Both scientists and the public would benefit from improved communication of basic scientific research and from integrating scientists into education outreach, but opportunities to support these efforts are limited. We have developed two low-cost programs—"Present Your PhD Thesis to a 12-Year-Old" and "Shadow a Scientist”—that combine training in science communication with outreach to area middle schools. We assessed the outcomes of these programs and found a 2-fold benefit: scientists improve their communication skills by explaining basic science research to a general audience, and students' enthusiasm for science and their scientific knowledge are increased. Here we present details about both programs, along with our assessment of them, and discuss the feasibility of exporting these programs to other universities.
When plant primary roots grow along a tilted surface that is impenetrable, they can undergo a slanted deviation from the direction of gravity called skewing. Skewing is induced by touch stimuli which the roots experience as they grow along the surface. Touch stimuli also induce the release of extracellular ATP (eATP) into the plant's extracellular matrix, and two apyrases (NTPDases) in Arabidopsis, APY1 and APY2, can help regulate the concentration of eATP. The primary roots of seedlings overexpressing APY1 show less skewing than wild-type plants. Plants suppressed in their expression of APY1 show more skewing than wild-type plants. Correspondingly, chemical inhibition of apyrase activity increased skewing in mutants and wild-type roots. Exogenous application of ATP or ATPγS also increased skewing in wild-type roots, which could be blocked by co-incubation with a purinergic receptor antagonist. These results suggest a model in which gradients of eATP set up by differential touch stimuli along roots help direct skewing in roots growing along an impenetrable surface.
To understand the early signaling steps in the response of plant cells to increased environmental temperature, 2-D difference gel electrophoresis was used to study the proteins in microsomes of Arabidopsis seedlings that are regulated early during heat stress. Using mass spectrometry, 19 microsomal proteins that showed an altered expression level within 5 min after heat treatment were identified. Among these proteins, annexin 1 (AtANN1) was one of those up-regulated rapidly after heat-shock treatment. Functional studies show loss-of-function mutants for AtANN1 and its close homolog AtANN2 were more sensitive to heat-shock treatment, whereas plants overexpressing AtANN1 showed more resistance to this treatment. Correspondingly, the heat-induced expression of heat-shock proteins and heat-shock factors is inhibited in ann1/ann2 double mutant, and the heat-activated increase in cytoplasmic calcium concentration ([Ca(2+)]cyt) is greatly impaired in the ann1 mutant and almost undetectable in ann1/ann2 double mutant. Taken together these results suggest that AtANN1 is important in regulating the heat-induced increase in [Ca(2+)]cyt and in the response of Arabidopsis seedlings to heat stress.
Plant apyrases are nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydolases and have been implicated in an array of functions within the plant including the regulation of extracellular ATP. Arabidopsis encodes a family of seven membrane bound apyrases (AtAPY1 to 7) comprised of three distinct clades all of which contain the five conserved apyrase domains. Subcellular localization of all seven Arabidopsis apyrases indicated that they all localize to internal membranes comprising the cis-Golgi, ER and endosome, indicating an endo-apyrase classification for the entire family. The complementation of a yeast double mutant (Δynd1Δgda1) which lacks apyrase activity indicated that all members could function as endo-apyrases except AtAPY7 which was unable to complement the yeast mutant. Complementation of the mutant yeast using characterized human apyrases demonstrated that functional complementation of the mutant could only be accomplished using a functional endo-apyrase (NTPDase6), with no complementation occurring when using a characterized human ecto-apyrase (NTPDase1). An analysis of substrate specificity for the Arabidopsis apyrases AtAPY1 to 6 indicated that each member has a distinct set of preferred substrates covering various NDPs and NTPs. The Arabidopsis apyrase AtAPY3 was the only member to display a strong preference for NTPs, with other members mainly exhibiting NDP substrate preferences.
Previous publications have shown that BRI1 EMS suppressor 1 (BES1), a positive regulator of the brassinosteroid (BR) signalling pathway, enhances cell divisions in the quiescent centre (QC) and stimulates columella stem cell differentiation. Here, it is demonstrated that BZR1, a BES1 homologue, also promotes cell divisions in the QC, but it suppresses columella stem cell differentiation, opposite to the action of BES1. In addition, BR and its BZR1-mediated signalling pathway are shown to alter the expression/subcellular distribution of pin-formed (PINs), which may result in changes in auxin movement. BR promotes intense nuclear accumulation of BZR1 in the root tip area, and the binding of BZR1 to the promoters of several root development-regulating genes, modulating their expression in the root stem cell niche area. These BZR1-mediated signalling cascades may account for both the ectopic activation of QC cell divisions as well as the suppression of the columella stem cell differentiation. They could also inhibit auxin-dependent distal stem cell differentiation by antagonizing the auxin/WOX5-dependent pathway. In conclusion, BZR1-/BES1-mediated BR signalling pathways show differential effects on the maintenance of root apical meristem activities: they stimulate ectopic QC division while they show opposite effects on the differentiation of distal columella stem cells in a BR concentration- and BZR1-/BES1-dependent manner.
The objective of this study was to develop a self-referencing electrochemical biosensor for the direct measurement of ATP flux into the extracellular matrix by living cells/organisms. The working mechanism of the developed biosensor is based on the activity of glycerol kinase and glycerol-3-phosphate oxidase. A stratified bi-enzyme nanocomposite was created using a protein-templated silica sol gel encapsulation technique on top of graphene-modified platinum electrodes. The biosensor exhibited excellent electrochemical performance with a sensitivity of 2.4±1.8nA/µM, a response time of 20±13s and a lower detection limit of 1.3±0.7nM. The self-referencing biosensor was used to measure exogenous ATP efflux by (i) germinating Ceratopteris spores and (ii) growing Zea mays L. roots. This manuscript demonstrates the first development of a non-invasive ATP micro-biosensor for the direct measurement of eATP transport in living tissues. Before this work, assays of eATP have not been able to record the temporally transient movement of ATP at physiological levels (nM and sub-nM). The method demonstrated here accurately measured [eATP] flux in the immediate vicinity of plant cells. Although these proof of concept experiments focus on plant tissues, the technique developed herein is applicable to any living tissue, where nanomolar concentrations of ATP play a critical role in signaling and development. This tool will be invaluable for conducting hypothesis-driven life science research aimed at understanding the role of ATP in the extracellular environment.
Early studies revealed a highly predictable pattern of gravity-directed growth and development in Ceratopteris richardii spores. This makes the spores a valuable model system for the study of how a single cell senses and responds to the force of gravity. Gravity regulates both the direction and magnitude of a trans-cell calcium current in germinating spores, and the orientation of this current predicts the polarization of spore development. Molecular techniques have been developed to evaluate the transcriptomic and proteomic profiles of spores before and after gravity establishes the polarity of their development. Here we describe these techniques, along with protocols for sterilizing the spores, sowing them in a solid or liquid growth media, and evaluating germination.
Sessa EB, Banks JA, Barker MS, Der JP, Duffy AM, Graham SW, Hasebe M, Langdale J, Li F-W, Marchant BD, et al.Between two fern genomes. Gigascience. 2014;3 :15.Abstract
Ferns are the only major lineage of vascular plants not represented by a sequenced nuclear genome. This lack of genome sequence information significantly impedes our ability to understand and reconstruct genome evolution not only in ferns, but across all land plants. Azolla and Ceratopteris are ideal and complementary candidates to be the first ferns to have their nuclear genomes sequenced. They differ dramatically in genome size, life history, and habit, and thus represent the immense diversity of extant ferns. Together, this pair of genomes will facilitate myriad large-scale comparative analyses across ferns and all land plants. Here we review the unique biological characteristics of ferns and describe a number of outstanding questions in plant biology that will benefit from the addition of ferns to the set of taxa with sequenced nuclear genomes. We explain why the fern clade is pivotal for understanding genome evolution across land plants, and we provide a rationale for how knowledge of fern genomes will enable progress in research beyond the ferns themselves.
Spores of the fern Ceratopteris richardii have proven to be a valuable single-cell system for studying gravity responses. The earliest cellular change directed by gravity in these cells is a trans-cell calcium current, which peaks near 10 h after the spores are induced to germinate. This current is needed for gravity-directed axis alignment, and its peak is coincident with the time period when gravity polarises the direction of subsequent nuclear migration and rhizoid growth. Transcriptomic analysis of genes expressed at the 10-h time point revealed several that encode proteins likely to be key components that either drive the current or regulate it. Notable among these is a plasma membrane (PM)-type Ca(2+) ATPase, CrACA1, whose activity pumping Ca(2+) out of cells is regulated by gravity. This report provides an initial characterisation of the structure and expression of this protein, and demonstrates its heterologous function complementing the K616 mutant of yeast, which is deficient in PM-type Ca(2+) pump activity. Gravity-induced changes in the trans-cell Ca(2+) current occur within seconds, a result consistent with the hypothesis that the force of gravity can rapidly alter the post-translational state of the channels and pumps that drive this current across spore cells. This report identifies a transporter likely to be a key driver of the current, CrACA1, and characterises the role of this protein in early germination and gravity-driven polarity fixation through analysis of expression levels, functional complementation and pharmacological treatments. These data, along with newly available transcriptomic data obtained at the 10-h time point, indicate that CrACA1 is present, functional and likely a major contributing component of the trans-cell Ca(2+) efflux. CrACA1 is not necessary for polar axis alignment, but pharmacological perturbations of it disrupt rhizoid development. These data support and help refine the post-translational modification model for gravity responses.
Animal and plant cells release nucleotides into their extracellular matrix when touched, wounded, and when their plasma membranes are stretched during delivery of secretory vesicles and growth. These released nucleotides then function as signaling agents that induce rapid increases in the concentration of cytosolic calcium, nitric oxide and superoxide. These, in turn, are transduced into downstream physiological changes. These changes in plants include changes in the growth of diverse tissues, in gravitropism, and in the opening and closing of stomates. The concentration of extracellular nucleotides is controlled by various phosphatases, prominent among which are apyrases EC 18.104.22.168 (nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolases, NTPDases). This review provides phylogenetic and pHMM analyses of plant apyrases as well as analysis of predicted post-translational modifications for Arabidopsis apyrases. This review also summarizes and discusses recent advances in research on the roles of apyrases and extracellular nucleotides in controlling plant growth and development. These include new findings that document how apyrases and extracellular nucleotides control auxin transport, modulate stomatal aperture, and mediate biotic and abiotic stress responses, and on how apyrase suppression leads to growth inhibition.
Plant cells release ATP into their extracellular matrix as they grow, and extracellular ATP (eATP) can modulate the rate of cell growth in diverse tissues. Two closely related apyrases (APYs) in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), APY1 and APY2, function, in part, to control the concentration of eATP. The expression of APY1/APY2 can be inhibited by RNA interference, and this suppression leads to an increase in the concentration of eATP in the extracellular medium and severely reduces growth. To clarify how the suppression of APY1 and APY2 is linked to growth inhibition, the gene expression changes that occur in seedlings when apyrase expression is suppressed were assayed by microarray and quantitative real-time-PCR analyses. The most significant gene expression changes induced by APY suppression were in genes involved in biotic stress responses, which include those genes regulating wall composition and extensibility. These expression changes predicted specific chemical changes in the walls of mutant seedlings, and two of these changes, wall lignification and decreased methyl ester bonds, were verified by direct analyses. Taken together, the results are consistent with the hypothesis that APY1, APY2, and eATP play important roles in the signaling steps that link biotic stresses to plant defense responses and growth changes.
Recent data indicate that nucleotides are released into the extracellular matrix during plant cell growth, and that these extracellular nucleotides induce signaling changes that can, in a dose-dependent manner, increase or decrease the cell growth. After activation of a presumed receptor, the earliest signaling change induced by extracellular nucleotides is an increase in the concentration of cytosolic Ca(2+), but rapidly following this change is an increase in the cellular level of nitric oxide (NO). In Arabidopsis, mutants deficient in nitrate reductase activity (nia1nia2) have drastically reduced nitric oxide production and cannot transduce the effects of applied nucleotides into growth changes. Both increased levels of extracellular nucleotides and increased NO production inhibit auxin transport and inhibit growth, and these effects are potentially due to disruption of the localization and/or function of auxin transport facilitators. However, because NO- and auxin-induced signaling pathways can intersect at multiple points, there may be diverse ways by which the induction of NO by extracellular ATP could modulate auxin signaling and thus influence growth. This review will discuss these optional mechanisms and suggest possible regulatory routes based on current experimental data and predictive computational analyses.
An NCBI nucleotide blast keyed to apyrase (ATP-diphosphohydrolases, EC 22.214.171.124) conserved regions revealed five apyrases, AtAPYs (3-7), in addition to the previously identified AtAPY1 and 2. Here we report the functional analyses of two of the newly defined apyrases, AtAPY6 and AtAPY7. We analyzed tissue specificity of AtAPY6 and 7 expression by qRT-PCR and promoter:GUS fusion assays. We characterized the phenotypes of single and double knockout mutants for AtAPY6 and 7 in anther and pollen by light microscopy and electron microscopy. The transcripts of both AtAPY6 and 7 are expressed in mature pollen grains. Single knockout mutants of AtAPY6 and 7 displayed a minor change in pollen exine pattern under scanning electron microscopy without obvious change in fertility. Double knockout mutants of AtAPY6 and 7 (apy6apy7) displayed severe defects in pollen exine pattern, deformed pollen shape and reduced male fertility. An analysis of pollen from heterozygous apy6apy7 plants suggests that the defects in pollen exine wall are determined by the diploid genome. Our findings demonstrate that AtAPY6 and AtAPY7 are enzymes that play an important role in exine development of pollen grains, possibly through regulating the production of key polysaccharides needed for proper assembly of the exine layer.
PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Gravity regulates the magnitude and direction of a trans-cell calcium current in germinating spores of Ceratopteris richardii. Blocking this current with nifedipine blocks the spore's downward polarity alignment, a polarization that is fixed by gravity ∼10 h after light induces the spores to germinate. RNA-seq analysis at 10 h was used to identify genes potentially important for the gravity response. The data set will be valuable for other developmental and phylogenetic studies.
METHODS: De novo Newbler assembly of 958 527 reads from Roche 454 sequencing was executed. The sequences were identified and analyzed using in silico methods. The roles of endomembrane Ca(2+)-ATPase pumps and apyrases in the gravity response were further tested using pharmacological agents.
KEY RESULTS: Transcripts related to calcium signaling and ethylene biosynthesis were identified as notable constituents of the transcriptome. Inhibiting the activity of endomembrane Ca(2+)-ATPase pumps with 2,5-di-(t-butyl)-1,4-hydroquinone diminished the trans-cell current, but increased the orientation of the polar axis to gravity. The effects of applied nucleotides and purinoceptor antagonists gave novel evidence implicating extracellular nucleotides as regulators of the gravity response in these fern spores.
CONCLUSIONS: In addition to revealing general features of the transcriptome of germinating spores, the results highlight a number of calcium-responsive and light-receptive transcripts. Pharmacologic assays indicate endomembrane Ca(2+)-ATPases and extracellular nucleotides may play regulatory roles in the gravity response of Ceratopteris spores.
Annexins are an homologous, structurally related superfamily of proteins known to associate with membrane lipid and cytoskeletal components. Their involvement in membrane organization, vesicle trafficking and signaling is fundamental to cellular processes such as growth, differentiation, secretion and repair. Annexins exist in some prokaryotes and all eukaryotic phyla within which plant annexins represent a monophyletic clade of homologs descended from green algae. Genomic, proteomic and transcriptomic approaches have provided data on the diversity, cellular localization and expression patterns of different plant annexins. The availability of 35 complete plant genomes has enabled systematic comparative analysis to determine phylogenetic relationships, characterize structures and observe functional specificity between and within individual subfamilies. Short amino termini and selective erosion of the canonical type 2 calcium coordinating sites in domains 2 and 3 are typical of plant annexins. The convergent evolution of alternate functional motifs such as 'KGD', redox-sensitive Cys and hydrophobic Trp/Phe residues argues for their functional relevance and contribution to mechanistic diversity in plant annexins. This review examines recent findings and advances in plant annexin research with special focus on their structural diversity, cellular and molecular interactions and their potential integrated functions in the broader context of physiological responses.
Nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolases (NTPDases; apyrases) (EC 126.96.36.199) hydrolyze di- and triphosphate nucleotides, but not monophosphate nucleotides. They are categorized as E-type ATPases, have a broad divalent cation (Mg(2+), Ca(2+)) requirement for activation and are insensitive to inhibitors of F-type, P-type and V-type ATPases. Among the seven NTPDases identified in Arabidopsis, only APYRASE 1 (AtAPY1) and APYRASE 2 (AtAPY2) have been previously characterized. In this work, either AtAPY1 or AtAPY2 tagged with C-terminal green fluorescent protein (GFP) driven by their respective native promoter can rescue the apy1 apy2 double knockout (apy1 apy2 dKO) successfully, and confocal microscopy reveals that these two Arabidopsis apyrases reside in the Golgi apparatus. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, both AtAPY1 and AtAPY2 can complement the Golgi-localized GDA1 mutant, rescuing its aberrant protein glycosylation phenotype. In Arabidopsis, microsomes of the wild type show higher substrate preferences toward UDP compared with other NDP substrates. Loss-of-function Arabidopsis AtAPY1 mutants exhibit reduced microsomal UDPase activity, and this activity is even more significantly reduced in the loss-of-function AtAPY2 mutant and in the AtAPY1/AtAPY2 RNA interference (RNAi) technology repressor lines. Microsomes from wild-type plants also have detectable GDPase activity, which is significantly reduced in apy2 but not apy1 mutants. The GFP-tagged AtAPY1 or AtAPY2 constructs in the apy1 apy2 dKO plants can restore microsomal UDP/GDPase activity, confirming that they both also have functional competency. The cell walls of apy1, apy2 and the RNAi-silenced lines all have an increased composition of galactose, but the transport efficiency of UDP-galactose across microsomal membranes was not altered. Taken together, these results reveal that AtAPY1 and AtAPY2 are Golgi-localized nucleotide diphosphatases and are likely to have roles in regulating UDP/GDP concentrations in the Golgi lumen.
Gravity has major effects on both the form and overall length of root growth. Numerous papers have documented these effects (over 300 publications in the last 5 years), the most well-studied being gravitropism, which is a growth re-orientation directed by gravity toward the earth's center. Less studied effects of gravity are undulations due to the regular periodic change in the direction root tips grow, called waving, and the slanted angle of growth roots exhibit when they are growing along a nearly-vertical surface, called skewing. Although diverse studies have led to the conclusion that a gravity stimulus is needed for plant roots to show waving and skewing, the novel results just published by Paul et al. (2012) reveal that this conclusion is not correct. In studies carried out in microgravity on the International Space Station, the authors used a new imaging system to collect digital photographs of plants every six hours during 15 days of spaceflight. The imaging system allowed them to observe how roots grew when their orientation was directed not by gravity but by overhead LED lights, which roots grew away from because they are negatively phototropic. Surprisingly, the authors observed both skewing and waving in spaceflight plants, thus demonstrating that both growth phenomena were gravity independent. Touch responses and differential auxin transport would be common features of root waving and skewing at 1-g and micro-g, and the novel results of Paul et al. will focus the attention of cell and molecular biologists more on these features as they try to decipher the signaling pathways that regulate root skewing and waving.
Plant annexins are Ca(2+)-dependent phospholipid-binding proteins and are encoded by multigene families. They are implicated in the regulation of plant development as well as protection from drought and other stresses. They are well characterized in Arabidopsis, however no such characterization of rice annexin gene family has been reported thus far. With the availability of the rice genome sequence information, we have identified ten members of the rice annexin gene family. At the protein level, they share 16-64% identity with predicted molecular masses ranging from 32 to 40 kDa. Phylogenetic analysis of rice annexins together with annexins from other monocots led to their classification into five different orthologous groups and share similar motif patterns in their protein sequences. Expression analysis by real-time RT-PCR revealed differential temporal and spatial regulation of these genes. The rice annexin genes are also found to be regulated in seedling stage by various abiotic stressors including salinity, drought, heat and cold. Additionally, in silico analysis of the putative upstream sequences was analyzed for the presence of stress-responsive cis-elements. These results provide a basis for further functional characterization of specific rice annexin genes at the tissue/developmental level and in response to abiotic stresses.