Jennifer A Thomson

University of Cape Town, Kaapstad, Western Cape, South Africa

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Publications (30)99.9 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Provides a first comprehensive review of integrated physiological and molecular aspects of desiccation tolerance Xerophyta viscosa . A synopsis of biotechnological studies being undertaken to improve drought tolerance in maize is given. Xerophyta viscosa (Baker) is a monocotyledonous resurrection plant from the family Vellociacea that occurs in summer-rainfall areas of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It inhabits rocky terrain in exposed grasslands and frequently experiences periods of water deficit. Being a resurrection plant it tolerates the loss of 95 % of total cellular water, regaining full metabolic competency within 3 days of rehydration. In this paper, we review some of the molecular and physiological adaptations that occur during various stages of dehydration of X. viscosa, these being functionally grouped into early and late responses, which might be relevant to the attainment of desiccation tolerance. During early drying (to 55 % RWC) photosynthesis is shut down, there is increased presence and activity of housekeeping antioxidants and a redirection of metabolism to the increased formation of sucrose and raffinose family oligosaccharides. Other metabolic shifts suggest water replacement in vacuoles proposed to facilitate mechanical stabilization. Some regulatory processes observed include increased presence of a linker histone H1 variant, a Type 2C protein phosphatase, a calmodulin- and an ERD15-like protein. During the late stages of drying (to 10 % RWC) there was increased expression of several proteins involved in signal transduction, and retroelements speculated to be instrumental in gene silencing. There was induction of antioxidants not typically found in desiccation-sensitive systems, classical stress-associated proteins (HSP and LEAs), proteins involved in structural stabilization and those associated with changes in various metabolite pools during drying. Metabolites accumulated in this stage are proposed, inter alia, to facilitate subcellular stabilization by vitrification process which can include glass- and ionic liquid formation.
    Planta 05/2015; DOI:10.1007/s00425-015-2320-6 · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Maize streak virus (MSV), which causes maize streak disease (MSD), is the major viral pathogenic constraint on maize production in Africa. Type member of the Mastrevirus genus in the family Geminiviridae, MSV has a 2.7 kb, single-stranded circular DNA genome encoding a coat protein, movement protein, and the two replication-associated proteins Rep and RepA. While we have previously developed MSV-resistant transgenic maize lines constitutively expressing "dominant negative mutant" versions of the MSV Rep, the only transgenes we could use were those that caused no developmental defects during the regeneration of plants in tissue culture. A better transgene expression system would be an inducible one, where resistance-conferring transgenes are expressed only in MSV-infected cells. However, most known inducible transgene expression systems are hampered by background or "leaky" expression in the absence of the inducer. Here we describe an adaptation of the recently developed INPACT system to express MSV-derived resistance genes in cell culture. Split gene cassette constructs (SGCs) were developed containing three different transgenes in combination with three different promoter sequences. In each SGC, the transgene was split such that it would be translatable only in the presence of an infecting MSV's replication associated protein. We used a quantitative real-time PCR assay to show that one of these SGCs (pSPLITrepIII-Rb-Ubi) inducibly inhibits MSV replication as efficiently as does a constitutively expressed transgene that has previously proven effective in protecting transgenic maize from MSV. In addition, in our cell-culture based assay pSPLITrepIII-Rb-Ubi inhibited replication of diverse MSV strains, and even, albeit to a lesser extent, of a different mastrevirus species. The application of this new technology to MSV resistance in maize could allow a better, more acceptable product.
    PLoS ONE 08/2014; 9(8):e105932. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0105932 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Maize streak disease, caused by the A strain of the African endemic geminivirus, maize streak mastrevirus (MSV-A), threatens the food security and livelihoods of subsistence farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Using a well-established transient expression assay, this study investigated the potential of a spliceable-intron hairpin RNA (hpRNA) approach to interfere with MSV replication. Two strategies were explored: (i) an inverted repeat of a 662 bp region of the MSV replication-associated protein gene (rep), which is essential for virus replication and is therefore a good target for post-transcriptional gene silencing; and (ii) an inverted repeat of the viral long intergenic region (LIR), considered for its potential to trigger transcriptional silencing of the viral promoter region. After co-bombardment of cultured maize cells with each construct and an infectious partial dimer of the cognate virus genome (MSV-Kom), followed by viral replicative-form-specific PCR, it was clear that, whilst the hairpin rep construct (pHPrepΔI(662)) completely inhibited MSV replication, the LIR hairpin construct was ineffective in this regard. In addition, pHPrepΔI(662) inhibited or reduced replication of six MSV-A genotypes representing the entire breadth of known MSV-A diversity. Further investigation by real-time PCR revealed that the pHPrepΔI(662) inverted repeat was 22-fold more effective at reducing virus replication than a construct containing the sense copy, whilst the antisense copy had no effect on replication when compared with the wild type. This is the first indication that an hpRNA strategy targeting MSV rep has the potential to protect transgenic maize against diverse MSV-A genotypes found throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
    Journal of General Virology 06/2011; 92(Pt 10):2458-65. DOI:10.1099/vir.0.032862-0 · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Dionne N. Shepherd · Darren P. Martin · Jennifer A. Thomson
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    ABSTRACT: Geminiviruses infect a wide range of economically important crop plants. This review covers genetic engineering approaches currently being evaluated for the development of crops resistant to geminiviruses. In the past, most of these have involved pathogen-derived resistance strategies such as the expression of mutant or truncated viral proteins that interfere with virus infection, or transcription of viral RNA sequences that silence the expression of virus genes. Recently, however, alternatives to pathogen-derived resistance have been investigated. These include the use of geminivirus-inducible toxic proteins to kill infected cells, and the expression of DNA binding proteins, peptide aptamers or GroEL homologues that either disrupt geminivirus infections or lessen their harmful effects. Despite moderate successes in the engineering of geminivirus resistance using many of these strategies, no comparative data are available either on the relative merits of different approaches, or on how well the various resistant transgenic plants that have been produced will fare in the field. We anticipate that high geminivirus mutation and recombination rates could seriously undermine the durability of most currently available resistance transgenes. It should, however, be possible to achieve robust transgenic geminivirus resistance either by using mixtures of genes targeting multiple virus processes via multiple mechanisms, or by using “tolerance” genes that alleviate symptoms but do not selectively favour resistance-breaking virus mutants.
    Plant Science 01/2009; 176(1-176):1-11. DOI:10.1016/j.plantsci.2008.08.011 · 4.11 Impact Factor
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    Jennifer A Thomson
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    ABSTRACT: Sub-Saharan Africa could have a shortfall of nearly 90Mt of cereals by the year 2025 if current agricultural practices are maintained. Biotechnology is one of the ways to improve agricultural production. Insect-resistant varieties of maize and cotton suitable for the subcontinent have been identified as already having a significant impact. Virus-resistant crops are under development. These include maize resistant to the African endemic maize streak virus and cassava resistant to African cassava mosaic virus. Parasitic weeds such as Striga attack the roots of crops such as maize, millet, sorghum and upland rice. Field trials in Kenya using a variety of maize resistant to a herbicide have proven very successful. Drought-tolerant crops are also under development as are improved varieties of local African crops such as bananas, cassava, sorghum and sweet potatoes.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 03/2008; 363(1492):905-13. DOI:10.1098/rstb.2007.2191 · 6.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We have used reverse transcription-PCR coupled with 5 -and 3 -RACE to isolate a full length INO1 cDNA (1692 bp with an ORF of 1530) from the resurrection plant Xerophyta viscosa Baker. XvINO1 encodes 510 amino acids, with a predicted MW of 56.7kD and contains four sequence motifs that are highly conserved in plant myo-inositol-1-phosphate synthases (MIPS, EC5.5.1.4), the enzyme that catalyses the first step in the formation of myo-inositol (Ino). Northern and western analyses show that the transcript and protein are constitutively present in leaves but their expression increases, temporarily, in response to both accumulative salt stress (∼300 mM NaCl) and desiccation (to 5% relative water content). Leaf Ino concentration increases 40-fold during the first 6 h of salt stress, and levels of this and other carbohydrates (galactinol, sucrose, raffinose, stachyose and hexoses) remain elevated relative to control leaves for the duration of salt stress treatment. The timing and pattern of accumulation of these carbohydrates differ under desiccation stress and we propose that they perform different functions in the respective stresses. These are elaborated in discussion of our data.
    Functional Plant Biology 01/2008; 35:26--39. DOI:10.1071/FP07142 · 2.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Maize streak virus (MSV) contributes significantly to the problem of extremely low African maize yields. Whilst a diverse range of MSV and MSV-like viruses are endemic in sub-Saharan Africa and neighbouring islands, only a single group of maize-adapted variants - MSV subtypes A(1)-A(6) - causes severe enough disease in maize to influence yields substantially. In order to assist in designing effective strategies to control MSV in maize, a large survey covering 155 locations was conducted to assess the diversity, distribution and genetic characteristics of the Ugandan MSV-A population. PCR-restriction fragment-length polymorphism analyses of 391 virus isolates identified 49 genetic variants. Sixty-two full-genome sequences were determined, 52 of which were detectably recombinant. All but two recombinants contained predominantly MSV-A(1)-like sequences. Of the ten distinct recombination events observed, seven involved inter-MSV-A subtype recombination and three involved intra-MSV-A(1) recombination. One of the intra-MSV-A(1) recombinants, designated MSV-A(1)UgIII, accounted for >60 % of all MSV infections sampled throughout Uganda. Although recombination may be an important factor in the emergence of novel geminivirus variants, it is demonstrated that its characteristics in MSV are quite different from those observed in related African cassava-infecting geminivirus species.
    Journal of General Virology 12/2007; 88(Pt 11):3154-65. DOI:10.1099/vir.0.83144-0 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this article, we report transgene-derived resistance in maize to the severe pathogen maize streak virus (MSV). The mutated MSV replication-associated protein gene that was used to transform maize showed stable expression to the fourth generation. Transgenic T2 and T3 plants displayed a significant delay in symptom development, a decrease in symptom severity and higher survival rates than non-transgenic plants after MSV challenge, as did a transgenic hybrid made by crossing T2 Hi-II with the widely grown, commercial, highly MSV-susceptible, white maize genotype WM3. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first maize to be developed with transgenic MSV resistance and the first all-African-produced genetically modified crop plant.
    Plant Biotechnology Journal 12/2007; 5(6):759-67. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-7652.2007.00279.x · 5.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The desiccation-tolerant phenotype of angiosperm resurrection plants is thought to rely on the induction of protective mechanisms that maintain cellular integrity during water loss. Two-dimensional (2D) sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) analysis of the Xerophyta viscosa Baker proteome was carried out during dehydration to identify proteins that may play a role in such mechanisms. Quantitative analysis revealed a greater number of changes in protein expression levels at 35% than at 65% relative water content (RWC) compared to fully hydrated plants, and 17 dehydration-responsive proteins were identified by tandem mass spectrometry (MS). Proteins showing increased abundance during drying included an RNA-binding protein, chloroplast FtsH protease, glycolytic enzymes and antioxidants. A number of photosynthetic proteins declined sharply in abundance in X. viscosa at RWC below 65%, including four components of photosystem II (PSII), and Western blot analysis confirmed that two of these (psbP and Lhcb2) were not detectable at 30% RWC. These data confirm that poikilochlorophylly in X. viscosa involves the breakdown of photosynthetic proteins during dismantling of the thylakoid membranes. In contrast, levels of these photosynthetic proteins were largely maintained during dehydration in the homoiochlorophyllous species Craterostigma plantagineum Hochst, which does not dismantle thylakoid membranes on drying.
    Plant Cell and Environment 05/2007; 30(4):435-46. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-3040.2006.01631.x · 5.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Changes in water-soluble carbohydrates were examined in the leaves of the resurrection plant Xerophyta viscosa under conditions of water deficit. Sucrose and raffinose family oligosaccharides (RFOs), particularly raffinose, increased under these conditions, with the highest concentrations evident at 5% relative water content [RWC; 23.5 mg g(-1) dry weight (DW) and 17.7 mg g(-1) DW, respectively]. Importantly, these effects were reversible, with concentrations returning to levels comparable with that of the full turgor state 7 d after water deficit conditions were alleviated, providing evidence that both sucrose and RFOs may play a protective role in desiccated leaf tissue of X. viscosa. Further, because the sucrose-to-raffinose mass ratio of 1.3:1 observed in the dehydrated state was very low, compared with published data for other resurrection plants (always >5), it is suggested that, in X. viscosa leaves, RFOs serve the dual purpose of stress protection and carbon storage. XvGolS, a gene encoding a galactinol synthase enzyme responsible for the first catalytic step in RFO biosynthesis, was cloned and functionally expressed. In leaf tissue exposed to water deficit, XvGolS transcript levels were shown to increase at 19% RWC. GolS activity in planta could not be correlated with RFO accumulation, but a negative correlation was observed between RFO accumulation and myo-inositol depletion, during water deficit stress. This correlation was reversed after rehydration, suggesting that during water deficit myo-inositol is channelled into RFO synthesis, but during the rehydration process it is channelled to metabolic pathways related to the repair of desiccation-induced damage.
    Journal of Experimental Botany 04/2007; 58(8):1947-56. DOI:10.1093/jxb/erm056 · 5.79 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Leaf samples from 155 maize streak virus (MSV)-infected maize plants were collected from 155 farmers' fields in 23 districts in Uganda in May/June 2005 by leaf-pressing infected samples onto FTA Classic Cards. Viral DNA was successfully extracted from cards stored at room temperature for 9 months. The diversity of 127 MSV isolates was analysed by PCR-generated RFLPs. Six representative isolates having different RFLP patterns and causing either severe, moderate or mild disease symptoms, were chosen for amplification from FTA cards by bacteriophage phi29 DNA polymerase using the TempliPhi system. Full-length genomes were inserted into a cloning vector using a unique restriction enzyme site, and sequenced. The 1.3-kb PCR product amplified directly from FTA-eluted DNA and used for RFLP analysis was also cloned and sequenced. Comparison of cloned whole genome sequences with those of the original PCR products indicated that the correct virus genome had been cloned and that no errors were introduced by the phi29 polymerase. This is the first successful large-scale application of FTA card technology to the field, and illustrates the ease with which large numbers of infected samples can be collected and stored for downstream molecular applications such as diversity analysis and cloning of potentially new virus genomes.
    Journal of Virological Methods 04/2007; 140(1-2):100-5. DOI:10.1016/j.jviromet.2006.11.004 · 1.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Maize streak disease is a severe agricultural problem in Africa and the development of maize genotypes resistant to the causal agent, Maize streak virus (MSV), is a priority. A transgenic approach to engineering MSV-resistant maize was developed and tested in this study. A pathogen-derived resistance strategy was adopted by using targeted deletions and nucleotide-substitution mutants of the multifunctional MSV replication-associated protein gene (rep). Various rep gene constructs were tested for their efficacy in limiting replication of wild-type MSV by co-bombardment of maize suspension cells together with an infectious genomic clone of MSV and assaying replicative forms of DNA by quantitative PCR. Digitaria sanguinalis, an MSV-sensitive grass species used as a model monocot, was then transformed with constructs that had inhibited virus replication in the transient-expression system. Challenge experiments using leafhopper-transmitted MSV indicated significant MSV resistance--from highly resistant to immune--in regenerated transgenic D. sanguinalis lines. Whereas regenerated lines containing a mutated full-length rep gene displayed developmental and growth defects, those containing a truncated rep gene both were fertile and displayed no growth defects, making the truncated gene a suitable candidate for the development of transgenic MSV-resistant maize.
    Journal of General Virology 02/2007; 88(Pt 1):325-36. DOI:10.1099/vir.0.82338-0 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We used in vivo (biological), in silico (computational structure prediction), and in vitro (model sequence folding) analyses of single-stranded DNA sequences to show that nucleic acid folding conservation is the selective principle behind a high-frequency single-nucleotide reversion observed in a three-nucleotide mutated motif of the Maize streak virus replication associated protein (Rep) gene. In silico and in vitro studies showed that the three-nucleotide mutation adversely affected Rep nucleic acid folding, and that the single-nucleotide reversion [C(601)A] restored wild-type-like folding. In vivo support came from infecting maize with mutant viruses: those with Rep genes containing nucleotide changes predicted to restore a wild-type-like fold [A(601)/G(601)] preferentially accumulated over those predicted to fold differently [C(601)/T(601)], which frequently reverted to A(601) and displaced the original population. We propose that the selection of native nucleic acid folding is an epigenetic effect, which might have broad implications in the evolution of plants and their viruses.
    Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics 10/2006; 453(1):108-22. DOI:10.1016/j.abb.2005.12.009 · 3.04 Impact Factor
  • Dahlia Garwe · Jennifer A Thomson · Sagadevan G Mundree
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    ABSTRACT: XVSAP1, a gene isolated from a dehydrated Xerophyta viscosa cDNA library, was transformed into Arabidopsis thaliana by Ti plasmid-mediated transformation under the control of a cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter, a nos terminator and bar gene selection. Expression of XVSAP1 in Arabidopsis led to constitutive accumulation of the corresponding protein in the leaves. Transgenic Arabidopsis grown in tissue culture maintained higher growth rates during osmotic, high-salinity and high temperature stress, respectively. Non-transgenic plants had shorter roots, leaf expansion was inhibited and leaves were more chlorotic than those of the transgenic plants. This study demonstrates that XVSAP1 has a significant impact on dehydration, salinity and high-temperature stress tolerance in Arabidopsis.
    Biotechnology Journal 10/2006; 1(10):1137-46. DOI:10.1002/biot.200600136 · 3.71 Impact Factor
  • Jennifer A Thomson
    South African medical journal = Suid-Afrikaanse tydskrif vir geneeskunde 07/2006; 96(6):509-10. · 1.71 Impact Factor
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    Yasemin Ekmekci · Andreas Bohms · Jennifer A Thomson · Sagadevan G Mundree
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    ABSTRACT: In this study, photochemical and antioxidant responses of the monocotyledonous resurrection plant Xerophyta viscosa Baker and the crab grass Digitaria sanguinalis L. under water deficit were investigated as a function of time. Water deficit was imposed by withholding irrigation for 21 d. Gas exchange and chlorophyll a fluorescence analyses indicated that the dehydration treatment caused photoinhibition in both species. The reduction in the photosynthesis rate in both species during water deficit probably contributed to the decline in the photochemical efficiency of PSII and electron transport rate. However, the stomatal conductance of both species did not change during treatment whereas the intercellular CO2 pressure increased after 10 d of water deficit treatment. These observations could be related to nonstomatal limitations. The increasing net transpiration rate of both species may have contributed to leaf cooling because of water limitations. Prolonged water deficit resulted in photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll (a + b) and carotenoids content loss in only D. sanguinalis. Both species especially D. sanguinalis had increased the level of anthocyanin after 15 d of treatment, possibly to prevent the damaging effect of photooxidation. The total SOD activity of D. sanguinalis was significantly different from X. viscosa during the treatment. The total peroxidase activity in D. sanguinalis was significantly higher than in X. viscosa. X. viscosa acclimated to water deficit with no ultimate apparent oxidative damage due to endogenous protective mechanisms of resurrection. In case of D. sanguinalis, water deficit induced considerable stress and possibly caused some oxidative damage, despite the upregulation of protection mechanisms.
    Zeitschrift fur Naturforschung C 05/2005; 60(5-6):435-43. DOI:10.1515/znc-2005-5-612 · 0.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Geminivirus infectivity is thought to depend on interactions between the virus replication-associated proteins Rep or RepA and host retinoblastoma-related proteins (pRBR), which control cell-cycle progression. It was determined that the substitution of two amino acids in the Maize streak virus (MSV) RepA pRBR-interaction motif (LLCNE to LLCLK) abolished detectable RepA-pRBR interaction in yeast without abolishing infectivity in maize. Although the mutant virus was infectious in maize, it induced less severe symptoms than the wild-type virus. Sequence analysis of progeny viral DNA isolated from infected maize enabled detection of a high-frequency single-nucleotide reversion of C(601)A in the 3 nt mutated sequence of the Rep gene. Although it did not restore RepA-pRBR interaction in yeast, sequence-specific PCR showed that, in five out of eight plants, the C(601)A reversion appeared by day 10 post-inoculation. In all plants, the C(601)A revertant eventually completely replaced the original mutant population, indicating a high selection pressure for the single-nucleotide reversion. Apart from potentially revealing an alternative or possibly additional function for the stretch of DNA that encodes the apparently non-essential pRBR-interaction motif of MSV Rep, the consistent emergence and eventual dominance of the C(601)A revertant population might provide a useful tool for investigating aspects of MSV biology, such as replication, mutation and evolution rates, and complex population phenomena, such as competition between quasispecies and population turnover.
    Journal of General Virology 04/2005; 86(Pt 3):803-13. DOI:10.1099/vir.0.80694-0 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    Saberi Marais · Jennifer A. Thomson · Jill M. Farrant · Sagadevan G. Mundree
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    ABSTRACT: The strategy of ‘complementation by functional sufficiency’ was used to isolate XvVHA-c′′1, a vacuolar adenosine triphosphatase (V-ATPase) proteolipid subunit c′′ homologue from Xerophyta viscosa. XvVHA-c′′1 rescued Escherichia coli srl::Tn10 mutants that were subjected to a 1.2 M sorbitol osmotic stress. Bioinformatics analyses conducted on XvVHA-c′′1 revealed all signature characteristics that are common amongst subunit c homologues, which include the four transmembrane domain motifs and a conserved glutamate residue in the fourth transmembrane domain. XvVHA-c′′1 shares 90.96% identity with the Oryza sativa (japonica) subunit c homologue and 86.67% identity with a putative vacuolar ATP synthase proteolipid subunit c′ from Arabidopsis thaliana, at the amino acid level. Southern hybridization analysis conducted on X. viscosa genomic DNA confirmed the presence of XvVHA-c′′1 in the X. viscosa genome. Northern hybridization analysis was conducted on X. viscosa tissue subjected to NaCl stress, dehydration and − 20°C shock, in response to which upregulated transcript levels of XvVHA-c′′1 were seen. XvVHA-c′′1's functional relevance was established through complementation using a Saccharomyces cerevisiae vma3 knockout.
    Physiologia Plantarum 09/2004; 122(1):54-61. DOI:10.1111/j.1399-3054.2004.00389.x · 3.26 Impact Factor
  • Thabani Dube · Igor Kovalchuk · Barbara Hohn · Jennifer A Thomson
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    ABSTRACT: In the transformation of plants by Agrobacterium tumefaciens the VirD2 protein has been shown to pilot T-DNA during its transfer to the plant cell nucleus. Other studies have shown that the MobA protein of plasmid RSF1010 is capable of mediating its transfer from Agrobacterium cells to plant cells by a similar process. We have demonstrated previously that plasmid pTF-FC2, which has some similarity to RSF1010, is also able to transfer DNA efficiently. In this study, we performed a mutational analysis of the roles played by A . tumefaciens VirD2 and pTF-FC2 MobA in DNA transfer-mediated by A. tumefaciens carrying pTF-FC2. We show that MobA+/VirD2+ and MobA+/VirD2- strains were equally proficient in their ability to transfer a pTF-FC2-derived plasmid DNA to plants and to transform them. However, the MobA-/VirD2+ strain showed a DNA transfer efficiency of 0.03% compared with that of the other two strains. This sharply contrasts with our results that VirD2 can rather efficiently cleave the oriT sequence of pFT-FC2 in vitro . We therefore conclude that MobA plays a major VirD2-independent role in plant transformation by pTF-FC2.
    Plant Molecular Biology 08/2004; 55(4):531-9. DOI:10.1007/s11103-004-1159-1 · 4.07 Impact Factor
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    AFRICAN JOURNAL OF BIOTECHNOLOGY 01/2004; 1(2). DOI:10.5897/AJB2002.000-006 · 0.57 Impact Factor