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As photoautotrophs, plants are exquisitely sensitive to their light environment. Light affects many developmental and physiological responses throughout plants' life histories. The focus of this chapter is on light effects during the crucial period of time between seed germination and the development of the first true leaves. During this time, the seedling must determine the appropriate mode of action to best achieve photosynthetic and eventual reproductive success. Light exposure triggers several major developmental and physiological events. These include: growth inhibition and differentiation of the embryonic stem (hypocotyl); maturation of the embryonic leaves (cotyledons); and establishment and activation of the stem cell population in the shoot and root apical meristems. Recent studies have linked a number of photoreceptors, transcription factors, and phytohormones to each of these events.
Aphids are important pests of plants that use their stylets to tap into the sieve elements to consume phloem sap. Besides the removal of photosynthates, aphid infestation also alters source-sink patterns. Most aphids also vector viral diseases. In this chapter, we will summarize on recent significant findings in plant-aphid interaction, and how studies involving Arabidopsis thaliana and Myzus persicae (Sülzer), more commonly known as the green peach aphid (GPA), are beginning to provide important insights into the molecular basis of plant defense and susceptibility to aphids. The recent demonstration that expression of dsRNA in Arabidopsis can be used to silence expression of genes in GPA has further expanded the utility of Arabidopsis for evaluating the contribution of the aphid genome-encoded proteins to this interaction.
Starch is the major non-structural carbohydrate in plants. It serves as an important store of carbon that fuels plant metabolism and growth when they are unable to photosynthesise. This storage can be in leaves and other green tissues, where it is degraded during the night, or in heterotrophic tissues such as roots, seeds and tubers, where it is stored over longer time periods. Arabidopsis accumulates starch in many of its tissues, but mostly in its leaves during the day. It has proven to be a powerful genetic system for discovering how starch is synthesised and degraded, and new proteins and processes have been discovered. Such work has major significance for our starch crops, whose yield and quality could be improved by the application of this knowledge. Research into Arabidopsis starch metabolism has begun to reveal how its daily turnover is integrated into the rest of metabolism and adapted to the environmental conditions. Furthermore, Arabidopsis mutant lines deficient in starch metabolism have been employed as tools to study other biological processes ranging from sugar sensing to gravitropism and flowering time control. This review gives a detailed account of the use of Arabidopsis to study starch metabolism. It describes the major discoveries made and presents an overview of our understanding today, together with some as-yet unresolved questions.
Plant carotenoids are a family of pigments that participate in light harvesting and are essential for photoprotection against excess light. Furthermore, they act as precursors for the production of apocarotenoid hormones such as abscisic acid and strigolactones. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the genes and enzymes of the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway (which is now almost completely elucidated) and on the regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. We also discuss the relevance of Arabidopsis as a model system for the study of carotenogenesis and how metabolic engineering approaches in this plant have taught important lessons for carotenoid biotechnology.
The presence of neighboring vegetation modifies the light environment experienced by plants, generating signals that are perceived by phytochromes and cryptochromes. These signals cause large changes in plant body form and function, including enhanced growth of the hypocotyl and petioles, a more erect position of the leaves and early flowering in Arabidopsis thaliana. Collectively, these so-called shade-avoidance responses tend to reduce the degree of current or future shade by neighbors. Shade light signals increase the abundance of PHYTOCHROME INTERACTING FACTOR 4 (PIF4) and PIF5 proteins, promote the synthesis and redirection of auxin, favor the degradation of DELLA proteins and increase the expression of auxin, gibberellins and brassinosteroid-promoted genes, among other events downstream the photoreceptors. Selectively disrupting these events by genetic or pharmacological approaches affects shade-avoidance responses with an intensity that depends on the developmental context and the environment. Shade-avoidance responses provide a model to investigate the signaling networks used by plants to take advantage of the cues provided by the environment to adjust to the challenges imposed by the environment itself.
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