Plant Biology Highlights: Cell Articles 2019

It is the last post on plant biology highlights on CNS (Cell, Nature, Science) paper published in 2019. Plant biology stories published in Cell this year are brought into one place to this blog post. You will find the collection of Cell articles (plant biology stories) from 2018 at the end of this post. Best wishes to everyone who are reading the blog and hope for more exciting sciences in coming 2020. Happy New year! 

The Root Cap Cuticle: A Cell Wall Structure for Seedling Establishment and Lateral Root Formation

The root cap surrounding the tip of plant roots is thought to protect the delicate stem cells in the root meristem. They discovered that the first layer of root cap cells is covered by an electron-opaque cell wall modification resembling a plant cuticle. Cuticles are polyester-based protective structures considered exclusive to aerial plant organs. Mutations in cutin biosynthesis genes affect the composition and ultrastructure of this cuticular structure, confirming its cutin-like characteristics. Strikingly, targeted degradation of the root cap cuticle causes a hypersensitivity to abiotic stresses during seedling establishment. Furthermore, lateral root primordia also display a cuticle that, when defective, causes delayed outgrowth and organ deformations, suggesting that it facilitates lateral root emergence. Their results show that the previously unrecognized root cap cuticle protects the root meristem during the critical phase of seedling establishment and promotes the efficient formation of lateral roots.

A josmonate signaling network activates root stem cells and promotes regeneration

Plants are sessile and have to cope with environmentally induced damage through modification of growth and defense pathways. How tissue regeneration is triggered in such responses and whether this involves stem cell activation is an open question. The stress hormone jasmonate (JA) plays well-established roles in wounding and defense responses. JA also affects growth, which is hitherto interpreted as a trade-off between growth and defense. Here, they describe a molecular network triggered by wound-induced JA that promotes stem cell activation and regeneration. JA regulates organizer cell activity in the root stem cell niche through the RBR-SCR network and stress response protein ERF115. Moreover, JA-induced ERF109 transcription stimulates CYCD6;1 expression, functions upstream of ERF115, and promotes regeneration. Soil penetration and response to nematode herbivory induce and require this JA-mediated regeneration response. Therefore, the JA tissue damage response pathway induces stem cell activation and regeneration and activates growth after environmental stress.

A Growth-Based Framework for Leaf Shape Development and Diversity

How do genes modify cellular growth to create morphological diversity? They study this problem in two related plants with differently shaped leaves: Arabidopsis thaliana (simple leaf shape) and Cardamine hirsuta (complex shape with leaflets). They use live imaging, modeling, and genetics to deconstruct these organ-level differences into their cell-level constituents: growth amount, direction, and differentiation. They show that leaf shape depends on the interplay of two growth modes: a conserved organ-wide growth mode that reflects differentiation; and a local, directional mode that involves the patterning of growth foci along the leaf edge. Shape diversity results from the distinct effects of two homeobox genes on these growth modes: SHOOTMERISTEMLESS broadens organ-wide growth relative to edge-patterning, enabling leaflet emergence, while REDUCED COMPLEXITY inhibits growth locally around emerging leaflets, accentuating shape differences created by patterning. They demonstrate the predictivity of our findings by reconstructing key features of C. hirsuta leaf morphology in A. thaliana.

Root System Depth in Arabidopsis Is Shaped by EXOCYST70A3 via the Dynamic Modulation of Auxin Transport

Root system architecture (RSA), the distribution of roots in soil, plays a major role in plant survival. RSA is shaped by multiple developmental processes that are largely governed by the phytohormone auxin, suggesting that auxin regulates responses of roots that are important for local adaptation. However, auxin has a central role in numerous processes, and it is unclear which molecular mechanisms contribute to the variation in RSA for environmental adaptation. Using natural variation in Arabidopsis, we identify EXOCYST70A3 as a modulator of the auxin system that causes variation in RSA by acting on PIN4 protein distribution. Allelic variation and genetic perturbation of EXOCYST70A3 lead to alteration of root gravitropic responses, resulting in a different RSA depth profile and drought resistance. Overall their findings suggest that the local modulation of the pleiotropic auxin pathway can gives rise to distinct RSAs that can be adaptive in specific environments.

A Species-Wide Inventory of NLR Genes and Alleles in Arabidopsis thaliana

Infectious disease is both a major force of selection in nature and a prime cause of yield loss in agriculture. In plants, disease resistance is often conferred by nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat (NLR) proteins, intracellular immune receptors that recognize pathogen proteins and their effects on the host. Consistent with extensive balancing and positive selection, NLRs are encoded by one of the most variable gene families in plants, but the true extent of intraspecific NLR diversity has been unclear. Here, they define a nearly complete species-wide pan-NLRome in Arabidopsis thaliana based on sequence enrichment and long-read sequencing. The pan-NLRome largely saturates with approximately 40 well-chosen wild strains, with half of the pan-NLRome being present in most accessions. They chart NLR architectural diversity, identify new architectures, and quantify selective forces that act on specific NLRs and NLR domains. Our study provides a blueprint for defining pan-NLRomes.

Genomes of Subaerial Zygnematophyceae Provide Insights into Land Plant Evolution

The transition to a terrestrial environment, termed terrestrialization, is generally regarded as a pivotal event in the evolution and diversification of the land plant flora that changed the surface of our planet. Through phylogenomic studies, a group of streptophyte algae, the Zygnematophyceae, have recently been recognized as the likely sister group to land plants (embryophytes). Here, they report genome sequences and analyses of two early diverging Zygnematophyceae (Spirogloea muscicola gen. nov. and Mesotaenium endlicherianum) that share the same subaerial/terrestrial habitat with the earliest-diverging embryophytes, the bryophytes. They provide evidence that genes (i.e., GRAS and PYR/PYL/RCAR) that increase resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses in land plants, in particular desiccation, originated or expanded in the common ancestor of Zygnematophyceae and embryophytes, and were gained by horizontal gene transfer (HGT) from soil bacteria. These two Zygnematophyceae genomes represent a cornerstone for future studies to understand the underlying molecular mechanism and process of plant terrestrialization.

Conversion of Escherichia coli to Generate All Biomass Carbon from CO2

The living world is largely divided into autotrophs that convert CO2 into biomass and heterotrophs that consume organic compounds. In spite of widespread interest in renewable energy storage and more sustainable food production, the engineering of industrially relevant heterotrophic model organisms to use CO2 as their sole carbon source has so far remained an outstanding challenge. Here, we report the achievement of this transformation on laboratory timescales. They constructed and evolved Escherichia coli to produce all its biomass carbon from CO2. Reducing power and energy, but not carbon, are supplied via the one-carbon molecule formate, which can be produced electrochemically. Rubisco and phosphoribulokinase were co-expressed with formate dehydrogenase to enable CO2 fixation and reduction via the Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle. Autotrophic growth was achieved following several months of continuous laboratory evolution in a chemostat under intensifying organic carbon limitation and confirmed via isotopic labeling.

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