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Publications - Molecular Signal Processing

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Navarro-Quezada, A.; Schumann, N.; Quint, M. Plant F-Box protein evolution is determined by lineage-specific timing of major gene family expansion waves PLoS One 8, e68672, (2013) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068672

F-box proteins (FBPs) represent one of the largest and fastest evolving gene/protein families in the plant kingdom. The FBP superfamily can be divided in several subfamilies characterized by different C-terminal protein-protein interaction domains that recruit targets for proteasomal degradation. Hence, a clear picture of their phylogeny and molecular evolution is of special interest for the general understanding of evolutionary histories of multi-domain and/or large protein families in plants. In an effort to further understand the molecular evolution of F-box family proteins, we asked whether the largest subfamily in Arabidopsis thaliana, which carries a C-terminal F-box associated domain (FBA proteins) shares evolutionary patterns and signatures of selection with other FBPs. To address this question, we applied phylogenetic and molecular evolution analyses in combination with the evaluation of transcriptional profiles. Based on the 2219 FBA proteins we de novo identified in 34 completely sequenced plant genomes, we compared their evolutionary patterns to a previously analyzed large subfamily carrying C-terminal kelch repeats. We found that these two large FBP subfamilies generally tend to evolve by massive waves of duplication, followed by sequence conservation of the F-box domain and sequence diversification of the target recruiting domain. We conclude that the earlier in evolutionary time a major wave of expansion occurred, the more pronounced these selection signatures are. As a consequence, when performing cross species comparisons among FBP subfamilies, significant differences will be observed in the selective signatures of protein-protein interaction domains. Depending on the species, the investigated subfamilies comprise up to 45% of the complete superfamily, indicating that other subfamilies possibly follow similar modes of evolution.

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.

Terrile, M.C.; París, R.; Calderón Villalobos, L.I.; Iglesias, M.J.; Lamattina, L.; Estelle, M.; Casalongué, C.A. Nitric oxide influences auxin signaling through S-nitrosylation of the Arabidopsis TRANSPORT INHIBITOR RESPONSE 1 auxin receptor. Plant J 70, 492-500, (2012) DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2011.04885.x

Previous studies have demonstrated that auxin (indole-3-acetic acid) and nitric oxide (NO) are plant growth regulators that coordinate several plant physiological responses determining root architecture. Nonetheless, the way in which these factors interact to affect these growth and developmental processes is not well understood. The Arabidopsis thaliana F-box proteins TRANSPORT INHIBITOR RESPONSE 1/AUXIN SIGNALING F-BOX (TIR1/AFB) are auxin receptors that mediate degradation of AUXIN/INDOLE-3-ACETIC ACID (Aux/IAA) repressors to induce auxin-regulated responses. A broad spectrum of NO-mediated protein modifications are known in eukaryotic cells. Here, we provide evidence that NO donors increase auxin-dependent gene expression while NO depletion blocks Aux/IAA protein degradation. NO also enhances TIR1-Aux/IAA interaction as evidenced by pull-down and two-hybrid assays. In addition, we provide evidence for NO-mediated modulation of auxin signaling through S-nitrosylation of the TIR1 auxin receptor. S-nitrosylation of cysteine is a redox-based post-translational modification that contributes to the complexity of the cellular proteome. We show that TIR1 C140 is a critical residue for TIR1Aux/IAA interaction and TIR1 function. These results suggest that TIR1 S-nitrosylation enhances TIR1Aux/IAA interaction, facilitating Aux/IAA degradation and subsequently promoting activation of gene expression. Our findings underline the importance of NO in phytohormone signaling pathways.

Goetz, S.; Hellwege, A.; Stenzel, I.; Kutter, C.; Hauptmann, V.; Forner, S.; McCaig, B.; Hause, G.; Miersch, O.; Wasternack, C.; Hause, B. Role of cis-12-oxo-phytodienoic acid in tomato embryo development. Plant Physiol 158, 1715-1727, (2012) DOI: 10.1104/pp.111.192658

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.

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

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) DOI: 10.1093/jxb/ers261

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.

Quint, M.; Drost, H.-G.; Gabel, A.; Ullrich, K. K.; Bönn, M.; Grosse, I. A transcriptomic hourglass in plant embryogenesis Nature 490, 98-101, (2012) DOI: 10.1038/nature11394

Animal and plant development starts with a constituting phase called embryogenesis, which evolved independently in both lineages1. Comparative anatomy of vertebrate development—based on the Meckel-Serrès law2 and von Baer’s laws of embryology3 from the early nineteenth century—shows that embryos from various taxa appear different in early stages, converge to a similar form during mid-embryogenesis, and again diverge in later stages. This morphogenetic series is known as the embryonic ‘hourglass’4,5, and its bottleneck of high conservation in mid-embryogenesis is referred to as the phylotypic stage6. Recent analyses in zebrafish and Drosophila embryos provided convincing molecular support for the hourglass model, because during the phylotypic stage the transcriptome was dominated by ancient genes7 and global gene expression profiles were reported to be most conserved8. Although extensively explored in animals, an embryonic hourglass has not been reported in plants, which represent the second major kingdom in the tree of life that evolved embryogenesis. Here we provide phylotranscriptomic evidence for a molecular embryonic hourglass in Arabidopsis thaliana, using two complementary approaches. This is particularly significant because the possible absence of an hourglass based on morphological features in plants suggests that morphological and molecular patterns might be uncoupled. Together with the reported developmental hourglass patterns in animals, these findings indicate convergent evolution of the molecular hourglass and a conserved logic of embryogenesis across kingdoms.

Janitza, P.; Ullrich, K. K.; Quint, M. Toward a comprehensive phylogenetic reconstruction of the evolutionary history of mitogen-activated protein kinases in the plant kingdom Front Plant Sci 3, 271, (2012) DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2012.00271

The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway is a three-tier signaling cascade that transmits cellular information from the plasma membrane to the cytoplasm where it triggers downstream responses. The MAPKs represent the last step in this cascade and are activated when both tyrosine and threonine residues in a conserved TxY motif are phosphorylated by MAPK kinases, which in turn are themselves activated by phosphorylation by MAPK kinase kinases. To understand the molecular evolution of MAPKs in the plant kingdom, we systematically conducted a Hidden-Markov-Model based screen to identify MAPKs in 13 completely sequenced plant genomes. In this analysis, we included green algae, bryophytes, lycophytes, and several mono- and eudicotyledonous species covering >800 million years of evolution. The phylogenetic relationships of the 204 identified MAPKs based on Bayesian inference facilitated the retraction of the sequence of emergence of the four major clades that are characterized by the presence of a TDY or TEY-A/TEY-B/TEY-C type kinase activation loop. We present evidence that after the split of TDY- and TEY-type MAPKs, initially the TEY-C clade emerged. This was followed by the TEY-B clade in early land plants until the TEY-A clade finally emerged in flowering plants. In addition to these well characterized clades, we identified another highly conserved clade of 45 MAPK-likes, members of which were previously described as Mak-homologous kinases. In agreement with their essential functions, molecular population genetic analysis of MAPK genes in Arabidopsis thaliana accessions reveal that purifying selection drove the evolution of the MAPK family, implying strong functional constraints on MAPK genes. Closely related MAPKs most likely subfunctionalized, a process in which differential transcriptional regulation of duplicates may be involved.
Books and chapters

Carbonell, A.; Flores, R.; Gago, S. Hammerhead Ribozymes Against Virus and Viroid RNAs (Erdmann, V. A. & Barciszewski, J., eds.). RNA Technologies 411-427, (2012) ISBN: 978-3-642-27426-8 DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-27426-8_16

The hammerhead ribozyme, a small catalytic motif that promotes self-cleavage of the RNAs in which it is found naturally embedded, can be manipulated to recognize and cleave specifically in trans other RNAs in the presence of Mg2+. To be really effective, hammerheads need to operate at the low concentration of Mg2+ existing in vivo. Evidence has been gathered along the last years showing that tertiary stabilizing motifs (TSMs), particularly interactions between peripheral loops, are critical for the catalytic activity of hammerheads at physiological levels of Mg2+. These TSMs, in two alternative formats, have been incorporated into a new generation of more efficient trans-cleaving hammerheads, some of which are active in vitro and in planta when targeted against the highly structured RNA of a viroid (a small plant pathogen). This strategy has potential to confer protection against other RNA replicons, like RNA viruses infecting plants and animals.

Gasperini, D.; Greenland, A.; Hedden, P.; Dreos, R.; Harwood, W.; Griffiths, S. Genetic and physiological analysis of Rht8 in bread wheat: an alternative source of semi-dwarfism with a reduced sensitivity to brassinosteroids J Exp Bot 63, 4419-4436, (2012) DOI: 10.1093/jxb/ers138

Over the next decade, wheat grain production must increase to meet the demand of a fast growing human population. One strategy to meet this challenge is to raise wheat productivity by optimizing plant stature. The Reduced height 8 (Rht8) semi-dwarfing gene is one of the few, together with the Green Revolution genes, to reduce stature of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), and improve lodging resistance, without compromising grain yield. Rht8 is widely used in dry environments such as Mediterranean countries where it increases plant adaptability. With recent climate change, its use could become increasingly important even in more northern latitudes. In the present study, the characterization of Rht8 was furthered. Morphological analyses show that the semi-dwarf phenotype of Rht8 lines is due to shorter internodal segments along the wheat culm, achieved through reduced cell elongation. Physiological experiments show that the reduced cell elongation is not due to defective gibberellin biosynthesis or signalling, but possibly to a reduced sensitivity to brassinosteroids. Using a fine-resolution mapping approach and screening 3104 F2 individuals of a newly developed mapping population, the Rht8 genetic interval was reduced from 20.5 cM to 1.29 cM. Comparative genomics with model genomes confined the Rht8 syntenic intervals to 3.3 Mb of the short arm of rice chromosome 4, and to 2 Mb of Brachypodium distachyon chromosome 5. The very high resolution potential of the plant material generated is crucial for the eventual cloning of Rht8.
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