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Publications - Cell and Metabolic Biology

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Schaarschmidt, S., Gresshoff, P.M. & Hause, B. Analyzing the soybean transcriptome during autoregulation of mycorrhization identifies the transcription factors GmNF-YA1a/b as positive regulators of arbuscular mycorrhization. Genome Biol 14:R62 , (2013) DOI: 10.1186/gb-2013-14-6-r62


Goetz, S., Hellwege, A., Stenzel, I., Kutter, C., Hauptmann, V., Forner, S., Mc Caig, B., Hause, G., Miersch, O., Wasternack, C. & Hause, B. Role of cis-12-oxo-phytodienoic acid in tomato embryo development. Plant Physiol 158 (4), 1715-1727, (2012)

Oxylipins including jasmonates are signaling compounds in plant growth, development, and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. In Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) most mutants affected in jasmonic acid (JA) biosynthesis and signaling are male sterile, whereas the JA-insensitive tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) mutant jai1 is female sterile. The diminished seed formation in jai1 together with the ovule-specific accumulation of the JA biosynthesis enzyme allene oxide cyclase (AOC), which correlates with elevated levels of JAs, suggest a role of oxylipins in tomato flower/seed development. Here, we show that 35S::SlAOC-RNAi lines with strongly reduced AOC in ovules exhibited reduced seed set similarly to the jai1 plants. Investigation of embryo development of wild-type tomato plants showed preferential occurrence of AOC promoter activity and AOC protein accumulation in the developing seed coat and the embryo, whereas 12-oxo-phytodienoic acid (OPDA) was the dominant oxylipin occurring nearly exclusively in the seed coat tissues. The OPDA- and JA-deficient mutant spr2 was delayed in embryo development and showed an increased programmed cell death in the developing seed coat and endosperm. In contrast, the mutant acx1a, which accumulates preferentially OPDA and residual amount of JA, developed embryos similar to the wild type, suggesting a role of OPDA in embryo development. Activity of the residual amount of JA in the acx1a mutant is highly improbable since the known reproductive phenotype of the JA-insensitive mutant jai1 could be rescued by wound-induced formation of OPDA. These data suggest a role of OPDA or an OPDA-related compound for proper embryo development possibly by regulating carbohydrate supply and detoxification.


Wasternack, C., Goetz, S., Hellwege, A., Forner, S., Strnad, M. & Hause, B. Another JA/COI1-independent role of OPDA detected in tomato embryo development. Plant Signal Behav 7, 1349-1353, (2012) DOI: 10.4161/psb.21551

Jasmonates (JAs) are ubiquitously occurring signaling compounds in plants formed in response to biotic and abiotic stress as well as in development. (+)-7-iso-jasmonoyl isoleucine, the bioactive JA, is involved in most JA-dependent processes mediated by the F-box protein COI1 in a proteasome-dependent manner. However, there is an increasing number of examples, where the precursor of JA biosynthesis, cis-(+)-12-oxophytodienoic acid (OPDA) is active in a JA/COI1-independent manner. Here, we discuss those OPDA-dependent processes, thereby giving emphasis on tomato embryo development. Recent data on seed coat-generated OPDA and its role in embryo development is discussed based on biochemical and genetic evidences.


Balcke, G.U., Handrick, V., Bergau, N., Fichtner, M., Henning, A., Stellmach, H., Tissier, A., Hause, B. & Frolov, A. An UPLC-MS/MS method for highly-sensitive high-throughput analysis of phytohormones in plant tissues. Plant Methods 8:47, (2012) DOI: 0.1186/1746-4811-8-47


Phytohormones are the key metabolites participating in the regulation of multiple functions of plant organism. Among them, jasmonates, as well as abscisic and salicylic acids are responsible for triggering and modulating plant reactions targeted against pathogens and herbivores, as well as resistance to abiotic stress (drought, UV-irradiation and mechanical wounding). These factors induce dramatic changes in phytohormone biosynthesis and transport leading to rapid local and systemic stress responses. Understanding of underlying mechanisms is of principle interest for scientists working in various areas of plant biology. However, highly sensitive, precise and high-throughput methods for quantification of these phytohormones in small samples of plant tissues are still missing.


Here we present an LC-MS/MS method for fast and highly sensitive determination of jasmonates, abscisic and salicylic acids. A single-step sample preparation procedure based on mixed-mode solid phase extraction was efficiently combined with essential improvements in mobile phase composition yielding higher efficiency of chromatographic separation and MS-sensitivity. This strategy resulted in dramatic increase in overall sensitivity, allowing successful determination of phytohormones in small (less than 50 mg of fresh weight) tissue samples. The method was completely validated in terms of analyte recovery, sensitivity, linearity and precision. Additionally, it was cross-validated with a well-established GC-MS-based procedure and its applicability to a variety of plant species and organs was verified.


The method can be applied for the analyses of target phytohormones in small tissue samples obtained from any plant species and/or plant part relying on any commercially available (even less sensitive) tandem mass spectrometry instrumentation.


Fellenberg, C., Ziegler, J., Handrick, V. & Vogt, T. Polyamine homeostasis in wild type and phenolamide deficient Arabidopsis thaliana stamens. Front Plant Sci. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2012.00180 3, 180, (2012)

Polyamines (PAs) like putrescine, spermidine, and spermine are ubiquitous polycationic molecules that occur in all living cells and have a role in a wide variety of biological processes. High amounts of spermidine conjugated to hydroxycinnamic acids are detected in the tryphine of Arabidopsis thaliana pollen grains. Tapetum localized spermidine hydroxycinnamic acid transferase (SHT) is essential for the biosynthesis of these anther specific tris-conjugated spermidine derivatives. Sht knockout lines show a strong reduction of hydroxycinnamic acid amides (HCAAs). The effect of HCAA-deficient anthers on the level of free PAs was measured by a new sensitive and reproducible method using 9-fluorenylmethyl chloroformate (FMOC) and fluorescence detection by HPLC. PA concentrations can be accurately determined even when very limited amounts of plant material, as in the case of A. thaliana stamens, are available. Analysis of free PAs in wild type stamens compared to sht deficient mutants and transcript levels of key PA biosynthetic genes revealed a highly controlled regulation of PA homeostasis in A. thaliana anthers.


Stenzel, I., Otto, M., Delker, C., Kirmse, N., Schmidt, D., Miersch, O., Hause, B. & Wasternack, C. ALLENE OXIDE CYCLASE (AOC) gene family members of Arabidopsis thaliana: tissue- and organ-specific promoter activities and in vivo heteromerization* J Exp Bot. 63, 6125-6138, (2012)

Jasmonates are important signals in plant stress responses and plant development. An essential step in the biosynthesis of jasmonic acid (JA) is catalysed by ALLENE OXIDE CYCLASE (AOC) which establishes the naturally occurring enantiomeric structure of jasmonates. In Arabidopsis thaliana, four genes encode four functional AOC polypeptides (AOC1, AOC2, AOC3, and AOC4) raising the question of functional redundancy or diversification. Analysis of transcript accumulation revealed an organ-specific expression pattern, whereas detailed inspection of transgenic lines expressing the GUS reporter gene under the control of individual AOC promoters showed partially redundant promoter activities during development: (i) In fully developed leaves, promoter activities of AOC1, AOC2, and AOC3 appeared throughout all leaf tissue, but AOC4 promoter activity was vascular bundle-specific; (ii) only AOC3 and AOC4 showed promoter activities in roots; and (iii) partially specific promoter activities were found for AOC1 and AOC4 in flower development. In situ hybridization of flower stalks confirmed the GUS activity data. Characterization of single and double AOC loss-of-function mutants further corroborates the hypothesis of functional redundancies among individual AOCs due to a lack of phenotypes indicative of JA deficiency (e.g. male sterility). To elucidate whether redundant AOC expression might contribute to regulation on AOC activity level, protein interaction studies using bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) were performed and showed that all AOCs can interact among each other. The data suggest a putative regulatory mechanism of temporal and spatial fine-tuning in JA formation by differential expression and via possible heteromerization of the four AOCs.


Bektas, I., Fellenberg, C. & Paulsen, H. Water-soluble chlorophyll protein (WSCP) of Arabidopsis is expressed in the gynoecium and developing silique. Planta 236, 251-259, (2012)

Water-soluble chlorophyll protein (WSCP) has been found in many Brassicaceae, most often in leaves. In many cases, its expression is stress-induced, therefore, it is thought to be involved in some stress response. In this work, recombinant WSCP from Arabidopsis thaliana (AtWSCP) is found to form chlorophyll-protein complexes in vitro that share many properties with recombinant or native WSCP from Brassica oleracea, BoWSCP, including an unusual heat resistance up to 100°C in aqueous solution. A polyclonal antibody raised against the recombinant apoprotein is used to identify plant tissues expressing AtWSCP. The only plant organs containing significant amounts of AtWSCP are the gynoecium in open flowers and the septum of developing siliques, specifically the transmission tract. In fully grown but still green siliques, the protein has almost disappeared. Possible implications for AtWSCP functions are discussed.


Fellenberg, C., van Ohlen, M., Handrick, V. & Vogt, T. The role of CCoAOMT and COMT in Arabidopsis anthers. Planta 236, 51-61, (2012)

Arabidopsis caffeoyl coenzyme A dependent O-methyltransferase 1 (CCoAOMT1) and caffeic acid O-methyltransferase 1 (COMT1) display a similar substrate profile although with distinct substrate preferences and are considered the key methyltransferases (OMTs) in the biosynthesis of lignin monomers, coniferyl and sinapoylalcohol. Whereas CCoAOMT1 displays a strong preference for caffeoyl coenzyme A, COMT1 preferentially methylates 5-hydroxyferuloyl CoA derivatives and also performs methylation of flavonols with vicinal aromatic dihydroxy groups, such as quercetin. Based on different knockout lines, phenolic profiling, and immunohistochemistry, we present evidence that both enzymes fulfil distinct, yet different tasks in Arabidopsis anthers. CCoAOMT1 besides its role in vascular tissues can be localized to the tapetum of young stamens, contributing to the biosynthesis of spermidine phenylpropanoid conjugates. COMT1, although present in the same organ, is not localized in the tapetum, but in two directly adjacent cells layers, the endothecium and the epidermal layer of stamens. In vivo localization and phenolic profiling of comt1 plants provide evidence that COMT1 neither contributes to the accumulation of spermidine phenylpropanoid conjugates nor to the flavonol glycoside pattern of pollen grains.


Landgraf, R., Schaarschmidt, S. & Hause, B. Repeated leaf wounding alters the colonization of Medicago truncatula roots by beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms. Plant Cell & Environment 35 (7), 1344-1357, (2012)

In nature, plants are subject to various stresses that are often accompanied by wounding of the aboveground tissues. As wounding affects plants locally and systemically, we investigated the impact of leaf wounding on interactions of Medicago truncatula with root-colonizing microorganisms, such as the arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungus Glomus intraradices, the pathogenic oomycete Aphanomyces euteiches and the nitrogen-fixing bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti. To obtain a long-lasting wound response, repeated wounding was performed and resulted in locally and systemically increased jasmonic acid (JA) levels accompanied by the expression of jasmonate-induced genes, among them the genes encoding allene oxide cyclase 1 (MtAOC1) and a putative cell wall-bound invertase (cwINV). After repeated wounding, colonization with the AM fungus was increased, suggesting a role of jasmonates as positive regulators of mycorrhization, whereas the interaction with the rhizobacterium was not affected. In contrast, wounded plants appeared to be less susceptible to pathogens which might be caused by JA-induced defence mechanisms. The effects of wounding on mycorrhization and pathogen infection could be partially mimicked by foliar application of JA. In addition to JA itself, the positive effect on mycorrhization might be mediated by systemically induced cwINV, which was previously shown to exhibit a regulatory function on interaction with AM fungi.


Wessjohann, L., Vogt, T., Kufka, J. & Klein, R. Prenyl- und Methyltransferasen in Natur und Synthese. Biospektrum 18 (1), 22-25, (2012)

Late stage enzymatic prenylation and methylation are means to diversify (natural) compounds and to specify their functions. In eukaryotes and microbes, these steps are performed by large enzyme families, the prenyl and methyl transferases, which modify various types of small molecules, like isoprenoids, phenolics or alkaloids, but also DNA and proteins. We investigate the theoretical basis of these processes and possible commercial applications in synthetic chemistry.

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