Umeå Plant Science Centre
Recent publications
Non-coding transcription is present in all eukaryotic genomes, but we lack fundamental knowledge about its importance for an organism's ability to develop properly. In plants, emerging evidence highlights the essential biological role of non-coding transcription in regulating coding transcription. However, the molecular insights into the regulation are largely unknown. Here, we show that a long isoform of the long non-coding RNA, SVALKA-L (SVK-L), forms a natural antisense transcript to the host gene CBF1 and negatively regulates CBF1 mRNA levels at normal temperatures in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Furthermore, we show detailed evidence for the specific mode of action for SVK-L. This pathway includes the formation of double stranded RNA that is recognized by the DICER proteins and subsequent down-regulation of CBF1 mRNA levels. Thus, the CBF1-SVK regulatory circuit is not only important for the previously known role in cold temperature acclimation but also for biomass production at normal temperatures. Our study characterizes a developmental role of SVK-L and offers mechanistic insight into how biologically important overlapping natural antisense transcripts can act on and fine-tune the steady state levels of their host gene's mRNA.
Recent developments in deep learning, coupled with an increasing number of sequenced proteins, have led to a breakthrough in life science applications, in particular in protein property prediction. There is hope that deep learning can close the gap between the number of sequenced proteins and proteins with known properties based on lab experiments. Language models from the field of natural language processing have gained popularity for protein property predictions and have led to a new computational revolution in biology, where old prediction results are being improved regularly. Such models can learn useful multipurpose representations of proteins from large open repositories of protein sequences and can be used, for instance, to predict protein properties. The field of natural language processing is growing quickly because of developments in a class of models based on a particular model—the Transformer model. We review recent developments and the use of large-scale Transformer models in applications for predicting protein characteristics and how such models can be used to predict, for example, post-translational modifications. We review shortcomings of other deep learning models and explain how the Transformer models have quickly proven to be a very promising way to unravel information hidden in the sequences of amino acids.
Proanthocyanidins (PAs) play a vital role in protecting plants from herbivores and pathogens. However, the mechanism of their action in planta has remained elusive. Recently, we have characterized a new fluorescent dye, 4-dimethylaminocinnamaldehyde (DMACA), that allows for high-resolution localization of PAs in both cell walls and inside plant cells. Using confocal microscopy and co-staining with other fluorescent dyes, we uncovered previously unseen features of wall-bound PAs. Our study revealed that the dye is not only easy to use, but also highly photostable and compatible with other fluorogenic dyes. This makes DMACA a valuable tool for understanding the biological function of PAs at a cellular level in various plant tissues, including roots.
In the present scenario, remediation of heavy metals (HMs) contaminated soil has become an important work to be done for the well-being of human and their environment. Phytoremediation can be regarded as an excellent method in environmental technologies. The present contemporary research explores the Solanum viarum Dunal function as a potential accumulator of hazardous HMs viz. lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), zinc (Zn), and their combination (CHM). On toxic concentrations of Pb, Cd, Zn, and their synergistic exposure, seeds had better germination percentage and their 90d old aerial tissues accumulated Pb, Cd, and Zn concentrations ranging from 44.53, 84.06, and 147.29 mg kg−1 DW, respectively. Pattern of accumulation in roots was as Zn 70.08 > Pb 48.55 > Cd 42.21 mg kg−1DW. Under HMs treatment, positive modulation in physiological performances, antioxidant activities suggested an enhanced tolerance along with higher membrane stability due to increased levels of lignin, proline, and sugar. Phenotypic variations were recorded in prickles and roots of 120 d old HM stressed plants, which are directly correlated with better acclimation. Interestingly, trichomes of the plant also showed HM accumulation. Later, SEM–EDX microanalysis suggested involvement of S. viarum capitate glandular trichomes as excretory organs for Cd and Zn. Thus, the present study provides an understanding of the mechanism that makes S. viarum to function as potent accumulator and provides information to generate plants to be used for phytoremediation.
Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of a given genotype to produce multiple phenotypes in response to changing environmental conditions. Understanding the genetic basis of phenotypic plasticity and establishing a predictive model is highly relevant to future agriculture under a changing climate. Here we report findings on the genetic basis of phenotypic plasticity for 23 complex traits using a diverse maize population planted at five sites with distinct environmental conditions. We found that latitude-related environmental factors were the main drivers of across-site variation in flowering time traits but not in plant architecture or yield traits. For the 23 traits, we detected 109 quantitative trait loci (QTLs), 29 for mean values, 66 for plasticity, and 14 for both parameters, and 80% of the QTLs interacted with latitude. The effects of several QTLs changed in magnitude or sign, driving variation in phenotypic plasticity. We experimentally validated one plastic gene, ZmTPS14.1, whose effect was likely mediated by the compensation effect of ZmSPL6 from a downstream pathway. By integrating genetic diversity, environmental variation, and their interaction into a joint model, we could provide site-specific predictions with increased accuracy by as much as 9.9%, 2.2%, and 2.6% for days to tassel, plant height, and ear weight, respectively. This study revealed a complex genetic architecture involving multiple alleles, pleiotropy, and genotype-by-environment interaction that underlies variation in the mean and plasticity of maize complex traits. It provides novel insights into the dynamic genetic architecture of agronomic traits in response to changing environments, paving a practical way toward precision agriculture.
TBR1 is a neuron-specific transcription factor involved in brain development and implicated in a neurodevelopmental disorder (NDD) combining features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disability (ID) and speech delay. TBR1 has been previously shown to interact with a small number of transcription factors and co-factors also involved in NDDs (including CASK, FOXP1/2/4 and BCL11A), suggesting that the wider TBR1 interactome may have a significant bearing on normal and abnormal brain development. Here we have identified approximately 250 putative TBR1-interaction partners by affinity purification coupled to mass spectrometry. As well as known TBR1-interactors such as CASK, the identified partners include transcription factors and chromatin modifiers, along with ASD- and ID-related proteins. Five interaction candidates were independently validated using bioluminescence resonance energy transfer assays. We went on to test the interaction of these candidates with TBR1 protein variants implicated in cases of NDD. The assays uncovered disturbed interactions for NDD-associated variants and identified two distinct protein-binding domains of TBR1 that have essential roles in protein–protein interaction.
The current distribution and population structure of many species were, to a large extent, shaped by cycles of isolation in glacial refugia and subsequent population expansions. Isolation in and postglacial expansion through heterogeneous environments led to either neutral or adaptive divergence. Norway spruce is no exception, and its current distribution is the consequence of a constant interplay between evolutionary and demographic processes. We investigated population differentiation and adaptation of Norway spruce for juvenile growth, diameter of the stem, wood density, and tracheid traits at breast height. Data from 4461 phenotyped and genotyped Norway spruce from 396 half‐sib families in two progeny tests were used to test for divergent selection in the framework of QST vs. FST. We show that the macroscopic resultant trait (stem diameter), unlike its microscopic components (tracheid dimensions) and juvenile growth, was under divergent selection that predated the Last Glacial Maximum. Altogether, the current variation in these phenotypic traits in Norway spruce is better explained by local adaptation to ancestral environments than to current ones, where populations were partly preadapted, mainly through growth‐related traits.
Endoreplication is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism for increasing nuclear DNA content (ploidy). Ploidy frequently scales with final cell and organ size, suggesting a key role for endoreplication in these processes. However, exceptions exist, and, consequently, the endoreplication-size nexus remains enigmatic. Here, we show that prolonged tissue folding at the apical hook in Arabidopsis requires endoreplication asymmetry under the control of an auxin gradient. We identify a molecular pathway linking endoreplication levels to cell size through cell wall remodeling and stiffness modulation. We find that endoreplication is not only permissive for growth: Endoreplication reduction enhances wall stiffening, actively reducing cell size. The cell wall integrity kinase THESEUS plays a key role in this feedback loop. Our data thus explain the nonlinearity between ploidy levels and size while also providing a molecular mechanism linking mechanochemical signaling with endoreplication-mediated dynamic control of cell growth.
Natural antisense long noncoding RNAs (lncNATs) are involved in the regulation of gene expression in plants, modulating different relevant developmental processes and responses to various stimuli. We have identified and characterized two lncNATs (NAT1UGT73C6 and NAT2UGT73C6, collectively NATsUGT73C6) from Arabidopsis thaliana that are transcribed from a gene fully overlapping UGT73C6, a member of the UGT73C subfamily of genes encoding UDP‐glycosyltransferases (UGTs). Expression of both NATsUGT73C6 is developmentally controlled and occurs independently of the transcription of UGT73C6 in cis. Downregulation of NATsUGT73C6 levels through artificial microRNAs results in a reduction of the rosette area, while constitutive overexpression of NAT1UGT73C6 or NAT2UGT73C6 leads to the opposite phenotype, an increase in rosette size. This activity of NATsUGT73C6 relies on its RNA sequence, and, although modulation of UGT73C6 in cis cannot be excluded, the observed phenotypes are not a consequence of the regulation of UGT73C6 in trans. The NATsUGT73C6 levels were shown to affect cell proliferation and thus individual leaf size. Consistent with this concept, our data suggest that the NATsUGT73C6 influence the expression levels of key transcription factors involved in regulating leaf growth by modulating cell proliferation. These findings thus reveal an additional regulatory layer on the process of leaf growth.
The distribution of prokaryotic metabolism between maintenance and growth activities has a profound impact on the transformation of carbon substrates to either biomass or CO2. Knowledge of key factors influencing prokaryotic maintenance respiration is, however, highly limited. This mesocosm study validated the significance of prokaryotic maintenance respiration by mimicking temperature and nutrients within levels representative of winter and summer conditions. A global range of growth efficiencies (0.05‐0.57) and specific growth rates (0.06‐2.7 d‐1) were obtained. The field pattern of cell‐specific respiration versus specific growth rate and the global relationship between growth efficiency and growth rate were reproduced. Maintenance respiration accounted for 75% and 15% of prokaryotic respiration corresponding to winter and summer conditions, respectively. Temperature and nutrients showed independent positive effects for all prokaryotic variables except abundance and cell‐specific respiration. All treatments resulted in different taxonomic diversity, with specific populations of amplicon sequence variants associated with either maintenance or growth conditions. These results validate a significant relationship between specific growth and respiration rate under productive conditions and show that elevated prokaryotic maintenance respiration can occur under cold and oligotrophic conditions. The experimental design provides a tool for further study of prokaryotic energy metabolism under realistic conditions at the mesocosm scale. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
To survive, plants constantly adapt their body shape to their environment. This often involves remarkably rapid bending of their organs such as stems, leaves and roots. Since plant cells are enclosed by stiff cell walls, they use various strategies for bending their organs, which differ from bending mechanisms of soft animal tissues and involve larger physical forces. Here we attempt to summarize and link different viewpoints on bending mechanisms: genes and signalling, mathematical modelling and biomechanics. We argue that quantifying cell growth and physical forces could open a new level in our understanding of bending and resolve some of its paradoxes. Plants often need to bend their organs during their growth and development. It is a complex process, and the different mechanisms involved are discussed in the light of recent findings about genes, signalling, modelling and biomechanics.
Plant roots exhibit plasticity in their branching patterns to forage efficiently for heterogeneously distributed resources, such as soil water. The xerobranching response represses lateral root formation when roots lose contact with water. Here, we show that xerobranching is regulated by radial movement of the phloem-derived hormone abscisic acid, which disrupts intercellular communication between inner and outer cell layers through plasmodesmata. Closure of these intercellular pores disrupts the inward movement of the hormone signal auxin, blocking lateral root branching. Once root tips regain contact with moisture, the abscisic acid response rapidly attenuates. Our study reveals how roots adapt their branching pattern to heterogeneous soil water conditions by linking changes in hydraulic flux with dynamic hormone redistribution.
Integuments form important protective cell layers surrounding the developing ovules in gymno- and angiosperms. Although several genes have been shown to influence the development of integuments, the transcriptional regulatory mechanism is still poorly understood. In this work, we report that the Class II KNOTTED1-LIKE HOMEOBOX (KNOX II) transcription factors KNOTTED1-LIKE HOMEBOX GENE 3 (KNAT3) and KNAT4 regulate integument development in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). KNAT3 and KNAT4 were co-expressed in inflorescences and especially in young developing ovules. The loss-of-function double mutant knat3 knat4 showed an infertility phenotype, in which both inner and outer integuments of the ovule are arrested at an early stage and form an amorphous structure as in the bell1 (bel1) mutant. The expression of chimeric KNAT3- and KNAT4-EAR motif repression domain (SRDX repressors) resulted in severe seed abortion. Protein-protein interaction assays demonstrated that KNAT3 and KNAT4 interact with each other and also with INNER NO OUTER (INO), a key transcription factor required for outer integument formation. Transcriptome analysis showed that expression of genes related with integument development is influenced in the knat3 knat4 mutant. The knat3 knat4 mutant also had a lower IAA content, and some auxin signalling pathway genes were down-regulated. Moreover, transactivation analysis indicated that KNAT3/4 and INO activate the auxin signaling gene INDOLE-3-ACETIC ACID INDUCIBLE 14 (IAA14). Taken together, our study identified KNAT3 and KNAT4 as key factors in integument development in Arabidopsis.
In 2011, Sweden introduced tuition fees for students from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland when they enrolled at higher education institutions (HEIs). As a direct consequence, the number of students in Sweden from those countries decreased by 80% that year. Since then, the number of students has increased again and, before COVID-19, was on its way to reaching the same level as before 2011. Nevertheless, the number of tuition fee-paying students only dropped by 3% for the academic year 2020/21, after nine consecutive years of growth. In this article we are assessing changes in inbound student flows and compare the outcome with the ambitions expressed by the Swedish government when the fees were introduced. The introduction of tuition fees in Sweden and the experiences from this offer quite unique possibilities to learn how students, HEIs, other actors, and societies react and adapt. By use of previous studies and new empirics we analyse and reflect on the outcome given the motives behind the reform, especially with regard to the ambition to continue internationalising post-secondary education and, furthermore, on the reform’s possible benefits and costs for post-secondary education in Sweden.
Open top chambers (OTCs) were adopted as the recommended warming mechanism by the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) network in the early 1990’s. Since then, OTCs have been deployed across the globe. Hundreds of papers have reported the impacts of OTCs on the abiotic environment and the biota. Here we review the impacts of the OTC on the physical environment, with comments on the appropriateness of using OTCs to characterize the response of biota to warming. The purpose of this review is to guide readers to previously published work and to provide recommendations for continued use of OTCs to understand the implications of warming on low stature ecosystems. In short, the OTC is a useful tool to experimentally manipulate temperature, however the characteristics and magnitude of warming varies greatly in different environments, therefore it is important to document chamber performance to maximize the interpretation of biotic response. When coupled with long-term monitoring, warming experiments are a valuable means to understand the impacts of climate change on natural ecosystems.
Prosopis chilensis and Prosopis tamarugo, two woody legumes adapted to the arid regions of Chile, have a declining distribution due to the lack of new seedling establishment. This study investigated the potential of both species to establish in soil collected from four locations in Chile, within and outside the species distribution, and to assess the role of the root-colonizing microbiome in seedling establishment and growth. Seedling survival, height, and water potential were measured to assess establishment success and growth. 16S and ITS2 amplicon sequencing was used to characterize the composition of microbial communities from the different soils and to assess the ability of both Prosopis species to recruit bacteria and fungi from the different soils. Both species were established on three of the four soils. P. tamarugo seedlings showed significantly higher survival in foreign soils and maintained significantly higher water potential in Mediterranean soils. Amplicon sequencing showed that the four soils harbored distinct microbial communities. Root-associated microbial composition indicated that P. chilensis preferentially recruited mycorrhizal fungal partners while P. tamarugo recruited abundant bacteria with known salt-protective functions. Our results suggest that a combination of edaphic properties and microbial soil legacy are potential factors mediating the Prosopis establishment success in different soils.
ATP-Binding Cassette E (ABCE) proteins dissociate cytoplasmic ribosomes after translation terminates, and contribute to ribosome recycling, thus linking translation termination to initiation. This function has been demonstrated to be essential in animals, fungi, and archaea, but remains unexplored in plants. In most species, ABCE is encoded by a single-copy gene; by contrast, Arabidopsis thaliana has two ABCE paralogs, of which ABCE2 seems to conserve the ancestral function. We isolated apiculata7-1 ( api7-1 ), the first viable, hypomorphic allele of ABCE2 , which has a pleiotropic morphological phenotype reminiscent of mutations affecting ribosome biogenesis factors and ribosomal proteins. We also studied api7-2 , a null, recessive lethal allele of ABCE2 . Co-immunoprecipitation experiments showed that ABCE2 physically interacts with components of the translation machinery. An RNA-seq study of the api7-1 mutant showed increased responses to iron and sulfur starvation. We also found increased transcript levels of genes related to auxin signaling and metabolism. Our results support for the first time a conserved role for ABCE proteins in translation in plants, as previously shown for the animal, fungal, and archaeal lineages. In Arabidopsis, the ABCE2 protein seems important for general growth and vascular development, likely due to an indirect effect through auxin metabolism.
RADICAL-INDUCED CELL DEATH1 (RCD1) is an Arabidopsis thaliana nuclear protein that is disrupted during oxidative stress. RCD1 is considered an important integrative node in development and stress responses, and the rcd1 plants have several phenotypes and altered resistance to a variety of abiotic and biotic stresses. One of the phenotypes of rcd1 is resistance to the herbicide paraquat, but the mechanisms behind it are unknown. Paraquat causes a rapid burst of reactive oxygen species (ROS) initially in the chloroplast. We performed multi-platform metabolomic analyses in wild type Col-0 and paraquat resistant rcd1 plants to identify pathways conveying resistance and the function of RCD1 in this respect. Wild type and rcd1 plants were clearly distinguished by their abundance of antioxidants and specialized metabolites and their responses to paraquat. The lack of response in rcd1 suggested constitutively active defense against ROS via elevated flavonoid, glutathione, β-carotene, and tocopherol levels, whereas its ascorbic acid levels were compromised under non-stressed control conditions when compared to Col-0. We propose that RCD1 acts as a hub that maintains basal antioxidant system, and its inactivation induces defense responses by enhancing the biosynthesis and redox cycling of low molecular weight antioxidants and specialized metabolites with profound antioxidant activities alleviating oxidative stress.
Cytokinin and auxin are plant hormones that coordinate many aspects of plant development. Their interactions in plant underground growth are well established, occurring at the levels of metabolism, signaling, and transport. Unlike many plant hormone classes, cytokinins are represented by more than one active molecule. Multiple mutant lines, blocking specific parts of cytokinin biosynthetic pathways, have enabled research in plants with deficiencies in specific cytokinin-types. While most of these mutants have confirmed the impeding effect of cytokinin on root growth, the ipt29 double mutant instead surprisingly exhibits reduced primary root length compared to the wild type. This mutant is impaired in cis -zeatin ( c Z) production, a cytokinin-type that had been considered inactive in the past. Here we have further investigated the intriguing ipt29 root phenotype, opposite to known cytokinin functions, and the (bio)activity of c Z. Our data suggest that despite the ipt29 short-root phenotype, c Z application has a negative impact on primary root growth and can activate a cytokinin response in the stele. Grafting experiments revealed that the root phenotype of ipt29 depends mainly on local signaling which does not relate directly to cytokinin levels. Notably, ipt29 displayed increased auxin levels in the root tissue. Moreover, analyses of the differential contributions of ipt2 and ipt9 to the ipt29 short-root phenotype demonstrated that, despite its deficiency on c Z levels, ipt2 does not show any root phenotype or auxin homeostasis variation, while ipt9 mutants were indistinguishable from ipt29 . We conclude that IPT9 functions may go beyond c Z biosynthesis, directly or indirectly, implicating effects on auxin homeostasis and therefore influencing plant growth.
Seed maturation is the developmental process that prepares the embryo for the desiccated waiting period before germination. It is associated with a series of physiological changes leading to the establishment of seed dormancy, seed longevity and desiccation tolerance. We studied translational changes during seed maturation and observed a gradual reduction in global translation during seed maturation. Transcriptome and translatome profiling revealed specific reduction in the translation of thousands of genes. By including previously published data on germination and seedling establishment, a regulatory network based on polysome occupancy data was constructed: SeedTransNet. Network analysis predicted translational regulatory pathways involving hundreds of genes with distinct functions. The network identified specific transcript sequence features suggesting separate translational regulatory circuits. The network revealed several seed maturation associated genes as central nodes, and this was confirmed by specific seed phenotypes of the respective mutants. One of the regulators identified, an AWPM19 family protein, PM19-Like1 (PM19L1), was shown to regulate seed dormancy and longevity. This putative RNA binding protein (RBP) also affects the translational regulation of its target mRNA, as identified by SeedTransNet. Our data show the usefulness of SeedTransNet in identifying regulatory pathways during seed phase transitions.
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76 members
Jasim Basheer
  • Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
Urs Fischer
  • Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, SLU
Judith Lundberg-Felten
  • Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Peter Kindgren
  • Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
Barbara Terebieniec
  • Institutionen för fysiologisk botanik
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Umeå, Sweden