Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology

Vienna, Austria

Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology

Vienna, Austria
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The work, which appears in Nature Communications on May 24, 2017, could lead to improved crop yields for farmers and richer dietary sources of iron for animals and humans. "Almost all life on Earth is based on plants—animals eat plants and we eat animals or plants," says Wolfgang Busch, an associate professor in Salk's Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and senior author of the new paper. "It's very important for us to understand how plants solve the problem of getting iron because even though it's generally abundant on Earth, the form that plants can use is actually scarce." The current work, led by Busch and including researchers from Austria's Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology (where Busch was formerly based) focused on the well-studied weed Arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of cabbage and mustard. They obtained Arabidopsis seeds from strains that naturally occur all over Sweden, which has a variety of soils including some that are very low in iron. The team was particularly interested in strains that have adapted to low-iron soils and can grow a long root (a marker of health) even in those poor conditions. The researchers grew the seeds in low-iron conditions, measuring their root growth along the way. They then employed a cutting-edge method called a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS), which associates genes with a trait of interest—in this case root length. A gene called FRO2 stood out as having a strong connection to root length. Different versions of the FRO2 gene ("variants") fell into two groups, those that were associated with a short root and those that were associated with a long root. To find out whether variants of FRO2 were actually causing the difference(rather than merely being associated with it), the team grew seeds whoseFRO2 gene had been deactivated. All plants in which the FRO2 gene had beendeactivated now had stunted roots. The team then put either one variant orthe other variant of the gene back in and again grew the plants inlow-iron conditions. Variants for long roots grew better than variants forshort roots. Together, the experiments showed that, indeed, geneticvariants that confer higher activity of the FRO2 gene can largely beresponsible for root growth and plant health in low-iron conditions.(Under normal conditions, FRO2 is not activated.) "We thought by using a geographically restricted set of Arabidopsis thaliana strains, we could address local plant adaptations with respect to root growth under iron deficiency—and we did," says Santosh Satbhai, a Salk research associate and first author of the paper. "We hope the agricultural community can benefit from this information." The FRO2 gene is common to all plants, so boosting its expression in food crops or finding variants that thrive in poor soils could be important for increasing crop yields in the face of population growth and global warming's threats to arable land. "At least two billion people worldwide currently suffer from iron malnutrition. Anything we can do to improve the iron content of plants will help a lot of people," adds Busch. Explore further: How thirsty roots go in search of water More information: Santosh B. Satbhai et al. Natural allelic variation of FRO2 modulates Arabidopsis root growth under iron deficiency, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15603


News Article | May 25, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Just like people, plants need iron to grow and stay healthy. But some plants are better at getting this essential nutrient from the soil than others. Now, a study led by a researcher at the Salk Institute has found that variants of a single gene can largely determine a plant’s ability to thrive in environments where iron is scarce. The work, which appears in Nature Communications on May 24, could lead to improved crop yields for farmers and richer dietary sources of iron for animals and humans. “Almost all life on Earth is based on plants–animals eat plants and we eat animals or plants,” says Wolfgang Busch, an associate professor in Salk’s Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and senior author of the new paper. “It’s very important for us to understand how plants solve the problem of getting iron because even though it’s generally abundant on Earth, the form that plants can use is actually scarce.” The current work, led by Busch and including researchers from Austria’s Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology (where Busch was formerly based) focused on the well-studied weed Arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of cabbage and mustard. They obtained Arabidopsis seeds from strains that naturally occur all over Sweden, which has a variety of soils including some that are very low in iron. The team was particularly interested in strains that have adapted to low-iron soils and can grow a long root (a marker of health) even in those poor conditions. The researchers grew the seeds in low-iron conditions, measuring their root growth along the way. They then employed a cutting-edge method called a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS), which associates genes with a trait of interest–in this case root length. A gene called FRO2 stood out as having a strong connection to root length. Different versions of the FRO2 gene (“variants”) fell into two groups, those that were associated with a short root and those that were associated with a long root. To find out whether variants of FRO2 were actually causing the difference (rather than merely being associated with it), the team grew seeds whose FRO2 gene had been deactivated. All plants in which the FRO2 gene had been deactivated now had stunted roots. The team then put either one variant or the other variant of the gene back in and again grew the plants in low-iron conditions. Variants for long roots grew better than variants for short roots. Together, the experiments showed that, indeed, genetic variants that confer higher activity of the FRO2 gene can largely be responsible for root growth and plant health in low-iron conditions. (Under normal conditions, FRO2 is not activated.) “We thought by using a geographically restricted set of Arabidopsis thaliana strains, we could address local plant adaptations with respect to root growth under iron deficiency–and we did,” says Santosh Satbhai, a Salk research associate and first author of the paper. “We hope the agricultural community can benefit from this information.” The FRO2 gene is common to all plants, so boosting its expression in food crops or finding variants that thrive in poor soils could be important for increasing crop yields in the face of population growth and global warming’s threats to arable land. “At least 2 billion people worldwide currently suffer from iron malnutrition. Anything we can do to improve the iron content of plants will help a lot of people,” adds Busch.


News Article | May 25, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

Just like people, plants need iron to grow and stay healthy. But some plants are better at getting this essential nutrient from the soil than others. Now, a study led by a researcher at the Salk Institute has found that variants of a single gene can largely determine a plant's ability to thrive in environments where iron is scarce. The work, which appears in Nature Communications on May 24, 2017, could lead to improved crop yields for farmers and richer dietary sources of iron for animals and humans. "Almost all life on Earth is based on plants -- animals eat plants and we eat animals or plants," says Wolfgang Busch, an associate professor in Salk's Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and senior author of the new paper. "It's very important for us to understand how plants solve the problem of getting iron because even though it's generally abundant on Earth, the form that plants can use is actually scarce." The current work, led by Busch and including researchers from Austria's Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology (where Busch was formerly based) focused on the well-studied weed Arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of cabbage and mustard. They obtained Arabidopsis seeds from strains that naturally occur all over Sweden, which has a variety of soils including some that are very low in iron. The team was particularly interested in strains that have adapted to low-iron soils and can grow a long root (a marker of health) even in those poor conditions. The researchers grew the seeds in low-iron conditions, measuring their root growth along the way. They then employed a cutting-edge method called a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS), which associates genes with a trait of interest -- in this case root length. A gene called FRO2 stood out as having a strong connection to root length. Different versions of the FRO2 gene ("variants") fell into two groups, those that were associated with a short root and those that were associated with a long root. To find out whether variants of FRO2 were actually causing the difference (rather than merely being associated with it), the team grew seeds whose FRO2 gene had been deactivated. All plants in which the FRO2 gene had been deactivated now had stunted roots. The team then put either one variant or the other variant of the gene back in and again grew the plants in low-iron conditions. Variants for long roots grew better than variants for short roots. Together, the experiments showed that, indeed, genetic variants that confer higher activity of the FRO2 gene can largely be responsible for root growth and plant health in low-iron conditions. (Under normal conditions, FRO2 is not activated.) "We thought by using a geographically restricted set of Arabidopsis thaliana strains, we could address local plant adaptations with respect to root growth under iron deficiency -- and we did," says Santosh Satbhai, a Salk research associate and first author of the paper. "We hope the agricultural community can benefit from this information." The FRO2 gene is common to all plants, so boosting its expression in food crops or finding variants that thrive in poor soils could be important for increasing crop yields in the face of population growth and global warming's threats to arable land. "At least two billion people worldwide currently suffer from iron malnutrition. Anything we can do to improve the iron content of plants will help a lot of people," adds Busch.


News Article | May 24, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

LA JOLLA -- (May 24, 2017) Just like people, plants need iron to grow and stay healthy. But some plants are better at getting this essential nutrient from the soil than others. Now, a study led by a researcher at the Salk Institute has found that variants of a single gene can largely determine a plant's ability to thrive in environments where iron is scarce. The work, which appears in Nature Communications on May 24, 2017, could lead to improved crop yields for farmers and richer dietary sources of iron for animals and humans. "Almost all life on Earth is based on plants--animals eat plants and we eat animals or plants," says Wolfgang Busch, an associate professor in Salk's Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and senior author of the new paper. "It's very important for us to understand how plants solve the problem of getting iron because even though it's generally abundant on Earth, the form that plants can use is actually scarce." The current work, led by Busch and including researchers from Austria's Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology (where Busch was formerly based) focused on the well-studied weed Arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of cabbage and mustard. They obtained Arabidopsis seeds from strains that naturally occur all over Sweden, which has a variety of soils including some that are very low in iron. The team was particularly interested in strains that have adapted to low-iron soils and can grow a long root (a marker of health) even in those poor conditions. The researchers grew the seeds in low-iron conditions, measuring their root growth along the way. They then employed a cutting-edge method called a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS), which associates genes with a trait of interest -- in this case root length. A gene called FRO2 stood out as having a strong connection to root length. Different versions of the FRO2 gene ("variants") fell into two groups, those that were associated with a short root and those that were associated with a long root. To find out whether variants of FRO2 were actually causing the difference (rather than merely being associated with it), the team grew seeds whose FRO2 gene had been deactivated. All plants in which the FRO2 gene had been deactivated now had stunted roots. The team then put either one variant or the other variant of the gene back in and again grew the plants in low-iron conditions. Variants for long roots grew better than variants for short roots. Together, the experiments showed that, indeed, genetic variants that confer higher activity of the FRO2 gene can largely be responsible for root growth and plant health in low-iron conditions. (Under normal conditions, FRO2 is not activated.) "We thought by using a geographically restricted set of Arabidopsis thaliana strains, we could address local plant adaptations with respect to root growth under iron deficiency--and we did," says Santosh Satbhai, a Salk research associate and first author of the paper. "We hope the agricultural community can benefit from this information." The FRO2 gene is common to all plants, so boosting its expression in food crops or finding variants that thrive in poor soils could be important for increasing crop yields in the face of population growth and global warming's threats to arable land. "At least two billion people worldwide currently suffer from iron malnutrition. Anything we can do to improve the iron content of plants will help a lot of people," adds Busch. Other authors included Claudia Setzer, Florentina Freynschlag, Radka Slovak and Envel Kerdaffrec of the Gregor Mendel Institute. The work was funded by the Austrian Academy of Science through the Gregor Mendel Institute (GMI) and an Austrian Science Fund (FWF) stand-alone project (P27163-B22). About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies: Every cure has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk's mission to dare to make dreams into reality. Its internationally renowned and award-winning scientists explore the very foundations of life, seeking new understandings in neuroscience, genetics, immunology, plant biology and more. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Be it cancer or Alzheimer's, aging or diabetes, Salk is where cures begin. Learn more at: salk.edu.


Pikaard C.S.,Howard Hughes Medical Institute | Scheid O.M.,Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology
Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology | Year: 2014

The study of epigenetics in plants has a long and rich history, from initial descriptions of non-Mendelian gene behaviors to seminal discoveries of chromatin-modifying proteins and RNAs that mediate gene silencing in most eukaryotes, including humans. Genetic screens in the model plant Arabidopsis have been particularly rewarding, identifying more than 130 epigenetic regulators thus far. The diversity of epigenetic pathways in plants is remarkable, presumably contributing to the phenotypic plasticity of plant postembryonic development and the ability to survive and reproduce in unpredictable environments. © 2014 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; all rights reserved.


Krasensky J.,Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology | Jonak C.,Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology
Journal of Experimental Botany | Year: 2012

Plants regularly face adverse growth conditions, such as drought, salinity, chilling, freezing, and high temperatures. These stresses can delay growth and development, reduce productivity, and, in extreme cases, cause plant death. Plant stress responses are dynamic and involve complex cross-talk between different regulatory levels, including adjustment of metabolism and gene expression for physiological and morphological adaptation. In this review, information about metabolic regulation in response to drought, extreme temperature, and salinity stress is summarized and the signalling events involved in mediating stress-induced metabolic changes are presented. © 2011 The Author.


Furner I.J.,University of Cambridge | Matzke M.,Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology
Current Opinion in Plant Biology | Year: 2011

The primary sequence of the genome is broadly constant and superimposed upon that constancy is the postreplicative modification of a small number of cytosine residues to 5-methylcytosine. The pattern of methylation is non-random; some sequence contexts are frequently methylated and some rarely methylated and some regions of the genome are highly methylated and some rarely methylated. Once established, methylation is not static: it can potentially change in response to developmental or environmental cues and this may result in correlated changes in gene expression. Changes can occur passively owing to a failure to maintain DNA methylation through rounds of DNA replication, or actively, through the action of enzymes with DNA glycosylase activity. Recent advances in genetic analyses and the generation of high resolution, genome-wide methylation maps are revealing in unprecedented detail the patterns and dynamic changes of DNA methylation in plants. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.


Gutzat R.,Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology | Mittelsten Scheid O.,Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology
Current Opinion in Plant Biology | Year: 2012

Stressful conditions for plants can originate from numerous physical, chemical and biological factors, and plants have developed a plethora of survival strategies including developmental and morphological adaptations, specific signaling and defense pathways as well as innate and acquired immunity. While it has become clear in recent years that many stress responses involve epigenetic components, we are far from understanding the mechanisms and molecular interactions. Extending our knowledge is fundamental, not least for plant breeding and conservation biology. This review will highlight recent insights into epigenetic stress responses at the level of signaling, chromatin modification, and potentially heritable consequences. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.


Vrbsky J.,Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology
PLoS genetics | Year: 2010

Chromosome termini form a specialized type of heterochromatin that is important for chromosome stability. The recent discovery of telomeric RNA transcripts in yeast and vertebrates raised the question of whether RNA-based mechanisms are involved in the formation of telomeric heterochromatin. In this study, we performed detailed analysis of chromatin structure and RNA transcription at chromosome termini in Arabidopsis. Arabidopsis telomeres display features of intermediate heterochromatin that does not extensively spread to subtelomeric regions which encode transcriptionally active genes. We also found telomeric repeat-containing transcripts arising from telomeres and centromeric loci, a portion of which are processed into small interfering RNAs. These telomeric siRNAs contribute to the maintenance of telomeric chromatin through promoting methylation of asymmetric cytosines in telomeric (CCCTAAA)(n) repeats. The formation of telomeric siRNAs and methylation of telomeres relies on the RNA-dependent DNA methylation pathway. The loss of telomeric DNA methylation in rdr2 mutants is accompanied by only a modest effect on histone heterochromatic marks, indicating that maintenance of telomeric heterochromatin in Arabidopsis is reinforced by several independent mechanisms. In conclusion, this study provides evidence for an siRNA-directed mechanism of chromatin maintenance at telomeres in Arabidopsis.


Tamaru H.,Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology
Genes and Development | Year: 2010

Heterochromatin is typically highly condensed, gene-poor, and transcriptionally silent, whereas euchromatin is less condensed, gene-rich, andmore accessible to transcription. Besides acting as a graveyard for selfish mobile DNA repeats, heterochromatin contributes to important biological functions, such as chromosome segregation during cell division. Multiple features of heterochromatin - including the presence or absence of specific histone modifications, DNAmethylation, and small RNAs - have been implicated in distinguishing heterochromatin from euchromatin in various organisms. Cells malfunction if the genome fails to restrict repressive chromatin marks within heterochromatin domains. How euchromatin and heterochromatin territories are confined remains poorly understood. Recent studies from the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana, and the filamentous fungusNeurospora crassa have revealed a new role for Jumonji C (JmjC) domain-containing proteins in protecting euchromatin from heterochromatin marks. © 2010 by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

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