A web interface allows users to browse through all stored experiment data in OPTIMAS-DW including all data domains. Furthermore, the user can filter the data to extract information of particular interest. All data can be exported into different file formats for further data analysis and visualisation. The data analysis integrates data from different data domains and enables the user to find answers to different systems biology questions. Finally, maize specific pathway information is provided.
Conclusions
With OPTIMAS-DW a data warehouse for maize was established, which is able to handle different data domains, comprises several analysis results that will support researchers within their work and supports systems biological research in particular. The system is available at http://www.optimas-bioenergy.org/optimas_dw.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-245
PMCID: PMC3577462  PMID: 23272737
Maize; Zea mays; Database; WGCNA; Biomass; Yield; Data integration; Transcriptomics; Metabolomics; Phenomics
2.  Some ethylene biosynthesis and AP2/ERF genes reveal a specific pattern of expression during somatic embryogenesis in Hevea brasiliensis 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:244.
Background
Ethylene production and signalling play an important role in somatic embryogenesis, especially for species that are recalcitrant in in vitro culture. The AP2/ERF superfamily has been identified and classified in Hevea brasiliensis. This superfamily includes the ERFs involved in response to ethylene. The relative transcript abundance of ethylene biosynthesis genes and of AP2/ERF genes was analysed during somatic embryogenesis for callus lines with different regeneration potential, in order to identify genes regulated during that process.
Results
The analysis of relative transcript abundance was carried out by real-time RT-PCR for 142 genes. The transcripts of ERFs from group I, VII and VIII were abundant at all stages of the somatic embryogenesis process. Forty genetic expression markers for callus regeneration capacity were identified. Fourteen markers were found for proliferating calli and 35 markers for calli at the end of the embryogenesis induction phase. Sixteen markers discriminated between normal and abnormal embryos and, lastly, there were 36 markers of conversion into plantlets. A phylogenetic analysis comparing the sequences of the AP2 domains of Hevea and Arabidopsis genes enabled us to predict the function of 13 expression marker genes.
Conclusions
This first characterization of the AP2/ERF superfamily in Hevea revealed dramatic regulation of the expression of AP2/ERF genes during the somatic embryogenesis process. The gene expression markers of proliferating callus capacity to regenerate plants by somatic embryogenesis should make it possible to predict callus lines suitable to be used for multiplication. Further functional characterization of these markers opens up prospects for discovering specific AP2/ERF functions in the Hevea species for which somatic embryogenesis is difficult.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-244
PMCID: PMC3561283  PMID: 23268714
Gene expression; Plant hormone; Plant regeneration; Recalcitrant; Rubber; Signalling; Transcription factor
3.  Composition and functional analysis of low-molecular-weight glutenin alleles with Aroona near-isogenic lines of bread wheat 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:243.
Background
Low-molecular-weight glutenin subunits (LMW-GS) strongly influence the bread-making quality of bread wheat. These proteins are encoded by a multi-gene family located at the Glu-A3, Glu-B3 and Glu-D3 loci on the short arms of homoeologous group 1 chromosomes, and show high allelic variation. To characterize the genetic and protein compositions of LMW-GS alleles, we investigated 16 Aroona near-isogenic lines (NILs) using SDS-PAGE, 2D-PAGE and the LMW-GS gene marker system. Moreover, the composition of glutenin macro-polymers, dough properties and pan bread quality parameters were determined for functional analysis of LMW-GS alleles in the NILs.
Results
Using the LMW-GS gene marker system, 14–20 LMW-GS genes were identified in individual NILs. At the Glu-A3 locus, two m-type and 2–4 i-type genes were identified and their allelic variants showed high polymorphisms in length and nucleotide sequences. The Glu-A3d allele possessed three active genes, the highest number among Glu-A3 alleles. At the Glu-B3 locus, 2–3 m-type and 1–3 s-type genes were identified from individual NILs. Based on the different compositions of s-type genes, Glu-B3 alleles were divided into two groups, one containing Glu-B3a, B3b, B3f and B3g, and the other comprising Glu-B3c, B3d, B3h and B3i. Eight conserved genes were identified among Glu-D3 alleles, except for Glu-D3f. The protein products of the unique active genes in each NIL were detected using protein electrophoresis. Among Glu-3 alleles, the Glu-A3e genotype without i-type LMW-GS performed worst in almost all quality properties. Glu-B3b, B3g and B3i showed better quality parameters than the other Glu-B3 alleles, whereas the Glu-B3c allele containing s-type genes with low expression levels had an inferior effect on bread-making quality. Due to the conserved genes at Glu-D3 locus, Glu-D3 alleles showed no significant differences in effects on all quality parameters.
Conclusions
This work provided new insights into the composition and function of 18 LMW-GS alleles in bread wheat. The variation of i-type genes mainly contributed to the high diversity of Glu-A3 alleles, and the differences among Glu-B3 alleles were mainly derived from the high polymorphism of s-type genes. Among LMW-GS alleles, Glu-A3e and Glu-B3c represented inferior alleles for bread-making quality, whereas Glu-A3d, Glu-B3b, Glu-B3g and Glu-B3i were correlated with superior bread-making quality. Glu-D3 alleles played minor roles in determining quality variation in bread wheat. Thus, LMW-GS alleles not only affect dough extensibility but greatly contribute to the dough resistance, glutenin macro-polymers and bread quality.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-243
PMCID: PMC3562532  PMID: 23259617
Triticum aestivum; Glu-3 alleles; Bread-making quality
4.  Analysis of ripening-related gene expression in papaya using an Arabidopsis-based microarray 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:242.
Background
Papaya (Carica papaya L.) is a commercially important crop that produces climacteric fruits with a soft and sweet pulp that contain a wide range of health promoting phytochemicals. Despite its importance, little is known about transcriptional modifications during papaya fruit ripening and their control. In this study we report the analysis of ripe papaya transcriptome by using a cross-species (XSpecies) microarray technique based on the phylogenetic proximity between papaya and Arabidopsis thaliana.
Results
Papaya transcriptome analyses resulted in the identification of 414 ripening-related genes with some having their expression validated by qPCR. The transcription profile was compared with that from ripening tomato and grape. There were many similarities between papaya and tomato especially with respect to the expression of genes encoding proteins involved in primary metabolism, regulation of transcription, biotic and abiotic stress and cell wall metabolism. XSpecies microarray data indicated that transcription factors (TFs) of the MADS-box, NAC and AP2/ERF gene families were involved in the control of papaya ripening and revealed that cell wall-related gene expression in papaya had similarities to the expression profiles seen in Arabidopsis during hypocotyl development.
Conclusion
The cross-species array experiment identified a ripening-related set of genes in papaya allowing the comparison of transcription control between papaya and other fruit bearing taxa during the ripening process.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-242
PMCID: PMC3562526  PMID: 23256600
Oligo-chip; Heterologous microarray; Papaya ripening; Quantitative gene expression; Whole genome shotgun; Transcript profiling
5.  Identification of five B-type response regulators as members of a multistep phosphorelay system interacting with histidine-containing phosphotransfer partners of Populus osmosensor 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:241.
Background
In plants, the multistep phosphorelay signaling pathway mediates responses to environmental factors and plant hormones. This system is composed of three successive partners: hybrid Histidine-aspartate Kinases (HKs), Histidine-containing Phosphotransfer proteins (HPts), and Response Regulators (RRs). Among the third partners, B-type RR family members are the final output elements of the pathway; they act as transcription factors and clearly play a pivotal role in the early response to cytokinin in Arabidopsis. While interactions studies between partners belonging to the multistep phosphorelay system are mainly focused on protagonists involved in cytokinin or ethylene pathways, very few reports are available concerning partners of osmotic stress signaling pathway.
Results
In Populus, we identified eight B-type RR proteins, RR12-16, 19, 21 and 22 in the Dorskamp genotype. To assess HPt/B-type RR interactions and consequently determine potential third partners in the osmosensing multistep phosphorelay system, we performed global yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) assays in combination with Bimolecular Fluorescence Complementation (BiFC) assays in plant cells. We found that all B-type RRs are able to interact with HPt predominant partners (HPt2, 7 and 9) of HK1, which is putatively involved in the osmosensing pathway. However, different profiles of interaction are observed depending on the studied HPt. HPt/RR interactions displayed a nuclear localization, while the nuclear and cytosolic localization of HPt and nuclear localization of RR proteins were validated. Although the nuclear localization of HPt/RR interaction was expected, this work constitutes the first evidence of such an interaction in plants. Furthermore, the pertinence of this partnership is reinforced by highlighting a co-expression of B-type RR transcripts and the other partners (HK1 and HPts) belonging to a potential osmosensing pathway.
Conclusion
Based on the interaction studies between identified B-type RR and HPt proteins, and the co-expression analysis of transcripts of these potential partners in poplar organs, our results favor the model that RR12, 13, 14, 16 and 19 are able to interact with the main partners of HK1, HPt2, 7 and 9, and this HPt/RR interaction occurs within the nucleus. On the whole, the five B-type RRs of interest could be third protagonists putatively involved in the osmosensing signaling pathway in Populus.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-241
PMCID: PMC3562281  PMID: 23253553
Response Regulator (RR); Histidine-containing Phosphotransfer protein (HPt); Osmosensing pathway; Populus
6.  Microarray analysis of gene expression profiles in ripening pineapple fruits 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:240.
Background
Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a tropical fruit crop of significant commercial importance. Although the physiological changes that occur during pineapple fruit development have been well characterized, little is known about the molecular events that occur during the fruit ripening process. Understanding the molecular basis of pineapple fruit ripening will aid the development of new varieties via molecular breeding or genetic modification. In this study we developed a 9277 element pineapple microarray and used it to profile gene expression changes that occur during pineapple fruit ripening.
Results
Microarray analyses identified 271 unique cDNAs differentially expressed at least 1.5-fold between the mature green and mature yellow stages of pineapple fruit ripening. Among these 271 sequences, 184 share significant homology with genes encoding proteins of known function, 53 share homology with genes encoding proteins of unknown function and 34 share no significant homology with any database accession. Of the 237 pineapple sequences with homologs, 160 were up-regulated and 77 were down-regulated during pineapple fruit ripening. DAVID Functional Annotation Cluster (FAC) analysis of all 237 sequences with homologs revealed confident enrichment scores for redox activity, organic acid metabolism, metalloenzyme activity, glycolysis, vitamin C biosynthesis, antioxidant activity and cysteine peptidase activity, indicating the functional significance and importance of these processes and pathways during pineapple fruit development. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis validated the microarray expression results for nine out of ten genes tested.
Conclusions
This is the first report of a microarray based gene expression study undertaken in pineapple. Our bioinformatic analyses of the transcript profiles have identified a number of genes, processes and pathways with putative involvement in the pineapple fruit ripening process. This study extends our knowledge of the molecular basis of pineapple fruit ripening and non-climacteric fruit ripening in general.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-240
PMCID: PMC3568034  PMID: 23245313
Pineapple; Non-climacteric; Fruit ripening; Microarray
7.  Regulation of fruit ascorbic acid concentrations during ripening in high and low vitamin C tomato cultivars 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:239.
Background
To gain insight into the regulation of fruit ascorbic acid (AsA) pool in tomatoes, a combination of metabolite analyses, non-labelled and radiolabelled substrate feeding experiments, enzyme activity measurements and gene expression studies were carried out in fruits of the ‘low-’ and ‘high-AsA’ tomato cultivars ‘Ailsa Craig’ and ‘Santorini’ respectively.
Results
The two cultivars exhibited different profiles of total AsA (totAsA, AsA + dehydroascorbate) and AsA accumulation during ripening, but both displayed a characteristic peak in concentrations at the breaker stage. Substrate feeding experiments demonstrated that the L-galactose pathway is the main AsA biosynthetic route in tomato fruits, but that substrates from alternative pathways can increase the AsA pool at specific developmental stages. In addition, we show that young fruits display a higher AsA biosynthetic capacity than mature ones, but this does not lead to higher AsA concentrations due to either enhanced rates of AsA breakdown (‘Ailsa Craig’) or decreased rates of AsA recycling (‘Santorini’), depending on the cultivar. In the later stages of ripening, differences in fruit totAsA-AsA concentrations of the two cultivars can be explained by differences in the rate of AsA recycling activities. Analysis of the expression of AsA metabolic genes showed that only the expression of one orthologue of GDP-L-galactose phosphorylase (SlGGP1), and of two monodehydroascorbate reductases (SlMDHAR1 and SlMDHAR3) correlated with the changes in fruit totAsA-AsA concentrations during fruit ripening in ‘Ailsa Craig’, and that only the expression of SlGGP1 was linked to the high AsA concentrations found in red ripe ‘Santorini’ fruits.
Conclusions
Results indicate that ‘Ailsa Craig’ and ‘Santorini’ use complementary mechanisms to maintain the fruit AsA pool. In the low-AsA cultivar (‘Ailsa Craig’), alternative routes of AsA biosynthesis may supplement biosynthesis via L-galactose, while in the high-AsA cultivar (‘Santorini’), enhanced AsA recycling activities appear to be responsible for AsA accumulation in the later stages of ripening. Gene expression studies indicate that expression of SlGGP1 and two orthologues of SlMDHAR are closely correlated with totAsA-AsA concentrations during ripening and are potentially good candidates for marker development for breeding and selection.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-239
PMCID: PMC3548725  PMID: 23245200
Ascorbate biosynthesis; Ascorbate recycling; Ascorbate turnover; Candidate gene; GDP-L-galactose phosphorylase; Gene expression; Monodehydroascorbate reductase
8.  A Tourist-like MITE insertion in the upstream region of the BnFLC.A10 gene is associated with vernalization requirement in rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:238.
Background
Rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) has spring and winter genotypes adapted to different growing seasons. Winter genotypes do not flower before the onset of winter, thus leading to a longer vegetative growth period that promotes the accumulation and allocation of more resources to seed production. The development of winter genotypes enabled the rapeseed to spread rapidly from southern to northern Europe and other temperate regions of the world. The molecular basis underlying the evolutionary transition from spring- to winter- type rapeseed is not known, however, and needs to be elucidated.
Results
We fine-mapped the spring environment specific quantitative trait locus (QTL) for flowering time, qFT10-4,in a doubled haploid (DH) mapping population of rapeseed derived from a cross between Tapidor (winter-type) and Ningyou7 (semi-winter) and delimited the qFT10-4 to an 80-kb region on chromosome A10 of B. napus. The BnFLC.A10 gene, an ortholog of FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) in Arabidopsis, was cloned from the QTL. We identified 12 polymorphic sites between BnFLC.A10 parental alleles of the TN-DH population in the upstream region and in intron 1. Expression of both BnFLC.A10 alleles decreased during vernalization, but decreased more slowly in the winter parent Tapidor. Haplotyping and association analysis showed that one of the polymorphic sites upstream of BnFLC.A10 is strongly associated with the vernalization requirement of rapeseed (r2 = 0.93, χ2 = 0.50). This polymorphic site is derived from a Tourist-like miniature inverted-repeat transposable element (MITE) insertion/deletion in the upstream region of BnFLC.A10. The MITE sequence was not present in the BnFLC.A10 gene in spring-type rapeseed, nor in ancestral ‘A’ genome species B. rapa genotypes. Our results suggest that the insertion may have occurred in winter rapeseed after B. napus speciation.
Conclusions
Our findings strongly suggest that (i) BnFLC.A10 is the gene underlying qFT10-4, the QTL for phenotypic diversity of flowering time in the TN-DH population, (ii) the allelic diversity caused by MITE insertion/deletion upstream of BnFLC.A10 is one of the major causes of differentiation of winter and spring genotypes in rapeseed and (iii) winter rapeseed has evolved from spring genotypes through selection pressure at the BnFLC.A10 locus, enabling expanded cultivation of rapeseed along the route of Brassica domestication.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-238
PMCID: PMC3562271  PMID: 23241244
Rapeseed; Flowering time; Vernalization; Tourist-like MITE; FLOWERING LOCUS C; Association analysis
9.  Identification and characterization of gene-based SSR markers in date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:237.
Background
Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is an important tree in the Middle East and North Africa due to the nutritional value of its fruit. Molecular Breeding would accelerate genetic improvement of fruit tree through marker assisted selection. However, the lack of molecular markers in date palm restricts the application of molecular breeding.
Results
In this study, we analyzed 28,889 EST sequences from the date palm genome database to identify simple-sequence repeats (SSRs) and to develop gene-based markers, i.e. expressed sequence tag-SSRs (EST-SSRs). We identified 4,609 ESTs as containing SSRs, among which, trinucleotide motifs (69.7%) were the most common, followed by tetranucleotide (10.4%) and dinucleotide motifs (9.6%). The motif AG (85.7%) was most abundant in dinucleotides, while motifs AGG (26.8%), AAG (19.3%), and AGC (16.1%) were most common among trinucleotides. A total of 4,967 primer pairs were designed for EST-SSR markers from the computational data. In a follow up laboratory study, we tested a sample of 20 random selected primer pairs for amplification and polymorphism detection using genomic DNA from date palm cultivars. Nearly one-third of these primer pairs detected DNA polymorphism to differentiate the twelve date palm cultivars used. Functional categorization of EST sequences containing SSRs revealed that 3,108 (67.4%) of such ESTs had homology with known proteins.
Conclusion
Date palm EST sequences exhibits a good resource for developing gene-based markers. These genic markers identified in our study may provide a valuable genetic and genomic tool for further genetic research and varietal development in date palm, such as diversity study, QTL mapping, and molecular breeding.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-237
PMCID: PMC3568718  PMID: 23241238
Genic marker; EST sequence; Gene ontology; Polymorphism; Date palm
10.  Proline is required for male gametophyte development in Arabidopsis 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:236.
Background
In crosses between the proline-deficient mutant homozygous for p5cs1 and heterozygous for p5cs2 (p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2), used as male, and different Arabidopsis mutants, used as females, the p5cs2 mutant allele was rarely transmitted to the outcrossed progeny, suggesting that the fertility of the male gametophyte carrying mutations in both P5CS1 and P5CS2 is severely compromised.
Results
To confirm the fertility defects of pollen from p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2 mutants, transmission of mutant alleles through pollen was tested in two ways. First, the number of progeny inheriting a dominant sulfadiazine resistance marker linked to p5cs2 was determined. Second, the number of p5cs2/p5cs2 embryos was determined. A ratio of resistant to susceptible plantlets close to 50%, and the absence of aborted embryos were consistent with the hypothesis that the male gametophyte carrying both p5cs1 and p5cs2 alleles is rarely transmitted to the offspring. In addition, in reciprocal crosses with wild type, about 50% of the p5cs2 mutant alleles were transmitted to the sporophytic generation when p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2 was used as a female, while less than 1% of the p5cs2 alleles could be transmitted to the outcrossed progeny when p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2 was used as a male. Morphological and functional analysis of mutant pollen revealed a population of small, degenerated, and unviable pollen grains, indicating that the mutant homozygous for p5cs1 and heterozygous for p5cs2 is impaired in pollen development, and suggesting a role for proline in male gametophyte development. Consistent with these findings, we found that pollen from p5cs1 homozygous mutants, display defects similar to, but less pronounced than pollen from p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2 mutants. Finally, we show that pollen from p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2 plants contains less proline than wild type and that exogenous proline supplied from the beginning of another development can partially complement both morphological and functional pollen defects.
Conclusions
Our data show that the development of the male gametophyte carrying mutations in both P5CS1 and P5CS2 is severely compromised, and indicate that proline is required for pollen development and transmission.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-236
PMCID: PMC3543202  PMID: 23234543
Proline; Male gametophyte; Arabidopsis; p5cs1 p5cs2/P5CS2
11.  Endo-(1,4)-β-Glucanase gene families in the grasses: temporal and spatial Co-transcription of orthologous genes1 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:235.
Background
Endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase (cellulase) glycosyl hydrolase GH9 enzymes have been implicated in several aspects of cell wall metabolism in higher plants, including cellulose biosynthesis and degradation, modification of other wall polysaccharides that contain contiguous (1,4)-β-glucosyl residues, and wall loosening during cell elongation.
Results
The endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase gene families from barley (Hordeum vulgare), maize (Zea mays), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), rice (Oryza sativa) and Brachypodium (Brachypodium distachyon) range in size from 23 to 29 members. Phylogenetic analyses show variations in clade structure between the grasses and Arabidopsis, and indicate differential gene loss and gain during evolution. Map positions and comparative studies of gene structures allow orthologous genes in the five species to be identified and synteny between the grasses is found to be high. It is also possible to differentiate between homoeologues resulting from ancient polyploidizations of the maize genome. Transcript analyses using microarray, massively parallel signature sequencing and quantitative PCR data for barley, rice and maize indicate that certain members of the endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase gene family are transcribed across a wide range of tissues, while others are specifically transcribed in particular tissues. There are strong correlations between transcript levels of several members of the endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase family and the data suggest that evolutionary conservation of transcription exists between orthologues across the grass family. There are also strong correlations between certain members of the endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase family and other genes known to be involved in cell wall loosening and cell expansion, such as expansins and xyloglucan endotransglycosylases.
Conclusions
The identification of these groups of genes will now allow us to test hypotheses regarding their functions and joint participation in wall synthesis, re-modelling and degradation, together with their potential role in lignocellulose conversion during biofuel production from grasses and cereal crop residues.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-235
PMCID: PMC3557191  PMID: 23231659
Biofuels; Cell walls; Cellulases; Cellulose synthesis; Co-expression; Grasses; Stem strength
12.  Transcriptome response analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana to leafminer (Liriomyza huidobrensis) 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:234.
Background
Plants have evolved a complicated resistance system and exhibit a variety of defense patterns in response to different attackers. Previous studies have shown that responses of plants to chewing insects and phloem-feeding insects are significantly different. Less is known, however, regarding molecular responses to leafminer insects. To investigate plant transcriptome response to leafminers, we selected the leafminer Liriomyza huidobrensis, which has a special feeding pattern more similar to pathogen damage than that of chewing insects, as a model insect, and Arabidopsis thaliana as a response plant.
Results
We first investigated local and systemic responses of A. thaliana to leafminer feeding using an Affymetrix ATH1 genome array. Genes related to metabolic processes and stimulus responses were highly regulated. Most systemically-induced genes formed a subset of the local response genes. We then downloaded gene expression data from online databases and used hierarchical clustering to explore relationships among gene expression patterns in A. thaliana damaged by different attackers.
Conclusions
Our results demonstrate that plant response patterns are strongly coupled to damage patterns of attackers.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-234
PMCID: PMC3564828  PMID: 23231622
Plant defenses; Transcriptome; Microarray; Leaf miner; Pathogen; Systemic defense
13.  Root waving and skewing - unexpectedly in micro-g 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:231.
Gravity has major effects on both the form and overall length of root growth. Numerous papers have documented these effects (over 300 publications in the last 5 years), the most well-studied being gravitropism, which is a growth re-orientation directed by gravity toward the earth’s center. Less studied effects of gravity are undulations due to the regular periodic change in the direction root tips grow, called waving, and the slanted angle of growth roots exhibit when they are growing along a nearly-vertical surface, called skewing. Although diverse studies have led to the conclusion that a gravity stimulus is needed for plant roots to show waving and skewing, the novel results just published by Paul et al. (2012) reveal that this conclusion is not correct. In studies carried out in microgravity on the International Space Station, the authors used a new imaging system to collect digital photographs of plants every six hours during 15 days of spaceflight. The imaging system allowed them to observe how roots grew when their orientation was directed not by gravity but by overhead LED lights, which roots grew away from because they are negatively phototropic. Surprisingly, the authors observed both skewing and waving in spaceflight plants, thus demonstrating that both growth phenomena were gravity independent. Touch responses and differential auxin transport would be common features of root waving and skewing at 1-g and micro-g, and the novel results of Paul et al. will focus the attention of cell and molecular biologists more on these features as they try to decipher the signaling pathways that regulate root skewing and waving.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-231
PMCID: PMC3533921  PMID: 23217095
Arabidopsis; Auxin; Cytoskeleton; Extracellular ATP; International space station; Roots
14.  Plant growth strategies are remodeled by spaceflight 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:232.
Background
Arabidopsis plants were grown on the International Space Station within specialized hardware that combined a plant growth habitat with a camera system that can capture images at regular intervals of growth. The Imaging hardware delivers telemetric data from the ISS, specifically images received in real-time from experiments on orbit, providing science without sample return. Comparable Ground Controls were grown in a sister unit that is maintained in the Orbital Environment Simulator at Kennedy Space Center. One of many types of biological data that can be analyzed in this fashion is root morphology. Arabidopsis seeds were geminated on orbit on nutrient gel Petri plates in a configuration that encouraged growth along the surface of the gel. Photos were taken every six hours for the 15 days of the experiment.
Results
In the absence of gravity, but the presence of directional light, spaceflight roots remained strongly negatively phototropic and grew in the opposite direction of the shoot growth; however, cultivars WS and Col-0 displayed two distinct, marked differences in their growth patterns. First, cultivar WS skewed strongly to the right on orbit, while cultivar Col-0 grew with little deviation away from the light source. Second, the Spaceflight environment also impacted the rate of growth in Arabidopsis. The size of the Flight plants (as measured by primary root and hypocotyl length) was uniformly smaller than comparably aged Ground Control plants in both cultivars.
Conclusions
Skewing and waving, thought to be gravity dependent phenomena, occur in spaceflight plants. In the presence of an orienting light source, phenotypic trends in skewing are gravity independent, and the general patterns of directional root growth typified by a given genotype in unit gravity are recapitulated on orbit, although overall growth patterns on orbit are less uniform. Skewing appears independent of axial orientation on the ISS – suggesting that other tropisms (such as for oxygen and temperature) do not influence skewing. An aspect of the spaceflight environment also retards the rate of early Arabidopsis growth.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-232
PMCID: PMC3556330  PMID: 23217113
15.  The non-specific lipid transfer protein N5 of Medicago truncatula is implicated in epidermal stages of rhizobium-host interaction 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:233.
Background
The symbiotic interaction between leguminous plants and rhizobia involves two processes: bacterial infection, resulting in the penetration of bacteria in epidermal and cortical cells, and root nodule organogenesis. Root nodule symbiosis is activated by rhizobial signalling molecules, called Nodulation factors (NFs). NF perception induces the expression of several genes called early nodulins. The early nodulin N5 of Medicago truncatula is a lipid transfer protein that has been shown to positively regulate nodulation although it displays in vitro inhibitory activity against Sinorhizobium meliloti. The purpose of this work was to investigate the role of MtN5 by studying its spatial and temporal pattern of expression during the symbiotic interaction, also in relation to known components of the symbiotic signalling pathway, and by analysing the phenotypic alterations displayed by rhizobia-inoculated MtN5-silenced roots.
Results
We show here that MtN5 is a NF-responsive gene expressed at a very early phase of symbiosis in epidermal cells and root hairs. MtN5 expression is induced in vitro by rhizobial effector molecules and by auxin and cytokinin, phytohormones involved in nodule organogenesis. Furthermore, lipid signaling is implicated in the response of MtN5 to rhizobia, since the activity of phospholipase D is required for MtN5 induction in S. meliloti-inoculated roots. MtN5-silenced roots inoculated with rhizobia display an increased root hair curling and a reduced number of invaded primordia compared to that in wild type roots, but with no impairment to nodule primordia formation. This phenotype is associated with the stimulation of ENOD11 expression, an early marker of infection, and with the down-regulation of Flotillin 4 (FLOT4), a protein involved in rhizobial entry.
Conclusions
These data indicate that MtN5 acts downstream of NF perception and upstream of FLOT4 in regulating pre-infection events. The positive effect of MtN5 on nodule primordia invasion is linked to the restriction of bacterial spread at the epidermal level. Furthermore, MtN5 seems to be dispensable for nodule primordia formation. These findings provide new information about the complex mechanism that controls the competence of root epidermal cells for rhizobial invasion.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-233
PMCID: PMC3564872  PMID: 23217154
Medicago truncatula; MtN5; Symbiosis; Sinorhizobium meliloti; Pre-infection stage; Root hair curling
16.  Molecular insights into how a deficiency of amylose affects carbon allocation – carbohydrate and oil analyses and gene expression profiling in the seeds of a rice waxy mutant 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:230.
Background
Understanding carbon partitioning in cereal seeds is of critical importance to develop cereal crops with enhanced starch yields for food security and for producing specified end-products high in amylose, β-glucan, or fructan, such as functional foods or oils for biofuel applications. Waxy mutants of cereals have a high content of amylopectin and have been well characterized. However, the allocation of carbon to other components, such as β-glucan and oils, and the regulation of the altered carbon distribution to amylopectin in a waxy mutant are poorly understood. In this study, we used a rice mutant, GM077, with a low content of amylose to gain molecular insight into how a deficiency of amylose affects carbon allocation to other end products and to amylopectin. We used carbohydrate analysis, subtractive cDNA libraries, and qPCR to identify candidate genes potentially responsible for the changes in carbon allocation in GM077 seeds.
Results
Carbohydrate analysis indicated that the content of amylose in GM077 seeds was significantly reduced, while that of amylopectin significantly rose as compared to the wild type BP034. The content of glucose, sucrose, total starch, cell-wall polysaccharides and oil were only slightly affected in the mutant as compared to the wild type. Suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) experiments generated 116 unigenes in the mutant on the wild-type background. Among the 116 unigenes, three, AGP, ISA1 and SUSIBA2-like, were found to be directly involved in amylopectin synthesis, indicating their possible roles in redirecting carbon flux from amylose to amylopectin. A bioinformatics analysis of the putative SUSIBA2-like binding elements in the promoter regions of the upregulated genes indicated that the SUSIBA2-like transcription factor may be instrumental in promoting the carbon reallocation from amylose to amylopectin.
Conclusion
Analyses of carbohydrate and oil fractions and gene expression profiling on a global scale in the rice waxy mutant GM077 revealed several candidate genes implicated in the carbon reallocation response to an amylose deficiency, including genes encoding AGPase and SUSIBA2-like. We believe that AGP and SUSIBA2 are two promising targets for classical breeding and/or transgenic plant improvement to control the carbon flux between starch and other components in cereal seeds.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-230
PMCID: PMC3541260  PMID: 23217057
Carbon allocation; Rice (Oryza sativa); Waxy seeds; Suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH); Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR); Gene expression
17.  The tomato RLK superfamily: phylogeny and functional predictions about the role of the LRRII-RLK subfamily in antiviral defense 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:229.
Background
Receptor-like kinases (RLKs) play key roles during development and in responses to the environment. Despite the relevance of the RLK family and the completion of the tomato genome sequencing, the tomato RLK family has not yet been characterized, and a framework for functional predictions of the members of the family is lacking.
Results
To generate a complete list of all the members of the tomato RLK family, we performed a phylogenetic analysis using the Arabidopsis family as a template. A total of 647 RLKs were identified in the tomato genome, which were organized into the same subfamily clades as Arabidopsis RLKs. Only eight of 58 RLK subfamilies exhibited specific expansion/reduction compared to their Arabidopsis counterparts. We also characterized the LRRII-RLK family by phylogeny, genomic analysis, expression profile and interaction with the virulence factor from begomoviruses, the nuclear shuttle protein (NSP). The LRRII subfamily members from tomato and Arabidopsis were highly conserved in both sequence and structure. Nevertheless, the majority of the orthologous pairs did not display similar conservation in the gene expression profile, indicating that these orthologs may have diverged in function after speciation. Based on the fact that members of the Arabidopsis LRRII subfamily (AtNIK1, AtNIK2 and AtNIK3) interact with the begomovirus nuclear shuttle protein (NSP), we examined whether the tomato orthologs of NIK, BAK1 and NsAK genes interact with NSP of Tomato Yellow Spot Virus (ToYSV). The tomato orthologs of NSP interactors, SlNIKs and SlNsAK, interacted specifically with NSP in yeast and displayed an expression pattern consistent with the pattern of geminivirus infection. In addition to suggesting a functional analogy between these phylogenetically classified orthologs, these results expand our previous observation that NSP-NIK interactions are neither virus-specific nor host-specific.
Conclusions
The tomato RLK superfamily is made-up of 647 proteins that form a monophyletic tree with the Arabidopsis RLKs and is divided into 58 subfamilies. Few subfamilies have undergone expansion/reduction, and only six proteins were lineage-specific. Therefore, the tomato RLK family shares functional and structural conservation with Arabidopsis. For the LRRII-RLK members SlNIK1 and SlNIK3, we observed functions analogous to those of their Arabidopsis counterparts with respect to protein-protein interactions and similar expression profiles, which predominated in tissues that support high efficiency of begomovirus infection. Therefore, NIK-mediated antiviral signaling is also likely to operate in tomato, suggesting that tomato NIKs may be good targets for engineering resistance against tomato-infecting begomoviruses.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-229
PMCID: PMC3552996  PMID: 23198823
Receptor-like kinase; NIK; NSP; BAK1; Virus infection; Protein-protein interaction; Functional divergence; Plant signaling; Solanum lycopersicum
18.  Biosynthesis of allene oxides in Physcomitrella patens 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:228.
Background
The moss Physcomitrella patens contains C18- as well as C20-polyunsaturated fatty acids that can be metabolized by different enzymes to form oxylipins such as the cyclopentenone cis(+)-12-oxo phytodienoic acid. Mutants defective in the biosynthesis of cyclopentenones showed reduced fertility, aberrant sporophyte morphology and interrupted sporogenesis. The initial step in this biosynthetic route is the conversion of a fatty acid hydroperoxide to an allene oxide. This reaction is catalyzed by allene oxide synthase (AOS) belonging as hydroperoxide lyase (HPL) to the cytochrome P450 family Cyp74. In this study we characterized two AOS from P. patens, PpAOS1 and PpAOS2.
Results
Our results show that PpAOS1 is highly active with both C18 and C20-hydroperoxy-fatty acid substrates, whereas PpAOS2 is fully active only with C20-substrates, exhibiting trace activity (~1000-fold lower kcat/KM) with C18 substrates. Analysis of products of PpAOS1 and PpHPL further demonstrated that both enzymes have an inherent side activity mirroring the close inter-connection of AOS and HPL catalysis. By employing site directed mutagenesis we provide evidence that single amino acid residues in the active site are also determining the catalytic activity of a 9-/13-AOS – a finding that previously has only been reported for substrate specific 13-AOS. However, PpHPL cannot be converted into an AOS by exchanging the same determinant. Localization studies using YFP-labeled AOS showed that PpAOS2 is localized in the plastid while PpAOS1 may be found in the cytosol. Analysis of the wound-induced cis(+)-12-oxo phytodienoic acid accumulation in PpAOS1 and PpAOS2 single knock-out mutants showed that disruption of PpAOS1, in contrast to PpAOS2, results in a significantly decreased cis(+)-12-oxo phytodienoic acid formation. However, the knock-out mutants of neither PpAOS1 nor PpAOS2 showed reduced fertility, aberrant sporophyte morphology or interrupted sporogenesis.
Conclusions
Our study highlights five findings regarding the oxylipin metabolism in P. patens: (i) Both AOS isoforms are capable of metabolizing C18- and C20-derived substrates with different specificities suggesting that both enzymes might have different functions. (ii) Site directed mutagenesis demonstrated that the catalytic trajectories of 9-/13-PpAOS1 and PpHPL are closely inter-connected and PpAOS1 can be inter-converted by a single amino acid exchange into a HPL. (iii) In contrast to PpAOS1, PpAOS2 is localized in the plastid where oxylipin metabolism takes place. (iv) PpAOS1 is essential for wound-induced accumulation of cis(+)-12-oxo phytodienoic acid while PpAOS2 appears not to be involved in the process. (v) Knock-out mutants of neither AOS showed a deviating morphological phenotype suggesting that there are overlapping functions with other Cyp74 enzymes.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-228
PMCID: PMC3552686  PMID: 23194461
19.  Transcriptome analysis of intraspecific competition in Arabidopsis thaliana reveals organ-specific signatures related to nutrient acquisition and general stress response pathways 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:227.
Background
Plants are sessile and therefore have to perceive and adjust to changes in their environment. The presence of neighbours leads to a competitive situation where resources and space will be limited. Complex adaptive responses to such situation are poorly understood at the molecular level.
Results
Using microarrays, we analysed whole-genome expression changes in Arabidopsis thaliana plants subjected to intraspecific competition. The leaf and root transcriptome was strongly altered by competition. Differentially expressed genes were enriched in genes involved in nutrient deficiency (mainly N, P, K), perception of light quality, and responses to abiotic and biotic stresses. Interestingly, performance of the generalist insect Spodoptera littoralis on densely grown plants was significantly reduced, suggesting that plants under competition display enhanced resistance to herbivory.
Conclusions
This study provides a comprehensive list of genes whose expression is affected by intraspecific competition in Arabidopsis. The outcome is a unique response that involves genes related to light, nutrient deficiency, abiotic stress, and defence responses.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-227
PMCID: PMC3536592  PMID: 23194435
Arabidopsis thaliana; Gene expression; Intraspecific competition; Herbivory; Abiotic stress; Biotic stress
20.  Forward chemical genetic screens in Arabidopsis identify genes that influence sensitivity to the phytotoxic compound sulfamethoxazole 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:226.
Background
The sulfanilamide family comprises a clinically important group of antimicrobial compounds which also display bioactivity in plants. While there is evidence that sulfanilamides inhibit folate biosynthesis in both bacteria and plants, the complete network of plant responses to these compounds remains to be characterized. As such, we initiated two forward genetic screens in Arabidopsis in order to identify mutants that exhibit altered sensitivity to sulfanilamide compounds. These screens were based on the growth phenotype of seedlings germinated in the presence of the compound sulfamethoxazole (Smex).
Results
We identified a mutant with reduced sensitivity to Smex, and subsequent mapping indicated that a gene encoding 5-oxoprolinase was responsible for this phenotype. A mutation causing enhanced sensitivity to Smex was mapped to a gene lacking any functional annotation.
Conclusions
The genes identified through our forward genetic screens represent novel mediators of Arabidopsis responses to sulfanilamides and suggest that these responses extend beyond the perturbation of folate biosynthesis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-226
PMCID: PMC3541222  PMID: 23176361
Chemical genomics; Sulfanilamides; Arabidopsis thaliana
21.  'Le Rouge et le Noir': A decline in flavone formation correlates with the rare color of black dahlia (Dahlia variabilis hort.) flowers 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:225.
Background
More than 20,000 cultivars of garden dahlia (Dahlia variabilis hort.) are available showing flower colour from white, yellow and orange to every imaginable hue of red and purple tones. Thereof, only a handful of cultivars are so-called black dahlias showing distinct black-red tints. Flower colour in dahlia is a result of the accumulation of red anthocyanins, yellow anthochlors (6’-deoxychalcones and 4-deoxyaurones) and colourless flavones and flavonols, which act as copigments. White and yellow coloration occurs only if the pathway leading to anthocyanins is incomplete. Not in all cultivars the same step of the anthocyanin pathway is affected, but the lack of dihydroflavonol 4-reductase activity is frequently observed and this seems to be based on the suppression of the transcription factor DvIVS. The hitherto unknown molecular background for black colour in dahlia is here presented.
Results
Black cultivars accumulate high amounts of anthocyanins, but show drastically reduced flavone contents. High activities were observed for all enzymes from the anthocyanin pathway whereas FNS II activity could not be detected or only to a low extent in 13 of 14 cultivars. cDNA clones and genomic clones of FNS II were isolated. Independently from the colour type, heterologous expression of the cDNA clones resulted in functionally active enzymes. FNS II possesses one intron of varying length. Quantitative Real-time PCR showed that FNS II expression in black cultivars is low compared to other cultivars. No differences between black and red cultivars were observed in the expression of transcription factors IVS and possible regulatory genes WDR1, WDR2, MYB1, MYB2, 3RMYB and DEL or the structural genes of the flavonoid pathway. Despite the suppression of FHT expression, flavanone 3-hydroxylase (FHT, synonym F3H) enzyme activity was clearly present in the yellow and white cultivars.
Conclusions
An increased accumulation of anthocyanins establishes the black flowering phenotypes. In the majority of black cultivars this is due to decreased flavone accumulation and thus a lack of competition for flavanones as the common precursors of flavone formation and the anthocyanin pathway. The low FNS II activity is reflected by decreased FNS II expression.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-225
PMCID: PMC3557166  PMID: 23176321
Dahlia variabilis hort; Asteraceae; Flower colour; Black flower; Flavonoids; Anthocyanins; Flavones; Flavone synthase II; Transcription factors
22.  Auxin as a player in the biocontrol of Fusarium head blight disease of barley and its potential as a disease control agent 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:224.
Background
Mechanisms involved in the biological control of plant diseases are varied and complex. Hormones, including the auxin indole acetic acid (IAA) and abscisic acid (ABA), are essential regulators of a multitude of biological functions, including plant responses to biotic and abiotic stressors. This study set out to determine what hormones might play a role in Pseudomonas fluorescens –mediated control of Fusarium head blight (FHB) disease of barley and to determine if biocontrol-associated hormones directly affect disease development.
Results
A previous study distinguished bacterium-responsive genes from bacterium-primed genes, distinguished by the fact that the latter are only up-regulated when both P. fluorescens and the pathogen Fusarium culmorum are present. In silico analysis of the promoter sequences available for a subset of the bacterium-primed genes identified several hormones, including IAA and ABA as potential regulators of transcription. Treatment with the bacterium or pathogen resulted in increased IAA and ABA levels in head tissue; both microbes had additive effects on the accumulation of IAA but not of ABA. The microbe-induced accumulation of ABA preceded that of IAA. Gene expression analysis showed that both hormones up-regulated the accumulation of bacterium-primed genes. But IAA, more than ABA up-regulated the transcription of the ABA biosynthesis gene NCED or the signalling gene Pi2, both of which were previously shown to be bacterium-responsive rather than primed. Application of IAA, but not of ABA reduced both disease severity and yield loss caused by F. culmorum, but neither hormone affect in vitro fungal growth.
Conclusions
Both IAA and ABA are involved in the P. fluorescens-mediated control of FHB disease of barley. Gene expression studies also support the hypothesis that IAA plays a role in the primed response to F. culmorum. This hypothesis was validated by the fact that pre-application of IAA reduced both symptoms and yield loss asssociated with the disease. This is the first evidence that IAA plays a role in the control of FHB disease and in the bacterial priming of host defences.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-224
PMCID: PMC3556313  PMID: 23173736
Hormone; IAA; ABA; Pseudomonas fluorescens; Biocontrol; Fusarium head blight
23.  Concerted suppression of all starch branching enzyme genes in barley produces amylose-only starch granules 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:223.
Background
Starch is stored in higher plants as granules composed of semi-crystalline amylopectin and amorphous amylose. Starch granules provide energy for the plant during dark periods and for germination of seeds and tubers. Dietary starch is also a highly glycemic carbohydrate being degraded to glucose and rapidly absorbed in the small intestine. But a portion of dietary starch, termed “resistant starch” (RS) escapes digestion and reaches the large intestine, where it is fermented by colonic bacteria producing short chain fatty acids (SCFA) which are linked to several health benefits. The RS is preferentially derived from amylose, which can be increased by suppressing amylopectin synthesis by silencing of starch branching enzymes (SBEs). However all the previous works attempting the production of high RS crops resulted in only partly increased amylose-content and/or significant yield loss.
Results
In this study we invented a new method for silencing of multiple genes. Using a chimeric RNAi hairpin we simultaneously suppressed all genes coding for starch branching enzymes (SBE I, SBE IIa, SBE IIb) in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), resulting in production of amylose-only starch granules in the endosperm. This trait was segregating 3:1. Amylose-only starch granules were irregularly shaped and showed peculiar thermal properties and crystallinity. Transgenic lines retained high-yield possibly due to a pleiotropic upregualtion of other starch biosynthetic genes compensating the SBEs loss. For gelatinized starch, a very high content of RS (65 %) was observed, which is 2.2-fold higher than control (29%). The amylose-only grains germinated with same frequency as control grains. However, initial growth was delayed in young plants.
Conclusions
This is the first time that pure amylose has been generated with high yield in a living organism. This was achieved by a new method of simultaneous suppression of the entire complement of genes encoding starch branching enzymes. We demonstrate that amylopectin is not essential for starch granule crystallinity and integrity. However the slower initial growth of shoots from amylose-only grains may be due to an important physiological role played by amylopectin ordered crystallinity for rapid starch remobilization explaining the broad conservation in the plant kingdom of the amylopectin structure.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-223
PMCID: PMC3537698  PMID: 23171412
Amylose-only starch; Resistant starch; RNA interference; Starch branching enzymes; Starch bioengineering; Starch granules; Starch crystallinity; Barley
24.  Molecular characterization of LMW-GS genes in Brachypodium distachyon L. reveals highly conserved Glu-3 loci in Triticum and related species 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:221.
Background
Brachypodium distachyon L. is a newly emerging model plant system for temperate cereal crop species. However, its grain protein compositions are still not clear. In the current study, we carried out a detailed proteomics and molecular genetics study on grain glutenin proteins in B. distachyon.
Results
SDS-PAGE and RP-HPLC analysis of grain proteins showed that Brachypodium has few gliadins and high molecular weight glutenin subunits. In contrast the electrophoretic patterns for the albumin, globulin and low molecular weight glutenin subunit (LMW-GS) fractions of the grain protein were similar to those in wheat. In particular, the LMW-C type subunits in Brachypodium were more abundant than the equivalent proteins in common wheat. Southern blotting analysis confirmed that Brachypodium has 4–5 copies of LMW-GS genes. A total of 18 LMW-GS genes were cloned from Brachypodium by allele specific PCR. LMW-GS and 4 deduced amino acid sequences were further confirmed by using Western-blotting and MALDI-TOF-MS. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that Brachypodium was closer to Ae. markgrafii and Ae. umbellulata than to T. aestivum.
Conclusions
Brachypodium possessed a highly conserved Glu-3 locus that is closely related to Triticum and related species. The presence of LMW-GS in B. distachyon grains indicates that B. distachyon may be used as a model system for studying wheat quality attributes.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-221
PMCID: PMC3547698  PMID: 23171363
25.  miRNA164-directed cleavage of ZmNAC1 confers lateral root development in maize (Zea mays L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:220.
Background
MicroRNAs are a class of small, non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression by binding target mRNA, which leads to cleavage or translational inhibition. The NAC proteins, which include NAM, ATAF, and CUC, are a plant-specific transcription factor family with diverse roles in development and stress regulation. It has been reported that miR164 negatively regulates NAC1 expression, which in turn affects lateral root development in Arabidopsis; however, little is known about the involvement of the maize NAC family and miR164 in lateral root development.
Results
We collected 175 maize transcripts with NAC domains. Of these, 7 ZmNACs were putative targets for regulation by miR164. We isolated one gene, called TC258020 (designated ZmNAC1) from 2 maize inbred lines, 87-1 and Zong3. ZmNAC1 had a high expression level in roots and showed higher abundance (1.8 fold) in Zong3 relative to 87-1, which had less lateral roots than Zong3. There was a significant correlation between the expression level of ZmNAC1 and the lateral root density in the recombinant inbred line (RIL) population. Transgenic Arabidopsis that overexpressed ZmNAC1 had increased lateral roots in comparison to the wild type. These findings suggest that ZmNAC1 played a significant role in lateral root development. An allelic expression assay showed that trans-regulatory elements were the dominant mediators of ZmNAC1 differential expression in 87-1 and Zong3, and further analysis revealed that miR164 was a trans-element that guided the cleavage of endogenous ZmNAC1 mRNA. Both mature miR164 and miR164 precursors had higher expression in 87-1 than Zong3, which was the opposite of the expression pattern of ZmNAC1. Additionally, the allelic assay showed that the cis-regulatory element most likely affected Zm-miR164b's expression pattern. A β-glucuronidase (GUS) assay showed that the Zm-miR164b promoter had higher GUS activity in 87-1 than in Zong3. In addition, we detected miR164b expression in the RIL population, and the results indicated that miR164b had a higher expression level in the RILs containing 87-1 promoter than those containing Zong3 promoter.
Conclusion
Our results indicate one possible pathway in maize by which differences in miR164b promoter activity resulted in a different expression pattern for mature miR164 which negatively regulates ZmNAC1 expression in 87-1 and Zong3, thereby contributing to a significantly different lateral root phenotype.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-220
PMCID: PMC3554535  PMID: 23171309
Maize ZmNAC1; miR164; Lateral root

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