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Gago-Zachert, S.; Schuck, J.; Weinholdt, C.; Knoblich, M.; Pantaleo, V.; Grosse, I.; Gursinsky, T.; Behrens, S.-E. Highly efficacious antiviral protection of plants by small interfering RNAs identified in vitro Nucleic Acids Res 47, 9343-9357, (2019) DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkz678

In response to a viral infection, the plant’s RNA silencing machinery processes viral RNAs into a huge number of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). However, a very few of these siRNAs actually interfere with viral replication. A reliable approach to identify these immunologically effective siRNAs (esiRNAs) and to define the characteristics underlying their activity has not been available so far. Here, we develop a novel screening approach that enables a rapid functional identification of antiviral esiRNAs. Tests on the efficacy of such identified esiRNAs of a model virus achieved a virtual full protection of plants against a massive subsequent infection in transient applications. We find that the functionality of esiRNAs depends crucially on two properties: the binding affinity to Argonaute proteins and the ability to access the target RNA. The ability to rapidly identify functional esiRNAs could be of great benefit for all RNA silencing-based plant protection measures against viruses and other pathogens.

García, M. L.; Bó, E. D.; da Graça, J. V.; Gago-Zachert, S.; Hammond, J.; Moreno, P.; Natsuaki, T.; Pallás, V.; Navarro, J. A.; Reyes, C. A.; Luna, G. R.; Sasaya, T.; Tzanetakis, I. E.; Vaira, A. M.; Verbeek, M.; ICTV Report Consortium Corrigendum: ICTV Virus Taxonomy Profile: Ophioviridae J Gen Virol 99, 949-949, (2018) DOI: 10.1099/jgv.0.001093


Ziegler, J.; Schmidt, S.; Strehmel, N.; Scheel, D.; Abel, S. Arabidopsis Transporter ABCG37/PDR9 contributes primarily highly oxygenated Coumarins to Root Exudation Sci Rep 7, 3704, (2017) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-03250-6

The chemical composition of root exudates strongly impacts the interactions of plants with microorganisms in the rhizosphere and the efficiency of nutrient acquisition. Exudation of metabolites is in part mediated by ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters. In order to assess the contribution of individual ABC transporters to root exudation, we performed an LC-MS based non-targeted metabolite profiling of semi-polar metabolites accumulating in root exudates of Arabidopsis thaliana plants and mutants deficient in the expression of ABCG36 (PDR8/PEN3), ABCG37 (PDR9) or both transporters. Comparison of the metabolite profiles indicated distinct roles for each ABC transporter in root exudation. Thymidine exudation could be attributed to ABCG36 function, whereas coumarin exudation was strongly reduced only in ABCG37 deficient plants. However, coumarin exudation was compromised in abcg37 mutants only with respect to certain metabolites of this substance class. The specificity of ABCG37 for individual coumarins was further verified by a targeted LC-MS based coumarin profiling method. The response to iron deficiency, which is known to strongly induce coumarin exudation, was also investigated. In either treatment, the distribution of individual coumarins between roots and exudates in the investigated genotypes suggested the involvement of ABCG37 in the exudation specifically of highly oxygenated rather than monohydroxylated coumarins.

García, M. L.; Bó, E. D.; da Graça, J. V.; Gago-Zachert, S.; Hammond, J.; Moreno, P.; Natsuaki, T.; Pallás, V.; Navarro, J. A.; Reyes, C. A.; Luna, G. R.; Sasaya, T.; Tzanetakis, I. E.; Vaira, A. M.; Verbeek, M.; ICTV Report Consortium ICTV Virus Taxonomy Profile: Ophioviridae J Gen Virol 98 , 1161-1162, (2017) DOI: 10.1099/jgv.0.000836

Ophioviridae,The Ophioviridae is a family of filamentous plant viruses, with single-stranded negative, and possibly ambisense, RNA genomes of 11.3–12.5 kb divided into 3–4 segments, each encapsidated separately. Virions are naked filamentous nucleocapsids, forming kinked circles of at least two different contour lengths. The sole genus, Ophiovirus, includes seven species. Four ophioviruses are soil-transmitted and their natural hosts include trees, shrubs, vegetables and bulbous or corm-forming ornamentals, both monocots and dicots. This is a summary of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) Report on the taxonomy of the which is available at http://www.ictv.global/report/ophioviridae.

Dinesh, D. C.; Calderón Villalobos, L. I. A.; Abel, S. Structural Biology of Nuclear Auxin Action Trends Plant Sci. 21, 302-316, (2016) DOI: 10.1016/j.tplants.2015.10.019

Auxin coordinates plant development largely via hierarchical control of gene expression. During the past decades, the study of early auxin genes paired with the power of Arabidopsis genetics have unraveled key nuclear components and molecular interactions that perceive the hormone and activate primary response genes. Recent research in the realm of structural biology allowed unprecedented insight into: (i) the recognition of auxin-responsive DNA elements by auxin transcription factors; (ii) the inactivation of those auxin response factors by early auxin-inducible repressors; and (iii) the activation of target genes by auxin-triggered repressor degradation. The biophysical studies reviewed here provide an impetus for elucidating the molecular determinants of the intricate interactions between core components of the nuclear auxin response module.

Drost, H.-G.; Bellstädt, J.; Ó'Maoiléidigh, D. S.; Silva, A. T.; Gabel, A.; Weinholdt, C.; Ryan, P. T.; Dekkers, B. J. W.; Bentsink, L.; Hilhorst, H. W. M.; Ligterink, W.; Wellmer, F.; Grosse, I.; Quint, M. Post-embryonic Hourglass Patterns Mark Ontogenetic Transitions in Plant Development Mol Biol Evol 33, 1158-1163, (2016) DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msw039

The historic developmental hourglass concept depicts the convergence of animal embryos to a common form during the phylotypic period. Recently, it has been shown that a transcriptomic hourglass is associated with this morphological pattern, consistent with the idea of underlying selective constraints due to intense molecular interactions during body plan establishment. Although plants do not exhibit a morphological hourglass during embryogenesis, a transcriptomic hourglass has nevertheless been identified in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Here, we investigated whether plant hourglass patterns are also found postembryonically. We found that the two main phase changes during the life cycle of Arabidopsis, from embryonic to vegetative and from vegetative to reproductive development, are associated with transcriptomic hourglass patterns. In contrast, flower development, a process dominated by organ formation, is not. This suggests that plant hourglass patterns are decoupled from organogenesis and body plan establishment. Instead, they may reflect general transitions through organizational checkpoints. 

Ziegler, J.; Schmidt, S.; Chutia, R.; Müller, J.; Böttcher, C.; Strehmel, N.; Scheel, D.; Abel, S. Non-targeted profiling of semi-polar metabolites in Arabidopsis root exudates uncovers a role for coumarin secretion and lignification during the local response to phosphate limitation J Exp Bot 67, 1421-1432, (2016) DOI: 10.1093/jxb/erv539

Plants have evolved two major strategies to cope with phosphate (Pi) limitation. The systemic response, mainly comprising increased Pi uptake and metabolic adjustments for more efficient Pi use, and the local response, enabling plants to explore Pi-rich soil patches by reorganization of the root system architecture. Unlike previous reports, this study focused on root exudation controlled by the local response to Pi deficiency. To approach this, a hydroponic system separating the local and systemic responses was developed. Arabidopsis thaliana genotypes exhibiting distinct sensitivities to Pi deficiency could be clearly distinguished by their root exudate composition as determined by non-targeted reversed-phase ultraperformance liquid chromatography electrospray ionization quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry metabolite profiling. Compared with wild-type plants or insensitive low phosphate root 1 and 2 (lpr1 lpr2) double mutant plants, the hypersensitive phosphate deficiency response 2 (pdr2) mutant exhibited a reduced number of differential features in root exudates after Pi starvation, suggesting the involvement of PDR2-encoded P5-type ATPase in root exudation. Identification and analysis of coumarins revealed common and antagonistic regulatory pathways between Pi and Fe deficiency-induced coumarin secretion. The accumulation of oligolignols in root exudates after Pi deficiency was inversely correlated with Pi starvation-induced lignification at the root tips. The strongest oligolignol accumulation in root exudates was observed for the insensitive lpr1 lpr2 double mutant, which was accompanied by the absence of Pi deficiency-induced lignin deposition, suggesting a role of LPR ferroxidases in lignin polymerization during Pi starvation. 

Strehmel, N.; Mönchgesang, S.; Herklotz, S.; Krüger, S.; Ziegler, J.; Scheel, D. Piriformospora indica Stimulates Root Metabolism of Arabidopsis thaliana Int J Mol Sci 17, 1091, (2016) DOI: 10.3390/ijms17071091

Piriformospora indica is a root-colonizing fungus, which interacts with a variety of plants including Arabidopsis thaliana. This interaction has been considered as mutualistic leading to growth promotion of the host. So far, only indolic glucosinolates and phytohormones have been identified as key players. In a comprehensive non-targeted metabolite profiling study, we analyzed Arabidopsis thaliana’s roots, root exudates, and leaves of inoculated and non-inoculated plants by ultra performance liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UPLC/(ESI)-QTOFMS) and gas chromatography/electron ionization quadrupole mass spectrometry (GC/EI-QMS), and identified further biomarkers. Among them, the concentration of nucleosides, dipeptides, oligolignols, and glucosinolate degradation products was affected in the exudates. In the root profiles, nearly all metabolite levels increased upon co-cultivation, like carbohydrates, organic acids, amino acids, glucosinolates, oligolignols, and flavonoids. In the leaf profiles, we detected by far less significant changes. We only observed an increased concentration of organic acids, carbohydrates, ascorbate, glucosinolates and hydroxycinnamic acids, and a decreased concentration of nitrogen-rich amino acids in inoculated plants. These findings contribute to the understanding of symbiotic interactions between plant roots and fungi of the order of Sebacinales and are a valid source for follow-up mechanistic studies, because these symbioses are particular and clearly different from interactions of roots with mycorrhizal fungi or dark septate endophytes 

Drost, H.-J.; Gabel, A.; Domazet-Lošo, T.; Quint, M.; Grosse, I. Capturing Evolutionary Signatures in Transcriptomes with myTAI bioRxiv (2016) DOI: 10.1101/051565

Combining transcriptome data of biological processes or response to stimuli with evolutionary information such as the phylogenetic conservation of genes or their sequence divergence rates enables the investigation of evolutionary constraints on these processes or responses. Such phylotranscriptomic analyses recently unraveled that mid-developmental transcriptomes of fly, fish, and cress were dominated by evolutionarily conserved genes and genes under negative selection and thus recapitulated the developmental hourglass on the transcriptomic level. Here, we present a protocol for performing phylotranscriptomic analyses on any biological process of interest. When applying this protocol, users are capable of detecting different evolutionary constraints acting on different stages of the biological process of interest in any species. For each step of the protocol, modular and easy-to-use open-source software tools are provided, which enable a broad range of scientists to apply phylotranscriptomic analyses to a wide spectrum of biological questions.

Müller, J.; Toev, T.; Heisters, M.; Teller, J.; Moore, K. L.; Hause, G.; Dinesh, D. C.; Bürstenbinder, K.; Abel, S. Iron-Dependent Callose Deposition Adjusts Root Meristem Maintenance to Phosphate Availability Devel Cell 33, 216–230, (2015) DOI: 10.1016/j.devcel.2015.02.007

Plant root development is informed by numerous edaphic cues. Phosphate (Pi) availability impacts the root system architecture by adjusting meristem activity. However, the sensory mechanisms monitoring external Pi status are elusive. Two functionally interacting Arabidopsis genes, LPR1 (ferroxidase) and PDR2 (P5-type ATPase), are key players in root Pi sensing, which is modified by iron (Fe) availability. We show that the LPR1-PDR2 module facilitates, upon Pi limitation, cell-specific apoplastic Fe and callose deposition in the meristem and elongation zone of primary roots. Expression of cell-wall-targeted LPR1 determines the sites of Fe accumulation as well as callose production, which interferes with symplastic communication in the stem cell niche, as demonstrated by impaired SHORT-ROOT movement. Antagonistic interactions of Pi and Fe availability control primary root growth via meristem-specific callose formation, likely triggered by LPR1-dependent redox signaling. Our results link callose-regulated cell-to-cell signaling in root meristems to the perception of an abiotic cue
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