Felix Ott

Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

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Publications (15)183.89 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The appropriate timing of flowering is crucial for plant reproductive success. It is therefore not surprising that intricate genetic networks have evolved to perceive and integrate both endogenous and environmental signals, such as carbohydrate and hormonal status, photoperiod and temperature. In contrast to our detailed understanding of the vernalization pathway, little is known about how flowering time is controlled in response to changes in the ambient growth temperature. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the MADS-box transcription factor genes FLOWERING LOCUS M (FLM) and SHORT VEGETATIVE PHASE (SVP) have key roles in this process. FLM is subject to temperature-dependent alternative splicing. Here we report that the two main FLM protein splice variants, FLM-β and FLM-δ, compete for interaction with the floral repressor SVP. The SVP-FLM-β complex is predominately formed at low temperatures and prevents precocious flowering. By contrast, the competing SVP-FLM-δ complex is impaired in DNA binding and acts as a dominant-negative activator of flowering at higher temperatures. Our results show a new mechanism that controls the timing of the floral transition in response to changes in ambient temperature. A better understanding of how temperature controls the molecular mechanisms of flowering will be important to cope with current changes in global climate.
    Nature 09/2013; · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Plant organ development and polarity establishment is mediated by the action of several transcription factors. Among these, the KANADI (KAN) subclade of the GARP protein family plays important roles in polarity-associated processes during embryo, shoot and root patterning. In this study, we have identified a set of potential direct target genes of KAN1 through a combination of chromatin immunoprecipitation/DNA sequencing (ChIP-Seq) and genome-wide transcriptional profiling using tiling arrays. Target genes are over-represented for genes involved in the regulation of organ development as well as in the response to auxin. KAN1 affects directly the expression of several genes previously shown to be important in the establishment of polarity during lateral organ and vascular tissue development. We also show that KAN1 controls through its target genes auxin effects on organ development at different levels: transport and its regulation, and signaling. In addition, KAN1 regulates genes involved in the response to abscisic acid, jasmonic acid, brassinosteroids, ethylene, cytokinins and gibberellins. The role of KAN1 in organ polarity is antagonized by HD-ZIPIII transcription factors, including REVOLUTA (REV). A comparison of their target genes reveals that the REV/KAN1 module acts in organ patterning through opposite regulation of shared targets. Evidence of mutual repression between closely related family members is also shown.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(10):e77341. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are processed from primary transcripts that contain partially self-complementary foldbacks. As in animals, the core microprocessor in plants is a Dicer protein, DICER-LIKE1 (DCL1). Processing accuracy and strand selection is greatly enhanced through the RNA binding protein HYPONASTIC LEAVES 1 (HYL1) and the zinc finger protein SERRATE (SE). We have combined a luciferase-based genetic screen with whole-genome sequencing for rapid identification of new regulators of miRNA biogenesis and action. Among the first six mutants analyzed were three alleles of C-TERMINAL DOMAIN PHOSPHATASE-LIKE 1 (CPL1)/FIERY2 (FRY2). In the miRNA processing complex, SE functions as a scaffold to mediate CPL1 interaction with HYL1, which needs to be dephosphorylated for optimal activity. In the absence of CPL1, HYL1 dephosphorylation and hence accurate processing and strand selection from miRNA duplexes are compromised. Our findings thus define a new regulatory step in plant miRNA biogenesis.
    Cell 11/2012; 151(4):859-70. · 31.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The transition from vegetative to reproductive development is one of the most important phase changes in the plant life cycle. This step is controlled by various environmental signals that are integrated at the molecular level by so-called floral integrators. One such floral integrator in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) is the MADS domain transcription factor SUPPRESSOR OF OVEREXPRESSION OF CONSTANS1 (SOC1). Despite extensive genetic studies, little is known about the transcriptional control of SOC1, and we are just starting to explore the network of genes under the direct control of SOC1 transcription factor complexes. Here, we show that several MADS domain proteins, including SOC1 heterodimers, are able to bind SOC1 regulatory sequences. Genome-wide target gene analysis by ChIP-seq confirmed the binding of SOC1 to its own locus and shows that it also binds to a plethora of flowering-time regulatory and floral homeotic genes. In turn, the encoded floral homeotic MADS domain proteins appear to bind SOC1 regulatory sequences. Subsequent in planta analyses revealed SOC1 repression by several floral homeotic MADS domain proteins, and we show that, mechanistically, this depends on the presence of the SOC1 protein. Together, our data show that SOC1 constitutes a major hub in the regulatory networks underlying floral timing and flower development and that these networks are composed of many positive and negative autoregulatory and feedback loops. The latter seems to be crucial for the generation of a robust flower-inducing signal, followed shortly after by repression of the SOC1 floral integrator.
    Plant physiology 07/2012; 160(1):433-49. · 6.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Unlike the situation in animals, the final morphology of the plant body is highly modulated by the environment. During Arabidopsis development, intrinsic factors provide the framework for basic patterning processes. CLASS III HOMEODOMAIN LEUCINE ZIPPER (HD-ZIPIII) transcription factors are involved in embryo, shoot and root patterning. During vegetative growth HD-ZIPIII proteins control several polarity set-up processes such as in leaves and the vascular system. We have identified several direct target genes of the HD-ZIPIII transcription factor REVOLUTA (REV) using a chromatin immunoprecipitation/DNA sequencing (ChIP-Seq) approach. This analysis revealed that REV acts upstream of auxin biosynthesis and affects directly the expression of several class II HD-ZIP transcription factors that have been shown to act in the shade-avoidance response pathway. We show that, as well as involvement in basic patterning, HD-ZIPIII transcription factors have a critical role in the control of the elongation growth that is induced when plants experience shade. Leaf polarity is established by the opposed actions of HD-ZIPIII and KANADI transcription factors. Finally, our study reveals that the module that consists of HD-ZIPIII/KANADI transcription factors controls shade growth antagonistically and that this antagonism is manifested in the opposed regulation of shared target genes.
    The Plant Journal 05/2012; 72(1):31-42. · 6.58 Impact Factor
  • Plant J. 01/2012; (accepted May 8, 2012).
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    ABSTRACT: Like protein-coding genes, loci that produce microRNAs (miRNAs) are generally considered to be under purifying selection, consistent with miRNA polymorphisms being able to cause disease. Nevertheless, it has been hypothesized that variation in miRNA genes may contribute to phenotypic diversity. Here we demonstrate that a naturally occurring polymorphism in the MIR164A gene affects leaf shape and shoot architecture in Arabidopsis thaliana, with the effects being modified by additional loci in the genome. A single base pair substitution in the miRNA complementary sequence alters the predicted stability of the miRNA:miRNA(∗) duplex. It thereby greatly reduces miRNA accumulation, probably because it interferes with precursor processing. We demonstrate that this is not a rare exception and that natural strains of Arabidopsis thaliana harbor dozens of similar polymorphisms that affect processing of a wide range of miRNA precursors. Our results suggest that natural variation in miRNA biogenesis resulting from cis mutations is a common contributor to phenotypic variation in plants.
    Current biology: CB 12/2011; 22(2):166-70. · 10.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The plant Arabidopsis thaliana occurs naturally in many different habitats throughout Eurasia. As a foundation for identifying genetic variation contributing to adaptation to diverse environments, a 1001 Genomes Project to sequence geographically diverse A. thaliana strains has been initiated. Here we present the first phase of this project, based on population-scale sequencing of 80 strains drawn from eight regions throughout the species' native range. We describe the majority of common small-scale polymorphisms as well as many larger insertions and deletions in the A. thaliana pan-genome, their effects on gene function, and the patterns of local and global linkage among these variants. The action of processes other than spontaneous mutation is identified by comparing the spectrum of mutations that have accumulated since A. thaliana diverged from its closest relative 10 million years ago with the spectrum observed in the laboratory. Recent species-wide selective sweeps are rare, and potentially deleterious mutations are more common in marginal populations.
    Nature Genetics 08/2011; 43(10):956-63. · 35.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present whole-genome assemblies of four divergent Arabidopsis thaliana strains that complement the 125-Mb reference genome sequence released a decade ago. Using a newly developed reference-guided approach, we assembled large contigs from 9 to 42 Gb of Illumina short-read data from the Landsberg erecta (Ler-1), C24, Bur-0, and Kro-0 strains, which have been sequenced as part of the 1,001 Genomes Project for this species. Using alignments against the reference sequence, we first reduced the complexity of the de novo assembly and later integrated reads without similarity to the reference sequence. As an example, half of the noncentromeric C24 genome was covered by scaffolds that are longer than 260 kb, with a maximum of 2.2 Mb. Moreover, over 96% of the reference genome was covered by the reference-guided assembly, compared with only 87% with a complete de novo assembly. Comparisons with 2 Mb of dideoxy sequence reveal that the per-base error rate of the reference-guided assemblies was below 1 in 10,000. Our assemblies provide a detailed, genomewide picture of large-scale differences between A. thaliana individuals, most of which are difficult to access with alignment-consensus methods only. We demonstrate their practical relevance in studying the expression differences of polymorphic genes and show how the analysis of sRNA sequencing data can lead to erroneous conclusions if aligned against the reference genome alone. Genome assemblies, raw reads, and further information are accessible through http://1001genomes.org/projects/assemblies.html.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2011; 108(25):10249-54. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Despite great advances in sequencing technologies, generating functional information for nonmodel organisms remains a challenge. One solution lies in an improved ability to predict genetic circuits based on primary DNA sequence in combination with detailed knowledge of regulatory proteins that have been characterized in model species. Here, we focus on the LEAFY (LFY) transcription factor, a conserved master regulator of floral development. Starting with biochemical and structural information, we built a biophysical model describing LFY DNA binding specificity in vitro that accurately predicts in vivo LFY binding sites in the Arabidopsis thaliana genome. Applying the model to other plant species, we could follow the evolution of the regulatory relationship between LFY and the AGAMOUS (AG) subfamily of MADS box genes and show that this link predates the divergence between monocots and eudicots. Remarkably, our model succeeds in detecting the connection between LFY and AG homologs despite extensive variation in binding sites. This demonstrates that the cis-element fluidity recently observed in animals also exists in plants, but the challenges it poses can be overcome with predictions grounded in a biophysical model. Therefore, our work opens new avenues to deduce the structure of regulatory networks from mere inspection of genomic sequences.
    The Plant Cell 04/2011; 23(4):1293-306. · 9.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Transposable elements (TEs) are often the primary determinant of genome size differences among eukaryotes. In plants, the proliferation of TEs is countered through epigenetic silencing mechanisms that prevent mobility. Recent studies using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana have revealed that methylated TE insertions are often associated with reduced expression of nearby genes, and these insertions may be subject to purifying selection due to this effect. Less is known about the genome-wide patterns of epigenetic silencing of TEs in other plant species. Here, we compare the 24-nt siRNA complement from A. thaliana and a closely related congener with a two- to threefold higher TE copy number, Arabidopsis lyrata. We show that TEs--particularly siRNA-targeted TEs--are associated with reduced gene expression within both species and also with gene expression differences between orthologs. In addition, A. lyrata TEs are targeted by a lower fraction of uniquely matching siRNAs, which are associated with more effective silencing of TE expression. Our results suggest that the efficacy of RNA-directed DNA methylation silencing is lower in A. lyrata, a finding that may shed light on the causes of differential TE proliferation among species.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2011; 108(6):2322-7. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In plants, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) can trigger a silencing signal that may spread within a tissue to adjacent cells or even systemically to other organs. Movement of the signal is initially limited to a few cells, but in some cases the signal can be amplified and travel over larger distances. How far silencing initiated by other classes of plant small RNAs (sRNAs) than siRNAs can extend has been less clear. Using a system based on the silencing of the CH42 gene, we have tracked the mobility of silencing signals initiated in phloem companion cells by artificial microRNAs (miRNA) and trans-acting siRNA (tasiRNA) that have the same primary sequence. In this system, both the ta-siRNA and the miRNA act at a distance. Non-autonomous effects of the miRNA can be triggered by several different miRNA precursors deployed as backbones. While the tasiRNA also acts non-autonomously, it has a much greater range than the miRNA or hairpin-derived siRNAs directed against CH42, indicating that biogenesis can determine the non-autonomous effects of sRNAs. In agreement with this hypothesis, the silencing signals initiated by different sRNAs differ in their genetic requirements.
    Nucleic Acids Research 12/2010; 39(7):2880-9. · 8.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Arabidopsis thaliana transcription factor APETALA2 (AP2) has numerous functions, including roles in seed development, stem cell maintenance, and specification of floral organ identity. To understand the relationship between these different roles, we mapped direct targets of AP2 on a genome-wide scale in two tissue types. We find that AP2 binds to thousands of loci in the developing flower, many of which exhibit AP2-dependent transcription. Opposing, logical effects are evident in AP2 binding to two microRNA genes that influence AP2 expression, with AP2 positively regulating miR156 and negatively regulating miR172, forming a complex direct feedback loop, which also included all but one of the AP2-like miR172 target clade members. We compare the genome-wide direct target repertoire of AP2 with that of SCHLAFMUTZE, a closely related transcription factor that also represses the transition to flowering. We detect clear similarities and important differences in the direct target repertoires that are also tissue specific. Finally, using an inducible expression system, we demonstrate that AP2 has dual molecular roles. It functions as both a transcriptional activator and repressor, directly inducing the expression of the floral repressor AGAMOUS-LIKE15 and directly repressing the transcription of floral activators like SUPPRESSOR OF OVEREXPRESSION OF CONSTANS1.
    The Plant Cell 07/2010; 22(7):2156-70. · 9.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The new research field of metagenomics is providing exciting insights into various, previously unclassified ecological systems. Next-generation sequencing technologies are producing a rapid increase of environmental data in public databases. There is great need for specialized software solutions and statistical methods for dealing with complex metagenome data sets. To facilitate the development and improvement of metagenomic tools and the planning of metagenomic projects, we introduce a sequencing simulator called MetaSim. Our software can be used to generate collections of synthetic reads that reflect the diverse taxonomical composition of typical metagenome data sets. Based on a database of given genomes, the program allows the user to design a metagenome by specifying the number of genomes present at different levels of the NCBI taxonomy, and then to collect reads from the metagenome using a simulation of a number of different sequencing technologies. A population sampler optionally produces evolved sequences based on source genomes and a given evolutionary tree. MetaSim allows the user to simulate individual read datasets that can be used as standardized test scenarios for planning sequencing projects or for benchmarking metagenomic software.
    PLoS ONE 02/2008; 3(10):e3373. · 3.53 Impact Factor