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Recent Submissions

  • Engineering Plant Immunity via CRISPR/Cas13a System

    Aljedaani, Fatimah R. (2018-05) [Thesis]
    Advisor: Mahfouz, Magdy M.
    Committee members: Blilou, Ikram; Ghaffour, NorEddine
    Viral diseases constitute a major threat to the agricultural production and food security throughout the world. Plants cope with the invading viruses by triggering immune responses and small RNA interference (RNAi) systems. In prokaryotes, CRISPR/Cas systems function as an adaptive immune system to provide bacteria with resistance against invading phages and conjugative plasmids. Interestingly, CRISPR/Cas9 system was shown to interfere with eukaryotic DNA viruses and confer resistance against plant DNA viruses. The majority of the plant viruses have RNA genomes. The aim of this study is to test the ability of the newly discovered CRISPR/Cas13a immune system, that targets and cleaves single stranded RNA (ssRNA) in prokaryotes, to provide resistance against RNA viruses in plants. Here, I employ the CRISPR/Cas13a system for molecular interference against Turnip Mosaic Virus (TuMV), a plant RNA virus. The results of this study established the CRISPR/Cas13a as a molecular interference machinery against RNA viruses in plants. Specifically, my data show that the CRISPR/Cas13a machinery is able to interfere with and degrade the TuMV (TuMV-GFP) RNA genome. In conclusion, these data indicate that the CRISPR/Cas13 systems can be employed for engineering interference and durable resistance against RNA viruses in diverse plant species.
  • Modify the Histone to Win the Battle: Chromatin Dynamics in Plant–Pathogen Interactions

    Ramirez Prado, Juan Sebastian; Piquerez, Sophie J. M.; Bendahmane, Abdelhafid; Hirt, Heribert; Raynaud, Cécile; Benhamed, Moussa (Frontiers in Plant Science, Frontiers Media SA, 2018-03-19) [Article]
    Relying on an immune system comes with a high energetic cost for plants. Defense responses in these organisms are therefore highly regulated and fine-tuned, permitting them to respond pertinently to the attack of a microbial pathogen. In recent years, the importance of the physical modification of chromatin, a highly organized structure composed of genomic DNA and its interacting proteins, has become evident in the research field of plant-pathogen interactions. Several processes, including DNA methylation, changes in histone density and variants, and various histone modifications, have been described as regulators of various developmental and defense responses. Herein, we review the state of the art in the epigenomic aspects of plant immunity, focusing on chromatin modifications, chromatin modifiers, and their physiological consequences. In addition, we explore the exciting field of understanding how plant pathogens have adapted to manipulate the plant epigenomic regulation in order to weaken their immune system and thrive in their host, as well as how histone modifications in eukaryotic pathogens are involved in the regulation of their virulence.
  • Metaorganisms in extreme environments: do microbes play a role in organismal adaptation?

    Bang, Corinna; Dagan, Tal; Deines, Peter; Dubilier, Nicole; Duschl, Wolfgang J.; Fraune, Sebastian; Hentschel, Ute; Hirt, Heribert; Hülter, Nils; Lachnit, Tim; Picazo, Devani; Pita, Lucia; Pogoreutz, Claudia; Radecker, Nils; Saad, Maged; Schmitz, Ruth A.; Schulenburg, Hinrich; Voolstra, Christian R.; Weiland-Bräuer, Nancy; Ziegler, Maren; Bosch, Thomas C.G. (Zoology, Elsevier BV, 2018-02-15) [Article]
    From protists to humans, all animals and plants are inhabited by microbial organisms. There is an increasing appreciation that these resident microbes influence the fitness of their plant and animal hosts, ultimately forming a metaorganism consisting of a uni- or multicellular host and a community of associated microorganisms. Research on host–microbe interactions has become an emerging cross-disciplinary field. In both vertebrates and invertebrates a complex microbiome confers immunological, metabolic and behavioural benefits; conversely, its disturbance can contribute to the development of disease states. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling the interactions within a metaorganism are poorly understood and many key interactions between the associated organisms remain unknown. In this perspective article, we outline some of the issues in interspecies interactions and in particular address the question of how metaorganisms react and adapt to inputs from extreme environments such as deserts, the intertidal zone, oligothrophic seas, and hydrothermal vents.
  • Synthetic Strigolactone Analogues Reveal Anti-Cancer Activities on Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells

    Hasan, Mohammed Nihal; Choudhry, Hani; Razvi, Syed Shoeb; Moselhy, Said Salama; Kumosani, Taha Abduallah; Zamzami, Mazin A.; Omran, Ziad; Halwani, Majed A.; Al-Babili, Salim; Abualnaja, Khalid Omer; Al-Malki, Abdulrahman Labeed; Alhosin, Mahmoud; Asami, Tadao (Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, Elsevier BV, 2018-02-09) [Article]
    Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The complex etiology is attributed to many factors like heredity, cirrhosis, hepatitis infections or the dysregulation of the different molecular pathways. Nevertheless, the current treatment regimens have either severe side effects or tumors gradually acquire resistance upon prolonged use. Thus, developing a new selective treatment for HCC is the need of the hour. Many anticancer agents derived from plants have been evaluated for their cytotoxicity towards many human cancer cell lines. Strigolactones (SLs)-a newly discovered class of phytohormones, play a crucial role in the development of plant-root and shoot. Recently, many synthetic analogues of SLs have demonstrated pro-apoptotic effects on different cancer cell lines like prostate, breast, colon and lung. In this study, we tested synthetic SLs analogues on HCC cell line-HepG2 and evaluated their capability to induce cell proliferation inhibition and apoptosis. Primary WST-1 assays, followed by annexin-V/7AAD staining, demonstrated the anti-proliferative effects. The SLs analogues TIT3 and TIT7 were found to significantly reduce HepG2 cell viability in a dose- and time-dependent manner and induce apoptosis. Interestingly, though TIT3 and TIT7 strongly affected cancer cell proliferation, both compounds showed moderate anti-proliferative effect on normal cells. Further, migration of cancer cells was suppressed upon treatment with TIT3 and TIT7 in a wound healing assay. In summary, these findings suggest that two SLs analogues TIT3 and TIT7 exert selective inhibitory effects on cancer cells most likely through targeting microtubules. SLs analogues could be used in future as potential anti-cancer candidates in chemotherapy.
  • Chromosome-scale comparative sequence analysis unravels molecular mechanisms of genome evolution between two wheat cultivars

    Thind, Anupriya Kaur; Wicker, Thomas; Mueller, Thomas; Ackermann, Patrick M; Steuernagel, Burkhard; Wulff, Brande B.H; Spannagl, Manuel; Twardziok, Sven O; Felder, Marius; Lux, Thomas; Mayer, Klaus F.X; Keller, Beat; Krattinger, Simon G.; International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2018-02-08) [Preprint]
    Background: Recent improvements in DNA sequencing and genome scaffolding have paved the way to generate high-quality de novo assemblies of pseudomolecules representing complete chromosomes of wheat and its wild relatives. These assemblies form the basis to compare the evolutionary dynamics of wheat genomes on a megabase-scale. Results: Here, we provide a comparative sequence analysis of the 700-megabase chromosome 2D between two bread wheat genotypes, the old landrace Chinese Spring and the elite Swiss spring wheat line CH Campala Lr22a. There was a high degree of sequence conservation between the two chromosomes. Analysis of large structural variations revealed four large insertions/deletions (InDels) of >100 kb. Based on the molecular signatures at the breakpoints, unequal crossing over and double-strand break repair were identified as the evolutionary mechanisms that caused these InDels. Three of the large InDels affected copy number of NLRs, a gene family involved in plant immunity. Analysis of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) density revealed three haploblocks of 8 Mb, 9 Mb and 48 Mb with a 35-fold increased SNP density compared to the rest of the chromosome. Conclusions: This comparative analysis of two high-quality chromosome assemblies enabled a comprehensive assessment of large structural variations. The insight obtained from this analysis will form the basis of future wheat pan-genome studies.
  • A computational framework for cortical microtubule dynamics in realistically shaped plant cells

    Chakrabortty, Bandan; Blilou, Ikram; Scheres, Ben; Mulder, Bela M. (PLOS Computational Biology, Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2018-02-02) [Article]
    Plant morphogenesis is strongly dependent on the directional growth and the subsequent oriented division of individual cells. It has been shown that the plant cortical microtubule array plays a key role in controlling both these processes. This ordered structure emerges as the collective result of stochastic interactions between large numbers of dynamic microtubules. To elucidate this complex self-organization process a number of analytical and computational approaches to study the dynamics of cortical microtubules have been proposed. To date, however, these models have been restricted to two dimensional planes or geometrically simple surfaces in three dimensions, which strongly limits their applicability as plant cells display a wide variety of shapes. This limitation is even more acute, as both local as well as global geometrical features of cells are expected to influence the overall organization of the array. Here we describe a framework for efficiently simulating microtubule dynamics on triangulated approximations of arbitrary three dimensional surfaces. This allows the study of microtubule array organization on realistic cell surfaces obtained by segmentation of microscopic images. We validate the framework against expected or known results for the spherical and cubical geometry. We then use it to systematically study the individual contributions of global geometry, cell-edge induced catastrophes and cell-face induced stability to array organization in a cuboidal geometry. Finally, we apply our framework to analyze the highly non-trivial geometry of leaf pavement cells of Arabidopsis thaliana, Nicotiana benthamiana and Hedera helix. We show that our simulations can predict multiple features of the microtubule array structure in these cells, revealing, among others, strong constraints on the orientation of division planes.
  • RNA virus interference via CRISPR/Cas13a system in plants

    Aman, Rashid; Ali, Zahir; Butt, Haroon; Mahas, Ahmed; Aljedaani, Fatimah R.; Khan, Muhammad Zuhaib; Ding, Shouwei; Mahfouz, Magdy M. (Genome Biology, Springer Nature, 2018-01-04) [Article]
    CRISPR/Cas systems confer immunity against invading nucleic acids and phages in bacteria and archaea. CRISPR/Cas13a (known previously as C2c2) is a class 2 type VI-A ribonuclease capable of targeting and cleaving single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) molecules of the phage genome. Here, we employ CRISPR/Cas13a to engineer interference with an RNA virus, Turnip Mosaic Virus (TuMV), in plants.CRISPR/Cas13a produces interference against green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing TuMV in transient assays and stable overexpression lines of Nicotiana benthamiana. CRISPR RNA (crRNAs) targeting the HC-Pro and GFP sequences exhibit better interference than those targeting other regions such as coat protein (CP) sequence. Cas13a can also process pre-crRNAs into functional crRNAs.Our data indicate that CRISPR/Cas13a can be used for engineering interference against RNA viruses, providing a potential novel mechanism for RNA-guided immunity against RNA viruses and for other RNA manipulations in plants.
  • Quantitative phosphoproteomic analysis reveals shared and specific targets of Arabidopsis MPK3, MPK4 and MPK6

    Rayapuram, Naganand; Bigeard, Jean; Alhoraibi, Hanna; Bonhomme, Ludovic; Hesse, Anne-Marie; Vinh, Joelle; Hirt, Heribert; Pflieger, Delphine (Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (ASBMB), 2017-11-22) [Article]
    In Arabidopsis, mitogen-activated protein kinases MPK3, MPK4 and MPK6 constitute essential relays for a variety of functions including cell division, development and innate immunity. While some substrates of MPK3, MPK4 and MPK6 have been identified, the picture is still far from complete. To identify substrates of these MAPKs likely involved in cell division, growth and development we compared the phosphoproteomes of wild-type and mpk3, mpk4 and mpk6. To study the function of these MAPKs in innate immunity, we analyzed their phosphoproteomes following microbe-associated molecular pattern (MAMP) treatment. Partially overlapping substrates were retrieved for all three MAPKs, showing target specificity to one, two or all three MAPKs in different biological processes. More precisely, our results illustrate the fact that the entity to be defined as a specific or a shared substrate for MAPKs is not a phosphoprotein but a particular (S/T)P phosphorylation site in a given protein. As a whole, 152 peptides were identified to be differentially phosphorylated in response to MAMP treatment and/or when compared between genotypes and 70 of them could be classified as putative MAPK targets. Biochemical analysis of a number of putative MAPK substrates by phosphorylation and interaction assays confirmed the global phosphoproteome approach. Our study also expands the set of MAPK substrates to involve other protein kinases, including calcium-dependent (CDPK) and sugar non-fermenting (SnRK) protein kinases.
  • Genetics of Na+ exclusion and salinity tolerance in Afghani durum wheat landraces

    Shamaya, Nawar Jalal; Shavrukov, Yuri; Langridge, Peter; Roy, Stuart John; Tester, Mark A. (BMC Plant Biology, Springer Nature, 2017-11-21) [Article]
    BackgroundSelecting for low concentration of Na+ in the shoot provides one approach for tackling salinity stress that adversely affects crop production. Novel alleles for Na+ exclusion can be identified and then introduced into elite crop cultivars.ResultsWe have identified loci associated with lower Na+ concentration in leaves of durum wheat landraces originating from Afghanistan. Seedlings of two F2 populations derived from crossings between Australian durum wheat (Jandaroi) and two Afghani landraces (AUS-14740 and AUS-14752) were grown hydroponically and evaluated for Na+ and K+ concentration in the third leaf. High heritability was found for both third leaf Na+ concentration and the K+/Na+ ratio in both populations. Further work focussed on line AUS-14740. Bulk segregant analysis using 9 K SNP markers identified two loci significantly associated with third leaf Na+ concentration. Marker regression analysis showed a strong association between all traits studied and a favourable allele originating from AUS-14740 located on the long arm of chromosome 4B.ConclusionsThe candidate gene in the relevant region of chromosome 4B is likely to be the high affinity K+ transporter B1 (HKT1;5-B1). A second locus associated with third leaf Na+ concentration was located on chromosome 3BL, with the favourable allele originating from Jandaroi; however, no candidate gene can be identified.
  • Identification of Proteins Involved in Salinity Tolerance in Salicornia bigelovii

    Salazar Moya, Octavio Ruben (2017-11) [Dissertation]
    Advisor: Tester, Mark A.
    Committee members: Ravasi, Timothy; Hirt, Heribert; Martinoia, Enrico
    With a global growing demand in food production, agricultural output must increase accordingly. An increased use of saline soils and brackish water would contribute to the required increase in world food production. Abiotic stresses, such as salinity and drought, are also major limiters of crop growth globally - most crops are relatively salt sensitive and are significantly affected when exposed to salt in the range of 50 to 200 mM NaCl. Genomic resources from plants that naturally thrive in highly saline environments have the potential to be valuable in the generation of salt tolerant crops; however, these resources have been largely unexplored. Salicornia bigelovii is a plant native to Mexico and the United States that grows in salt marshes and coastal regions. It can thrive in environments with salt concentrations higher than seawater. In contrast to most crops, S. bigelovii is able to accumulate very high concentrations (in the order of 1.5 M) of Na+ and Cl- in its photosynthetically active succulent shoots. Part of this tolerance is likely to include the storage of Na+ in the vacuoles of the shoots, making S. bigelovii a good model for understanding mechanisms of Na+ compartmentalization in the vacuoles and a good resource for gene discovery. In this research project, phenotypic, genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic approaches have been used for the identification of candidate genes involved in salinity tolerance in S. bigelovii. The genomes and transcriptomes of three Salicornia species have been sequenced. This information has been used to support the characterization of the salt-induced transcriptome of S. bigelovii shoots and the salt-induced proteome of various organellar membrane enriched fractions from S. bigelovii shoots, which led to the creation of organellar membrane proteomes. Yeast spot assays at different salt concentrations revealed several proteins increasing or decreasing yeast salt tolerance. This work aims to create the basis for Salicornia research by providing a genome, transcriptomes, and organellar proteomes, contributing to salinity tolerance research overall. We identified a set of candidate genes for salinity tolerance with the aim of shedding some light on the mechanisms by which this plant thrives in highly saline environments.
  • Pea early-browning virus -mediated genome editing via the CRISPR/Cas9 system in Nicotiana benthamiana and Arabidopsis

    Ali, Zahir; Eid, Ayman; Ali, Shawkat; Mahfouz, Magdy M. (Virus Research, Elsevier BV, 2017-10-17) [Article]
    The clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (Cas9) system has enabled efficient genome engineering in diverse plant species. However, delivery of genome engineering reagents, such as the single guide RNA (sgRNA), into plant cells remains challenging. Here, we report the engineering of Tobacco rattle virus (TRV) and Pea early browning virus (PEBV) to deliver one or multiple sgRNAs into Nicotiana benthamiana and Arabidopsis thaliana (Col-0) plants that overexpress a nuclear localization signal containing Cas9. Our data showed that TRV and PEBV can deliver sgRNAs into inoculated and systemic leaves, and this resulted in mutagenesis of the targeted genomic loci. Moreover, in N. benthamiana, PEBV-based sgRNA delivery resulted in more targeted mutations than TRV-based delivery. Our data indicate that TRV and PEBV can facilitate plant genome engineering and can be used to produce targeted mutations for functional analysis and other biotechnological applications across diverse plant species.Key message: Delivery of genome engineering reagents into plant cells is challenging and inefficient and this limit the applications of this technology in many plant species. RNA viruses such as TRV and PEBV provide an efficient tool to systemically deliver sgRNAs for targeted genome modification.
  • Plant-specific Histone Deacetylases HDT½ Regulate GIBBERELLIN 2-OXIDASE 2 Expression to Control Arabidopsis Root Meristem Cell Number

    Li, Huchen; Torres-Garcia, Jesus; Latrasse, David; Benhamed, Moussa; Schilderink, Stefan; Zhou, Wenkun; Kulikova, Olga; Hirt, Heribert; Bisseling, Ton (The Plant Cell, American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), 2017-08-31) [Article]
    Root growth is modulated by environmental factors and depends on cell production in the root meristem (RM). New cells in the meristem are generated by stem cells and transit-amplifying cells, which together determine RM cell number. Transcription factors and chromatin-remodelling factors have been implicated in regulating the switch from stem cells to transit-amplifying cells. Here we show that two Arabidopsis thaliana paralogs encoding plant-specific histone deacetylases, HDT1 and HDT2, regulate a second switch from transit-amplifying cells to expanding cells. Knockdown of HDT½ (hdt1,2i) results in an earlier switch and causes a reduced RM cell number. Our data show that HDT½ negatively regulate the acetylation level of the C19-GIBBERELLIN 2-OXIDASE 2 (GA2ox2) locus and repress the expression of GA2ox2 in the RM and elongation zone. Overexpression of GA2ox2 in the RM phenocopies the hdt1,2i phenotype. Conversely, knockout of GA2ox2 partially rescues the root growth defect of hdt1,2i. These results suggest that by repressing the expression of GA2ox2, HDT½ likely fine-tune gibberellin metabolism and they are crucial for regulating the switch from cell division to expansion to determine RM cell number. We propose that HDT½ function as part of a mechanism that modulates root growth in response to environmental factors.
  • Efficient CRISPR/Cas9-Mediated Genome Editing Using a Chimeric Single-Guide RNA Molecule

    Butt, Haroon; Eid, Ayman; Ali, Zahir; Atia, Mohamed A. M.; Mokhtar, Morad M.; Hassan, Norhan; Lee, Ciaran M.; Bao, Gang; Mahfouz, Magdy M. (Frontiers in Plant Science, Frontiers Media SA, 2017-08-24) [Article]
    The CRISPR/Cas9 system has been applied in diverse eukaryotic organisms for targeted mutagenesis. However, targeted gene editing is inefficient and requires the simultaneous delivery of a DNA template for homology-directed repair (HDR). Here, we used CRISPR/Cas9 to generate targeted double-strand breaks and to deliver an RNA repair template for HDR in rice (Oryza sativa). We used chimeric single-guide RNA (cgRNA) molecules carrying both sequences for target site specificity (to generate the double-strand breaks) and repair template sequences (to direct HDR), flanked by regions of homology to the target. Gene editing was more efficient in rice protoplasts using repair templates complementary to the non-target DNA strand, rather than the target strand. We applied this cgRNA repair method to generate herbicide resistance in rice, which showed that this cgRNA repair method can be used for targeted gene editing in plants. Our findings will facilitate applications in functional genomics and targeted improvement of crop traits.
  • Constitutive Activity of the Arabidopsis MAP Kinase 3 Confers Resistance to Pseudomonas syringae and Drives Robust Immune Responses

    Lang, Julien; Genot, Baptiste; Hirt, Heribert; Colcombet, Jean (Plant Signaling & Behavior, Informa UK Limited, 2017-08-02) [Article]
    Mitogen Activated Protein Kinases (MAPKs) are known to be important mediators of plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. In a recent report, we enlarged the understanding of the Arabidopsis thaliana MPK3 functions showing that the expression of a constitutively active (CA) form of the protein led to auto-immune phenotypes. CA-MPK3 plants are dwarf and display defense responses that are characterized by the accumulation of salicylic acid and phytoalexins as well as by the upregulation of several defense genes. Consistently with these data, we present here results demonstrating that, compared to wild type controls, CA-MPK3 plants are more resistant to the hemibiotrophic pathogen Pseudomonas syringae DC3000. Based on our previous work, we also discuss the mechanisms of robust plant immunity controlled by sustained MPK3 activity, focusing especially on the roles of disease resistance proteins.
  • Arabidopsis ATRX Modulates H3.3 Occupancy and Fine-Tunes Gene Expression

    Duc, Céline; Benoit, Matthias; Détourné, Gwénaëlle; Simon, Lauriane; Poulet, Axel; Jung, Matthieu; Veluchamy, Alaguraj; Latrasse, David; Le Goff, Samuel; Cotterell, Sylviane; Tatout, Christophe; Benhamed, Moussa; Probst, Aline V. (The Plant Cell, American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), 2017-07-06) [Article]
    Histones are essential components of the nucleosome, the major chromatin subunit that structures linear DNA molecules and regulates access of other proteins to DNA. Specific histone chaperone complexes control the correct deposition of canonical histones and their variants to modulate nucleosome structure and stability. In this study, we characterize the Arabidopsis Alpha Thalassemia-mental Retardation X-linked (ATRX) ortholog and show that ATRX is involved in histone H3 deposition. Arabidopsis ATRX mutant alleles are viable, but show developmental defects and reduced fertility. Their combination with mutants of the histone H3.3 chaperone HIRA (Histone Regulator A) results in impaired plant survival, suggesting that HIRA and ATRX function in complementary histone deposition pathways. Indeed, ATRX loss of function alters cellular histone H3.3 pools and in consequence modulates the H3.1/H3.3 balance in the cell. H3.3 levels are affected especially at genes characterized by elevated H3.3 occupancy, including the 45S ribosomal DNA (45S rDNA) loci, where loss of ATRX results in altered expression of specific 45S rDNA sequence variants. At the genome-wide scale, our data indicate that ATRX modifies gene expression concomitantly to H3.3 deposition at a set of genes characterized both by elevated H3.3 occupancy and high expression. Altogether, our results show that ATRX is involved in H3.3 deposition and emphasize the role of histone chaperones in adjusting genome expression.
  • CRISPR-Cpf1: A New Tool for Plant Genome Editing

    Zaidi, Syed Shan-e-Ali; Mahfouz, Magdy M.; Mansoor, Shahid (Trends in Plant Science, Elsevier BV, 2017-05-19) [Article]
    Clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-CRISPR-associated proteins (CRISPR-Cas), a groundbreaking genome-engineering tool, has facilitated targeted trait improvement in plants. Recently, CRISPR-CRISPR from Prevotella and Francisella 1 (Cpf1) has emerged as a new tool for efficient genome editing, including DNA-free editing in plants, with higher efficiency, specificity, and potentially wider applications than CRISPR-Cas9.
  • Engineering Molecular Immunity Against Plant Viruses

    Zaidi, Syed Shan-e-Ali; Tashkandi, Manal; Mahfouz, Magdy M. (Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science, Elsevier BV, 2017-04-26) [Book Chapter]
    Genomic engineering has been used to precisely alter eukaryotic genomes at the single-base level for targeted gene editing, replacement, fusion, and mutagenesis, and plant viruses such as Tobacco rattle virus have been developed into efficient vectors for delivering genome-engineering reagents. In addition to altering the host genome, these methods can target pathogens to engineer molecular immunity. Indeed, recent studies have shown that clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated 9 (Cas9) systems that target the genomes of DNA viruses can interfere with viral activity and limit viral symptoms in planta, demonstrating the utility of this system for engineering molecular immunity in plants. CRISPR/Cas9 can efficiently target single and multiple viral infections and confer plant immunity. Here, we discuss the use of site-specific nucleases to engineer molecular immunity against DNA and RNA viruses in plants. We also explore how to address the potential challenges encountered when producing plants with engineered resistance to single and mixed viral infections.
  • Review: Mitogen-Activated Protein kinases in nutritional signaling in Arabidopsis

    Chardin, Camille; Schenk, Sebastian T.; Hirt, Heribert; Colcombet, Jean; Krapp, Anne (Plant Science, Elsevier BV, 2017-04-14) [Article]
    Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) cascades are functional modules widespread among eukaryotic organisms. In plants, these modules are encoded by large multigenic families and are involved in many biological processes ranging from stress responses to cellular differentiation and organ development. Furthermore, MAPK pathways are involved in the perception of environmental and physiological modifications. Interestingly, some MAPKs play a role in several signaling networks and could have an integrative function for the response of plants to their environment. In this review, we describe the classification of MAPKs and highlight some of their biochemical actions. We performed an in silico analysis of MAPK gene expression in response to nutrients supporting their involvement in nutritional signaling. While several MAPKs have been identified as players in sugar, nitrogen, phosphate, iron and potassium-related signaling pathways, their biochemical functions are yet mainly unknown. The integration of these regulatory cascades in the current understanding of nutrient signaling is discussed and potential new avenues for approaches toward plants with higher nutrient use efficiencies are evoked.
  • A high quality Arabidopsis transcriptome for accurate transcript-level analysis of alternative splicing

    Zhang, Runxuan; Calixto, Cristiane P. G.; Marquez, Yamile; Venhuizen, Peter; Tzioutziou, Nikoleta A.; Guo, Wenbin; Spensley, Mark; Entizne, Juan Carlos; Lewandowska, Dominika; ten Have, Sara; Frei dit Frey, Nicolas; Hirt, Heribert; James, Allan B.; Nimmo, Hugh G.; Barta, Andrea; Kalyna, Maria; Brown, John W. S. (Nucleic Acids Research, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2017-04-11) [Article]
    Alternative splicing generates multiple transcript and protein isoforms from the same gene and thus is important in gene expression regulation. To date, RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) is the standard method for quantifying changes in alternative splicing on a genome-wide scale. Understanding the current limitations of RNA-seq is crucial for reliable analysis and the lack of high quality, comprehensive transcriptomes for most species, including model organisms such as Arabidopsis, is a major constraint in accurate quantification of transcript isoforms. To address this, we designed a novel pipeline with stringent filters and assembled a comprehensive Reference Transcript Dataset for Arabidopsis (AtRTD2) containing 82,190 non-redundant transcripts from 34 212 genes. Extensive experimental validation showed that AtRTD2 and its modified version, AtRTD2-QUASI, for use in Quantification of Alternatively Spliced Isoforms, outperform other available transcriptomes in RNA-seq analysis. This strategy can be implemented in other species to build a pipeline for transcript-level expression and alternative splicing analyses.
  • Constitutively active Arabidopsis MAP Kinase 3 triggers defense responses involving salicylic acid and SUMM2 resistance protein

    Genot, Baptiste; Lang, Julien; Berriri, Souha; Garmier, Marie; Gilard, Françoise; Pateyron, Stéphanie; Haustraete, Katrien; Van Der Straeten, Dominique; Hirt, Heribert; Colcombet, Jean (Plant Physiology, American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), 2017-04-11) [Article]
    Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are important regulators of plant immunity. Most of the knowledge about the function of these pathways is derived from loss-of-function approaches. Using a gain-of-function approach, we investigated the responses controlled by a constitutively active (CA) MPK3 in Arabidopsis thaliana. CA-MPK3 plants are dwarfed and display a massive de-repression of defense genes associated with spontaneous cell death as well as accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), phytoalexins and the stress-related hormones ethylene and salicylic acid (SA). Remarkably CA-MPK3/sid2 and CA-MPK3/ein2-50 lines which are impaired in SA synthesis and ethylene signaling, respectively, retain most of the CA-MPK3-associated phenotypes, indicating that constitutive activity of MPK3 can bypass SA and ethylene signaling to activate defense responses. A comparative analysis of the molecular phenotypes of CA-MPK3 and mpk4 autoimmunity suggested convergence between the MPK3 and MPK4-guarding modules. In support of this model, CA-MPK3 crosses with summ1 and summ2, two known suppressors of mpk4, resulted in a partial reversion of the CA-MPK3 phenotypes. Overall, our data unravel a novel mechanism by which the MAPK signaling network contributes to a robust defense response system.

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