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Peroxisomes are small and single membrane-delimited organelles that execute numerous metabolic reactions and have pivotal roles in plant growth and development. In recent years, forward and reverse genetic studies along with biochemical and cell biological analyses in Arabidopsis have enabled researchers to identify many peroxisome proteins and elucidate their functions. This review focuses on the advances in our understanding of peroxisome biogenesis and metabolism, and further explores the contribution of large-scale analysis, such as in sillco predictions and proteomics, in augmenting our knowledge of peroxisome function In Arabidopsis.
Plant cells have evolved a complex circuitry to regulate cell division. In many aspects, the plant cell cycle follows a basic strategy similar to other eukaryotes. However, several key issues are unique to plant cells. In this chapter, both the conserved and unique cellular and molecular properties of the plant cell cycle are reviewed. In addition to division of individual cells, the specific characteristic of plant organogenesis and development make that cell proliferation control is of primary importance during development. Therefore, special attention should be given to consider plant cell division control in a developmental context. Proper organogenesis depends on the formation of different cell types. In plants, many of the processes leading to cell differentiation rely on the occurrence of a different cycle, termed the endoreplication cycle, whereby cells undergo repeated full genome duplication events in the absence of mitosis and increase their ploidy. Recent findings are focusing on the relevance of changes in chromatin organization for a correct cell cycle progression and, conversely, in the relevance of a correct functioning of chromatin remodelling complexes to prevent alterations in both the cell cycle and the endocycle.
During embryogenesis a single cell gives rise to a functional multicellular organism. In higher plants, as in many other multicellular systems, essential architectural features, such as body axes and major tissue layers are established early in embryogenesis and serve as a positional framework for subsequent pattern elaboration. In Arabidopsis, the apicalbasal axis and the radial pattern of tissues wrapped around it are already recognizable in young embryos of only about a hundred cells in size. This early axial pattern seems to provide a coordinate system for the embryonic initiation of shoot and root. Findings from genetic studies in Arabidopsis are revealing molecular mechanisms underlying the initial establishment of the axial core pattern and its subsequent elaboration into functional shoots and roots. The genetic programs operating in the early embryo organize functional cell patterns rapidly and reproducibly from minimal cell numbers. Understanding their molecular details could therefore greatly expand our ability to generate plant body patterns de novo, with important implications for plant breeding and biotechnology.
Chemical genomics (i.e. genomics scale chemical genetics) approaches capitalize on the ability of low molecular mass molecules to modify biological processes. Such molecules are used to modify the activity of a protein or a pathway in a manner that it is tunable and reversible. Bioactive chemicals resulting from forward or reverse chemical screens can be useful in understanding and dissecting complex biological processes due to the essentially limitless variation in structure and activities inherent in chemical space. A major advantage of this approach as a powerful addition to conventional plant genetics is the fact that chemical genomics can address loss-of-function lethality and redundancy. Furthermore, the ability of chemicals to be added at will and to act quickly can permit the study of processes that are highly dynamic such as endomembrane trafficking. An important aspect of utilizing small molecules effectively is to characterize bioactive chemicals in detail including an understanding of structure-activity relationships and the identification of active and inactive analogs. Bioactive chemicals can be useful as reagents to probe biological pathways directly. However, the identification of cognate targets and their pathways is also informative and can be achieved by screens for genetic resistance or hypersensitivity in Arabidopsis thaliana or other organisms from which the results can be translated to plants. In addition, there are approaches utilizing “tagged” chemical libraries that possess reactive moieties permitting the immobilization of active compounds. This opens the possibility for biochemical purification of putative cognate targets. We will review approaches to screen for bioactive chemicals that affect biological processes in Arabidopsis and provide several examples of the power and challenges inherent in this new approach in plant biology.
Trehalose is an alpha, alpha-1, 1-linked glucose disaccharide. In plants, trehalose is synthesized in two steps. Firstly, trehalose-6-phosphate synthase (TPS) converts UDP-glucose and glucose-6-phosphate to trehalose-6-phosphate (T6P); secondly, T6P-phosphatase (TPP) converts T6P into trehalose and Pi. Trehalose is further cleaved into glucose by trehalase. In extracts of most plants, including Arabidopsis, levels of both trehalose and T6P are low, nearing detection limits, and this has delayed research into their function. Trehalose is transported widely in plants, but transport of T6P is not thought to occur except possibly at the subcellular level. Feeding trehalose to Arabidopsis seedlings alters carbon allocation with massive starch accumulation in cotyledons and leaves and absence of starch and growth in shoot and root apices.
The Arabidopsis genome has experienced extensive radiation of genes likely encoding enzymes of T6P metabolism: 4 and 10 genes are found with homology to TPS and TPP respectively and 7 genes are found with homology to both TPS and TPP. Complementation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants has shown that AtTPS1, AtTPPA and AtTPPB are functional enzymes. In contrast just a single gene encoding a protein with trehalase activity has been found. Whilst most TPS proteins appear cytosolic, strikingly, some TPPs appear targeted to chloroplasts; trehalase on the other hand is extracellular. Transporters of trehalose and T6P have yet to be described. Arabidopsis tps1 mutants are embryo lethal and results suggest that T6P is essential for several other steps in development including root growth and floral transition. Accordingly, altering T6P content has a profound effect on plant habitus and impacts metabolite profiles, sugar utilization and photosynthesis. These large effects have hindered dissection of cause and effect. In contrast, plants with large alterations in sucrose-6-phosphate concentrations are indistinguishable from wild type, suggesting very different functions for these compounds. Recently, T6P at low micromolar concentrations has been shown in vitro and in vivo to inhibit SnRK1 of the SNF1/AMPK group of protein kinases. This supports a function for T6P as a sugar signaling molecule integrating metabolism and development in plants in relation to carbon supply.
Genetic engineering of Arabidopsis as well as tobacco, potato and rice with TPS or TPS/TPP protein fusions reveals that trehalose metabolism also mediates multiple abiotic stress tolerances. Trehalose applications also mediate biotic stress resistances. Both Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae TPS/TPP protein fusions can be used to engineer stress tolerance suggesting that metabolites rather than proteins of the trehalose pathway are key stress tolerance elicitors. Results underscore the central role of trehalose metabolites in integrating carbon metabolism and stress responses with plant development.
The aspartate-derived amino acid pathway in plants leads to the biosynthesis of lysine, methionine, threonine, and isoleucine. These four amino acids are essential in the diets of humans and other animals, but are present in growth-limiting quantities in some of the world's major food crops. Genetic and biochemical approaches have been used for the functional analysis of almost all Arabidopsis thaliana enzymes involved in aspartate-derived amino acid biosynthesis. The branch-point enzymes aspartate kinase, dihydrodipicolinate synthase, homoserine dehydrogenase, cystathionine gamma synthase, threonine synthase, and threonine deaminase contain well-studied sites for allosteric regulation by pathway products and other plant metabolites. In contrast, relatively little is known about the transcriptional regulation of amino acid biosynthesis and the mechanisms that are used to balance aspartate-derived amino acid biosynthesis with other plant metabolic needs. The aspartate-derived amino acid pathway provides excellent examples of basic research conducted with A. thaliana that has been used to improve the nutritional quality of crop plants, in particular to increase the accumulation of lysine in maize and methionine in potatoes.