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The angiosperm female gametophyte is critical for plant reproduction. It contains the egg cell and central cell that become fertilized and give rise to the embryo and endosperm of the seed, respectively. Female gametophyte development begins early in ovule development with the formation of a diploid megaspore mother cell that undergoes meiosis. One resulting haploid megaspore then develops into the female gametophyte. Genetic and epigenetic processes mediate specification of megaspore mother cell identity and limit megaspore mother cell formation to a single cell per ovule. Auxin gradients influence female gametophyte polarity and a battery of transcription factors mediate female gametophyte cell specification and differentiation. The mature female gametophyte secretes peptides that guide the pollen tube to the embryo sac and contains protein complexes that prevent seed development before fertilization. Post-fertilization, the female gametophyte influences seed development through maternal-effect genes and by regulating parental contributions. Female gametophytes can form by an asexual process called gametophytic apomixis, which involves formation of a diploid female gametophyte and fertilization-independent development of the egg into the embryo. These functions collectively underscore the important role of the female gametophyte in seed and food production.
The CLAVATA3 (CLV3)/ENDOSPERM SURROUNDING REGION (ESR) (CLE) peptides consist of 12 or 13 amino acids, including hydroxylated proline residues that may or may not contain sugar modifications, and function in a non-cell-autonomous fashion. The CLE gene was first reported in Zea mays (maize) as an endosperm-specific gene, ESR, in 1997 (Opsahl-Ferstad et al., 1997). CLE genes encode secreted peptides that function in the extracellular space as intercellular signaling molecules and bind to cellular surface receptor-like proteins to transmit a signal. CLE peptides regulate various physiological and developmental processes and its signaling pathway are conserved in diverse land plants. Recent CLE functional studies have pointed to their significance in regulating meristematic activity in plant meristems, through the CLE-receptor kinase-WOX signaling node. CLV3 and CLE40 are responsible for maintenance of shoot apical meristem (SAM) and root apical meristem (RAM) function, regulating homeodomain transcription factors, WUSCHEL (WUS) and WUSCHEL-related homeobox 5 (WOX5), respectively. CLE and WOX form an interconnected and self-correcting feedback loop to provide robustness to stem cell homeostasis. CLE peptides are required for certain plant-microbe interactions, such as those that occur during legume symbiosis and phytopathogenic nematode infection. Understanding the molecular properties of CLE peptides may provide insight into plant cell-cell communication, and therefore also into plant-microbe interactions.
Phytochromes are red (R)/far-red (FR) light photoreceptors that play fundamental roles in photoperception of the light environment and the subsequent adaptation of plant growth and development. There are five distinct phytochromes in Arabidopsis thaliana, designated phytochrome A (phyA) to phyE. phyA is light-labile and is the primary photoreceptor responsible for mediating photomorphogenic responses in FR light, whereas phyB-phyE are light stable, and phyB is the predominant phytochrome regulating de-etiolation responses in R light. Phytochromes are synthesized in the cytosol in their inactive Pr form. Upon light irradiation, phytochromes are converted to the biologically active Pfr form, and translocate into the nucleus. phyB can enter the nucleus by itself in response to R light, whereas phyA nuclear import depends on two small plant-specific proteins FAR-RED ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL 1 (FHY1) and FHY1-LIKE (FHL). Phytochromes may function as light-regulated serine/threonine kinases, and can phosphorylate several substrates, including themselves in vitro. Phytochromes are phosphoproteins, and can be dephosphorylated by a few protein phosphatases. Photoactivated phytochromes rapidly change the expression of light-responsive genes by repressing the activity of CONSTITUTIVE PHOTOMORPHOGENIC 1 (COP1), an E3 ubiquitin ligase targeting several photomorphogenesis-promoting transcription factors for degradation, and by inducing rapid phosphorylation and degradation of Phytochrome-Interacting Factors (PIFs), a group of bHLH transcription factors repressing photomorphogenesis. Phytochromes are targeted by COP1 for degradation via the ubiquitin/26S proteasome pathway.
Brassinosteroids (BRs) are endogenous plant hormones essential for the proper regulation of multiple physiological processes required for normal plant growth and development. Since their discovery more than 30 years ago, extensive research on the mechanisms of BR action using biochemistry, mutant studies, proteomics and genome-wide transcriptome analyses, has helped refine the BR biosynthetic pathway, identify the basic molecular components required to relay the BR signal from perception to gene regulation, and expand the known physiological responses influenced by BRs. These mechanistic advances have helped answer the intriguing question of how BRs can have such dramatic pleiotropic effects on a broad range of diverse developmental pathways and have further pointed to BR interactions with other plant hormones and environmental cues. This chapter briefly reviews historical aspects of BR research and then summarizes the current state of knowledge on BR biosynthesis, metabolism and signal transduction. Recent studies uncovering novel phosphorelays and gene regulatory networks through which BR influences both vegetative and reproductive development are examined and placed in the context of known BR physiological responses including cell elongation and division, vascular differentiation, flowering, pollen development and photomorphogenesis.
Salicylic acid (SA) has been shown to regulate various aspects of growth and development; it also serves as a critical signal for activating disease resistance in Arabidopsis thaliana and other plant species. This review surveys the mechanisms involved in the biosynthesis and metabolism of this critical plant hormone. While a complete biosynthetic route has yet to be established, stressed Arabidopsis appear to synthesize SA primarily via an isochorismate-utilizing pathway in the chloroplast. A distinct pathway utilizing phenylalanine as the substrate also may contribute to SA accumulation, although to a much lesser extent. Once synthesized, free SA levels can be regulated by a variety of chemical modifications. Many of these modifications inactivate SA; however, some confer novel properties that may aid in long distance SA transport or the activation of stress responses complementary to those induced by free SA. In addition, a number of factors that directly or indirectly regulate the expression of SA biosynthetic genes or that influence the rate of SA catabolism have been identified. An integrated model, encompassing current knowledge of SA metabolism in Arabidopsis, as well as the influence other plant hormones exert on SA metabolism, is presented.
Cysteine is one of the most versatile molecules in biology, taking over such different functions as catalysis, structure, regulation and electron transport during evolution. Research on Arabidopsis has contributed decisively to the understanding of cysteine synthesis and its role in the assimilatory pathways of S, N and C in plants. The multimeric cysteine synthase complex is present in the cytosol, plastids and mitochondria and forms the centre of a unique metabolic sensing and signaling system. Its association is reversible, rendering the first enzyme of cysteine synthesis active and the second one inactive, and vice-versa. Complex formation is triggered by the reaction intermediates of cysteine synthesis in response to supply and demand and gives rise to regulation of genes of sulfur metabolism to adjust cellular sulfur homeostasis. Combinations of biochemistry, forward and reverse genetics, structural- and cell-biology approaches using Arabidopsis have revealed new enzyme functions and the unique pattern of spatial distribution of cysteine metabolism in plant cells. These findings place the synthesis of cysteine in the centre of the network of primary metabolism.
ABC transporters constitute one of the largest protein families found in all living organisms. ABC transporters are driven by ATP hydrolysis and can act as exporters as well as importers. The plant genome encodes for more than 100 ABC transporters, largely exceeding that of other organisms. In Arabidopsis, only 22 out of 130 have been functionally analyzed. They are localized in most membranes of a plant cell such as the plasma membrane, the tonoplast, chloroplasts, mitochondria and peroxisomes and fulfill a multitude of functions. Originally identified as transporters involved in detoxification processes, they have later been shown to be required for organ growth, plant nutrition, plant development, response to abiotic stresses, pathogen resistance and the interaction of the plant with its environment. To fulfill these roles they exhibit different substrate specifies by e.g. depositing surface lipids, accumulating phytate in seeds, and transporting the phytohormones auxin and abscisic acid. The aim of this review is to give an insight into the functions of plant ABC transporters and to show their importance for plant development and survival.
The phenylpropanoid pathway serves as a rich source of metabolites in plants, being required for the biosynthesis of lignin, and serving as a starting point for the production of many other important compounds, such as the flavonoids, coumarins, and lignans. In spite of the fact that the phenylpropanoids and their derivatives are sometimes classified as secondary metabolites, their relevance to plant survival has been made clear via the study of Arabidopsis and other plant species. As a model system, Arabidopsis has helped to elucidate many details of the phenylpropanoid pathway, its enzymes and intermediates, and the interconnectedness of the pathway with plant metabolism as a whole. These advances in our understanding have been made possible in large part by the relative ease with which mutations can be generated, identified, and studied in Arabidopsis. Herein, we provide an overview of the research progress that has been made in recent years, emphasizing both the genes (and gene families) associated with the phenylpropanoid pathway in Arabidopsis, and the end products that have contributed to the identification of many mutants deficient in the phenylpropanoid metabolism: the sinapate esters.
There are 244 cytochrome P450 genes (and 28 pseudogenes) in the Arabidopsis genome. P450s thus form one of the largest gene families in plants. Contrary to what was initially thought, this family diversification results in very limited functional redundancy and seems to mirror the complexity of plant metabolism. P450s sometimes share less than 20% identity and catalyze extremely diverse reactions leading to the precursors of structural macromolecules such as lignin, cutin, suberin and sporopollenin, or are involved in biosynthesis or catabolism of all hormone and signaling molecules, of pigments, odorants, flavors, antioxidants, allelochemicals and defense compounds, and in the metabolism of xenobiotics. The mechanisms of gene duplication and diversification are getting better understood and together with co-expression data provide leads to functional characterization.
Higher plants produce four classes of tetrapyrroles, namely, chlorophyll (Chl), heme, siroheme, and phytochromobilin. In plants, tetrapyrroles play essential roles in a wide range of biological activities including photosynthesis, respiration and the assimilation of nitrogen/sulfur. All four classes of tetrapyrroles are derived from a common biosynthetic pathway that resides in the plastid. In this article, we present an overview of tetrapyrrole metabolism in Arabidopsis and other higher plants, and we describe all identified enzymatic steps involved in this metabolism. We also summarize recent findings on Chl biosynthesis and Chl breakdown. Recent advances in this field, in particular those on the genetic and biochemical analyses of novel enzymes, prompted us to redraw the tetrapyrrole metabolic pathways. In addition, we also summarize our current understanding on the regulatory mechanisms governing tetrapyrrole metabolism. The interactions of tetrapyrrole biosynthesis and other cellular processes including the plastid-to-nucleus signal transduction are discussed.
Terpenes constitute the largest class of plant secondary (or specialized) metabolites, which are compounds of ecological function in plant defense or the attraction of beneficial organisms. Using biochemical and genetic approaches, nearly all Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) enzymes of the core biosynthetic pathways producing the 5-carbon building blocks of terpenes have been characterized and closer insight has been gained into the transcriptional and posttranscriptional/translational mechanisms regulating these pathways. The biochemical function of most prenyltransferases, the downstream enzymes that condense the C5-precursors into central 10-, 15-, and 20-carbon prenyldiphosphate intermediates, has been described, although the function of several isoforms of C20-prenyltranferases is not well understood. Prenyl diphosphates are converted to a variety of C10-, C15-, and C20-terpene products by enzymes of the terpene synthase (TPS) family. Genomic organization of the 32 Arabidopsis TPS genes indicates a species-specific divergence of terpene synthases with tissue- and cell-type specific expression profiles that may have emerged under selection pressures by different organisms. Pseudogenization, differential expression, and subcellular segregation of TPS genes and enzymes contribute to the natural variation of terpene biosynthesis among Arabidopsis accessions (ecotypes) and species. Arabidopsis will remain an important model to investigate the metabolic organization and molecular regulatory networks of terpene specialized metabolism in relation to the biological activities of terpenes.
Glutathione is a simple sulfur compound composed of three amino acids and the major non-protein thiol in many organisms, including plants. The functions of glutathione are manifold but notably include redox-homeostatic buffering. Glutathione status is modulated by oxidants as well as by nutritional and other factors, and can influence protein structure and activity through changes in thiol-disulfide balance. For these reasons, glutathione is a transducer that integrates environmental information into the cellular network. While the mechanistic details of this function remain to be fully elucidated, accumulating evidence points to important roles for glutathione and glutathione-dependent proteins in phytohormone signaling and in defense against biotic stress. Work in Arabidopsis is beginning to identify the processes that govern glutathione status and that link it to signaling pathways. As well as providing an overview of the components that regulate glutathione homeostasis (synthesis, degradation, transport, and redox turnover), the present discussion considers the roles of this metabolite in physiological processes such as light signaling, cell death, and defense against microbial pathogen and herbivores.
Histidine (His) is one of the standard amino acids in proteins, and plays a critical role in plant growth and development. The chemical properties of the imidazole side group allow His to participate in acid-base catalysis, and in the co-ordination of metal ions. Despite the biological importance of this molecule, His biosynthesis has been somewhat neglected in plants, in stark contrast to micro-organisms where the study of this pathway was fundamental in the discovery of operon structure and regulation by attenuation. With the recent isolation of histidinol-phosphate phosphatase, all the enzymes of His biosynthesis have now been identified in Arabidopsis, and several lines of evidence have implicated ATP-phosphoribosyl transferase (which catalyses the first committed step of the pathway) as playing an important role in the regulation of this pathway. However, little is known about the transcriptional regulation of the His biosynthetic genes, nor how demand for this amino acid is balanced with other metabolic requirements in plants. Similarly, the pathway of His catabolism has yet to be determined.
Recent biochemical, genetic and bioinformatic studies have demonstrated that peptide signaling plays a greater than anticipated role in various aspects of plant growth and development. More than a dozen secreted peptides are now recognized as important signals that mediate cell-to-cell communication. Secreted peptide signals often undergo post-translational modification and proteolytic processing, which are important for their function. Such “small post-translationally modified peptide signals” constitute one of the largest groups of peptide signals in plants. In parallel with the discovery of peptide signals, specific receptors for such peptides were identified as being membrane-localized receptor kinases, the largest family of receptor-like molecules in plants. These findings illustrate the critical roles of small peptide ligand-receptor pairs in plant growth and development. This review outlines recent research into secreted peptide signals in plants by focusing on small post-translationally modified peptides.
One recently identified mechanism that regulates mRNA abundance is RNA silencing, and pioneering work in Arabidopsis thaliana and other genetic model organisms helped define this process. RNA silencing pathways are triggered by either self-complementary fold-back structures or the production of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that gives rise to small RNAs (smRNAs) known as microRNAs (miRNAs) or small-interfering RNAs (siRNAs). These smRNAs direct sequence-specific regulation of various gene transcripts, repetitive sequences, viruses, and mobile elements via RNA cleavage, translational inhibition, or transcriptional silencing through DNA methylation and heterochromatin formation. Early genetic screens in Arabidopsis were instrumental in uncovering numerous proteins required for these important regulatory pathways. Among the factors identified by these studies were RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RDRs), which are proteins that synthesize siRNA-producing dsRNA molecules using a single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) molecule as a template. Recently, a growing body of evidence has implicated RDR-dependent RNA silencing in many different aspects of plant biology ranging from reproductive development to pathogen resistance. Here, we focus on the specific functions of the six Arabidopsis RDRs in RNA silencing, their ssRNA substrates and resulting RDR-dependent smRNAs, and the numerous biological functions of these proteins in plant development and stress responses.
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