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Publications - Cell and Metabolic Biology

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Treutler, H., Tsugawa, H., Porzel, A., Gorzolka, K., Tissier, A., Neumann, S. & Balcke, G. U. Discovering regulated metabolite families in untargeted metabolomics studies. Anal Chem 88, 8082-8090, (2016) DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b01569

The identification of metabolites by mass spectrometry constitutes a major bottleneck which considerably limits the throughput of metabolomics studies in biomedical or plant research. Here, we present a novel approach to analyze metabolomics data from untargeted, data-independent LC-MS/MS measurements. By integrated analysis of MS1 abundances and MS/MS spectra, the identification of regulated metabolite families is achieved. This approach offers a global view on metabolic regulation in comparative metabolomics. We implemented our approach in the web application “MetFamily”, which is freely available at http://msbi.ipb-halle.de/MetFamily/. MetFamily provides a dynamic link between the patterns based on MS1-signal intensity and the corresponding structural similarity at the MS/MS level. Structurally related metabolites are annotated as metabolite families based on a hierarchical cluster analysis of measured MS/MS spectra. Joint examination with principal component analysis of MS1 patterns, where this annotation 


Pedranzani, H., Rodríguez-Rivera, M., Gutiérrez, M., Porcel, R., Hause, B. & Ruiz-Lozano, J. M. Arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis regulates physiology and performance of Digitaria eriantha plants subjected to abiotic stresses by modulating antioxidant and jasmonate levels. Mycorrhiza 26 , 141-152, (2016) DOI: 10.1007/s00572-015-0653-4

This study evaluates antioxidant responses and jasmonate regulation in Digitaria eriantha cv. Sudafricana plants inoculated (AM) and non-inoculated (non-AM) with Rhizophagus irregularis and subjected to drought, cold, or salinity. Stomatal conductance, photosynthetic efficiency, biomass production, hydrogen peroxide accumulation, lipid peroxidation, antioxidants enzymes activities, and jasmonate levels were determined. Stomatal conductance and photosynthetic efficiency decreased in AM and non-AM plants under all stress conditions. However, AM plants subjected to drought, salinity, or non-stress conditions showed significantly higher stomatal conductance values. AM plants subjected to drought or non-stress conditions increased their shoot/root biomass ratios, whereas salinity and cold caused a decrease in these ratios. Hydrogen peroxide accumulation, which was high in non-AM plant roots under all treatments, increased significantly in non-AM plant shoots under cold stress and in AM plants under non-stress and drought conditions. Lipid peroxidation increased in the roots of all plants under drought conditions. In shoots, although lipid peroxidation decreased in AM plants under non-stress and cold conditions, it increased under drought and salinity. AM plants consistently showed high catalase (CAT) and ascorbate peroxidase (APX) activity under all treatments. By contrast, the glutathione reductase (GR) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity of AM roots was lower than that of non-AM plants and increased in shoots. The endogenous levels of cis-12-oxophytodienoc acid (OPDA), jasmonic acid (JA), and 12-OH-JA showed a significant increase in AM plants as compared to non-AM plants. 11-OH-JA content only increased in AM plants subjected to drought. Results show that D. eriantha is sensitive to drought, salinity, and cold stresses and that inoculation with AM fungi regulates its physiology and performance under such conditions, with antioxidants and jasmonates being involved in this process


Scheibner, F., Schulz, S., Hausner, J., Marillonnet, S. & Büttner, D. Type III-Dependent Translocation of HrpB2 by a Nonpathogenic hpaABC Mutant of the Plant-Pathogenic Bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 82, 3331-3347 , (2016) DOI: 10.1128/AEM.00537-16

The plant-pathogenic bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria employs a type III secretion (T3S) system to translocate effector proteins into plant cells. The T3S apparatus spans both bacterial membranes and is associated with an extracellular pilus and a channel-like translocon in the host plasma membrane. T3S is controlled by the switch protein HpaC, which suppresses secretion and translocation of the predicted inner rod protein HrpB2 and promotes secretion of translocon and effector proteins. We previously reported that HrpB2 interacts with HpaC and the cytoplasmic domain of the inner membrane protein HrcU (C. Lorenz, S. Schulz, T. Wolsch, O. Rossier, U. Bonas, and D. Büttner, PLoS Pathog 4:e1000094, 2008, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1000094). However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the control of HrpB2 secretion are not yet understood. Here, we located a T3S and translocation signal in the N-terminal 40 amino acids of HrpB2. The results of complementation experiments with HrpB2 deletion derivatives revealed that the T3S signal of HrpB2 is essential for protein function. Furthermore, interaction studies showed that the N-terminal region of HrpB2 interacts with the cytoplasmic domain of HrcU, suggesting that the T3S signal of HrpB2 contributes to substrate docking. Translocation of HrpB2 is suppressed not only by HpaC but also by the T3S chaperone HpaB and its secreted regulator, HpaA. Deletion of hpaA, hpaB, and hpaC leads to a loss of pathogenicity but allows the translocation of fusion proteins between the HrpB2 T3S signal and effector proteins into leaves of host and non-host plants.  


Bergau, N., Navarette Santos, A., Henning, A., Balcke, G. U. & Tissier, A. Autofluorescence as a Signal to Sort Developing Glandular Trichomes by Flow Cytometry. Front. Plant Sci. (2016) DOI: org/10.3389/fpls.2016.00949

The industrial relevance of a number of metabolites produced in plant glandular trichomes (GTs) has spurred research on these specialized organs for a number of years. Most of the research, however, has focused on the elucidation of secondary metabolite pathways and comparatively little has been undertaken on the development and differentiation of GTs. One way to gain insight into these developmental processes is to generate stage-specific transcriptome and metabolome data. The difficulty for this resides in the isolation of early stages of development of the GTs. Here we describe a method for the separation and isolation of intact young and mature type VI trichomes from the wild tomato species Solanum habrochaites. The final and key step of the method uses cell sorting based on distinct autofluorescence signals of the young and mature trichomes. We demonstrate that sorting by flow cytometry allows recovering pure fractions of young and mature trichomes. Furthermore, we show that the sorted trichomes can be used for transcript and metabolite analyses. Because many plant tissues or cells have distinct autofluorescence components, the principles of this method can be generally applicable for the isolation of specific cell types without prior labeling.

Printed publications

Janik, K., Mithöfer, A., Raffeiner, M., Stellmach, H., Hause, B. & Schlink, K. An effector of apple proliferation phytoplasma targets TCP transcription factors—a generalized virulence strategy of phytoplasma? MOL PLANT PATHOL (2016) DOI: 10.1111/mpp.12409

The plant pathogen Candidatus Phytoplasma mali (P. mali) is the causative agent of apple proliferation, a disease of increasing importance in apple-growing areas within Europe. Despite its economic importance, little is known about the molecular mechanisms of disease manifestation within apple trees. In this study, we identified two TCP (TEOSINTE BRANCHED/CYCLOIDEA/PROLIFERATING CELL FACTOR) transcription factors of Malus x domestica as binding partners of the P. mali SAP11-like effector ATP_00189. Phytohormone analyses revealed an effect of P. mali infection on jasmonates, salicylic acid and abscisic acid levels, showing that P. mali affects phytohormonal levels in apple trees, which is in line with the functions of the effector assumed from its binding to TCP transcription factors. To our knowledge, this is the first characterization of the molecular targets of a P. mali effector and thus provides the basis to better understand symptom development and disease progress during apple proliferation. As SAP11 homologues are found in several Phytoplasma species infecting a broad range of different plants, SAP11-like proteins seem to be key players in phytoplasmal infection.


Taylor, I., Wang, Y., Seitz, K., Baer, J., Bennewitz, S., Mooney, B. P. & Walker, J. C. Analysis of Phosphorylation of the Receptor-Like Protein Kinase HAESA during Arabidopsis Floral Abscission Plos One 11, e0147203, (2016) DOI: org/10.1371/journal.pone.0147203

Receptor-like protein kinases (RLKs) are the largest family of plant transmembrane signaling proteins. Here we present functional analysis of HAESA, an RLK that regulates floral organ abscission in Arabidopsis. Through in vitro and in vivo analysis of HAE phosphorylation, we provide evidence that a conserved phosphorylation site on a region of the HAE protein kinase domain known as the activation segment positively regulates HAE activity. Additional analysis has identified another putative activation segment phosphorylation site common to multiple RLKs that potentially modulates HAE activity. Comparative analysis suggests that phosphorylation of this second activation segment residue is an RLK specific adaptation that may regulate protein kinase activity and substrate specificity. A growing number of RLKs have been shown to exhibit biologically relevant dual specificity toward serine/threonine and tyrosine residues, but the mechanisms underlying dual specificity of RLKs are not well understood. We show that a phospho-mimetic mutant of both HAE activation segment residues exhibits enhanced tyrosine auto-phosphorylation in vitro, indicating phosphorylation of this residue may contribute to dual specificity of HAE. These results add to an emerging framework for understanding the mechanisms and evolution of regulation of RLK activity and substrate specificity.

Books and chapters

Bilova, T., Greifenhagen, U., Paudel, G., Lukasheva, E., Brauch, D., Osmolovskaya, N., Tarakhovskaya, E., Balcke, G. U., Tissier, A., Vogt, T., Milkowski, C., Birkemeyer, C., Wessjohann, L. & Frolov, A. Glycation of Plant Proteins under Environmental Stress — Methodological Approaches, Potential Mechanisms and Biological Role. In: Abiotic and Biotic Stress in Plants - Recent Advances and Future Perspectives (Shanker, A. K.; Shanker, C.). (2016) ISBN: 978-953-51-2250-0 DOI: 10.5772/61860

 Environmental stress is one of the major factors reducing crop productivity. Due to the oncoming climate changes, the effects of drought and high light on plants play an increasing role in modern agriculture. These changes are accompanied with a progressing contamination of soils with heavy metals. Independent of their nature, environmental alterations result in development of oxidative stress, i.e. increase of reactive oxygen species (ROS) contents, and metabolic adjustment, i.e. accumulation of soluble primary metabolites (amino acids and sugars). However, a simultaneous increase of ROS and sugar concentrations ultimately results in protein glycation, i.e. non-enzymatic interaction of reducing sugars or their degradation products (α-dicarbonyls) with proteins. The eventually resulting advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) are known to be toxic and pro-inflammatory in mammals. Recently, their presence was unambiguously demonstrated in vivo in stressed Arabidopsis thaliana plants. Currently, information on protein targets, modification sites therein, mediators and mechanisms of plant glycation are being intensively studied. In this chapter, we comprehensively review the methodological approaches for plant glycation research and discuss potential mechanisms of AGE formation under stress conditions. On the basis of these patterns and additional in vitro experiments, the pathways and mechanisms of plant glycation can be proposed.


Hazmana, M., Hause, B., Eiche, E., Riemann, M. & Nick, P. Different forms of osmotic stress evoke qualitatively different responses in rice J PLANT PHYSIOL 202, 45–56, (2016) DOI: 10.1016/j.jplph.2016.05.027

Drought, salinity and alkalinity are distinct forms of osmotic stress with serious impacts on rice productivity. We investigated, for a salt-sensitive rice cultivar, the response to osmotically equivalent doses of these stresses. Drought, experimentally mimicked by mannitol (single factor: osmotic stress), salinity (two factors: osmotic stress and ion toxicity), and alkalinity (three factors: osmotic stress, ion toxicity, and depletion of nutrients and protons) produced different profiles of adaptive and damage responses, both locally (in the root) as well as systemically (in the shoot). The combination of several stress factors was not necessarily additive, and we even observed cases of mitigation, when two (salinity), or three stressors (alkalinity) were compared to the single stressor (drought). The response to combinations of individual stress factors is therefore not a mere addition of the partial stress responses, but rather represents a new quality of response. We interpret this finding in a model, where the output to signaling molecules is not determined by their abundance per se, but qualitatively depends on their adequate integration into an adaptive signaling network. This output generates a systemic signal that will determine the quality of the shoot response to local concentrations of ions.


Bilova, T., Lukasheva, E., Brauch, D., Greifenhagen, U., Paudel, G., Tarakhovskaya, E., Frolova, N., Mittasch, J., Balcke, G. U., Tissier, A., Osmolovskaya, N., Vogt, T., Wessjohann, L. A., Birkemeyer, C., Milkowski, C. & Frolov A Snapshot of the Plant Glycated Proteome: structural, functional, and mechanistic aspects J. Biol. Chem. 291, 7621-7636, (2016) DOI: doi:10.1074/jbc.M115.678581

Glycation is the reaction of carbonyl compounds (reducing sugars and α-dicarbonyls) with amino acids, lipids, and proteins, yielding early and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). The AGEs can be formed via degradation of early glycation intermediates (glycoxidation) and by interaction with the products of monosaccharide autoxidation (autoxidative glycosylation). Although formation of these potentially deleterious compounds is well characterized in animal systems and thermally treated foods, only a little information about advanced glycation in plants is available. Thus, the knowledge of the plant AGE patterns and the underlying pathways of their formation are completely missing. To fill this gap, we describe the AGE-modified proteome of Brassica napus and characterize individual sites of advanced glycation by the methods of liquid chromatography-based bottom-up proteomics. The modification patterns were complex but reproducible: 789 AGE-modified peptides in 772 proteins were detected in two independent experiments. In contrast, only 168 polypeptides contained early glycated lysines, which did not resemble the sites of advanced glycation. Similar observations were made with Arabidopsis thaliana. The absence of the early glycated precursors of the AGE-modified protein residues indicated autoxidative glycosylation, but not glycoxidation, as the major pathway of AGE formation. To prove this assumption and to identify the potential modifying agents, we estimated the reactivity and glycative potential of plant-derived sugars using a model peptide approach and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry-based techniques. Evaluation of these data sets together with the assessed tissue carbohydrate contents revealed dihydroxyacetone phosphate, glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate, ribulose, erythrose, and sucrose as potential precursors of plant AGEs.


Hettwer, K., Böttcher, C., Frolov, A., Mittasch, J., Albert, A., von Roepenack-Lahayeb, E., Strack, D. & Milkowski, C. Dynamic metabolic changes in seeds and seedlings of Brassica napus (oilseed rape) suppressing UGT84A9 reveal plasticity and molecular regulation of the phenylpropanoid pathway 124, 46–57, (2016) DOI: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2016.01.014

In Brassica napus, suppression of the key biosynthetic enzyme UDP-glucose:sinapic acid glucosyltransferase (UGT84A9) inhibits the biosynthesis of sinapine (sinapoylcholine), the major phenolic component of seeds. Based on the accumulation kinetics of a total of 158 compounds (110 secondary and 48 primary metabolites), we investigated how suppression of the major sink pathway of sinapic acid impacts the metabolome of developing seeds and seedlings. In UGT84A9-suppressing (UGT84A9i) lines massive alterations became evident in late stages of seed development affecting the accumulation levels of 58 secondary and 7 primary metabolites. UGT84A9i seeds were characterized by decreased amounts of various hydroxycinnamic acid (HCA) esters, and increased formation of sinapic and syringic acid glycosides. This indicates glycosylation and β-oxidation as metabolic detoxification strategies to bypass intracellular accumulation of sinapic acid. In addition, a net loss of sinapic acid upon UGT84A9 suppression may point to a feedback regulation of HCA biosynthesis. Surprisingly, suppression of UGT84A9 under control of the seed-specific NAPINC promoter was maintained in cotyledons during the first two weeks of seedling development and associated with a reduced and delayed transformation of sinapine into sinapoylmalate. The lack of sinapoylmalate did not interfere with plant fitness under UV-B stress. Increased UV-B radiation triggered the accumulation of quercetin conjugates whereas the sinapoylmalate level was not affected.

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