ARABIDOPSIS RESEARCH ROUNDUP: OCTOBER 20THARABIDOPSIS RESEARCH ROUNDUP: OCTOBER 20TH

20th Oct 2015

There are just three research papers in this weeks Arabidopsis Roundup but they each represent important projects from established groups. Firstly is a significant output from the Edinburgh SynthSys Centre that documents their analysis of the Arabidopsis circadian clock. Secondly an international collaborative effort looks into the molecular signaling pathways that control the physiological response to increasing CO2 levels and thirdly a paper that uncovers a novel plant-specific molecular mechanism that controls the biogenesis of certain siRNAs. Finally we highlight a major review concerning the importance of Arabidopsis research over the past 50 years.

Flis A, Fernández AP, Zielinski T, Mengin V, Sulpice R, Stratford K, Hume A, Pokhilko A, Southern MM, Seaton DD, McWatters HG, Stitt M, Halliday KJ, Millar AJ (2015) Defining the robust behaviour of the plant clock gene circuit with absolute RNA timeseries and open infrastructure. Open Biol. 5(10). pii: 150042. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsob.150042

This study of the Arabidopsis circadian clock, impressive in its breadth, is led by faculty members from the University of Edinburgh SynthSys Synthetic Biology Centre. The team measured RNA profiles of clock genes in plants grown with or without exogenous sucrose or from wildtype or mutant soil growth plants. They found surprisingly robust patterns of expression together with some novel genetic behaviours. In addition they discovered major differences in the absolute expression of certain clock genes, ranging from 50 up to 1500 copies/ cell. Importantly this information is freely-available within the BioDare repository and it is hoped that this will benefit future attempts at modeling the circadian clock.

Chater C, Peng K, Movahedi M, Dunn JA, Walker HJ, Liang YK, McLachlan DH, Casson S, Isner JC, Wilson I, Neill SJ, Hedrich R, Gray JE, Hetherington AM (2015) Elevated CO2-Induced Responses in Stomata Require ABA and ABA Signaling Curr Biol. pii: S0960-9822(15)01092-1. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.09.013

This broad collaboration between UK, German and Chinese researchers is led by Alistair Hetherington (Bristol) and Julie Gray (Sheffield) and looks into the molecular events that respond to changing levels of CO2, specifically in guard cells. The new findings in this manuscript show that reduction in stomatal density in response to higher [CO2] relies on the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), adding a new element to this signaling pathway. In addition they show that the ABA response pathway is also involved in this process and that, following genetic analysis, the CO2 response is mediated via this hormone pathway. However it is unclear whether this is due to ABA increasing CO2 sensitivity in this system or whether CO2 acts specifically in guard cells to increase ABA biosynthesis. A plants response to CO2 is ancestral in evolutionary terms so the authors suggest that this link with ABA signaling is similarly ancient. The attached figure graphically demonstrates this response pathway.

Zhai J, Bischof S, Wang H, Feng S, Lee TF, Teng C, Chen X, Park SY, Liu L, Gallego-Bartolome J, Liu W, Henderson IR, Meyers BC, Ausin I, Jacobsen SE (2015) A One Precursor One siRNA Model for Pol IV-Dependent siRNA Biogenesis. Cell. 163(2):445-55 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2015.09.032

GARNet Advisory Board member Ian Henderson is an author in this rare plant-focused paper in Cell, in work that results from his post-doc with Steve Jacobson at UCLA. The manuscript describes a novel mode of action surrounding the plant-specific RNA Polymerase IV (Pol IV). RNAs generated from the activity of Pol IV play an important role in RNA-directed DNA methylation. Intriguingly the authors found that Pol IV transcripts are surprisingly short, just 30 to 40 nt and are similarly adundant to the siRNAs that they subsequently form. The Pol IV RNAs exhibit transcriptional start points similar to those generated by Pol II, which might indicate there are similar mechanisms that control their activity. In addition they find that methylated DNA plays a role in locally reinforcing the silencing reaction. Overall this indicates that the transcripts produced by Pol IV go through a unique “one precursor, one siRNA” model, although the physiological significance of this remains opaque. Another paper on this topic is presented in ELife by the lab of Craig Pikaard.

Provart et al (2015) 50 years of Arabidopsis research: highlights and future directions New Phytol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/nph.13687

Also worth noting this week is a Tansley Review in New Phytologist, which coincides with 50 years since the inaugural Arabidopsis Conference held in 1965. This review has been written by a number of senior Arabidopsis researchers, although no-one from the UK, to discuss the many important findings that have resulted from work on our favourite organism.