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Author ORCID ID is 0000000267023560
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  1. Background: Increasing the oil yield is a major objective for oilseed crop improvement. Oil biosynthesis and accumulation are influenced by multiple genes involved in embryo and seed development. The leafy cotyledon1 (LEC1) is a master regulator of embryo development that also enhances the expression of genes involved in fatty acid biosynthesis. We speculated that seed oil could be increased by targeted overexpression of a master regulating transcription factor for oil biosynthesis, using a downstream promoter for a gene in the oil biosynthesis pathway. To verify the effect of such a combination on seed oil content, we made constructs with maizemore » (Zea mays) ZmLEC1 driven by serine carboxypeptidase-like (SCPL17) and acyl carrier protein (ACP5) promoters, respectively, for expression in transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana and Camelina sativa. Results: Agrobacterium-mediated transformation successfully generated Arabidopsis and Camelina lines that overexpressed ZmLEC1 under the control of a seed-specific promoter. This overexpression does not appear to be detrimental to seed vigor under laboratory conditions and did not cause observable abnormal growth phenotypes throughout the life cycle of the plants. Overexpression of ZmLEC1 increased the oil content in mature seeds by more than 20% in Arabidopsis and 26% in Camelina. In conclusion: The findings suggested that the maize master regulator, ZmLEC1, driven by a downstream seed-specific promoter, can be used to increase oil production in Arabidopsis and Camelina and might be a promising target for increasing oil yield in oilseed crops.0« less
  2. Second-generation biofuels produced from biomass can help to decrease dependency on fossil fuels, bringing about many economic and environmental benefits. To make biomass more suitable for biorefinery use, we need a better understanding of plant cell wall biosynthesis. Increasing the ratio of C6 to C5 sugars in the cell wall and decreasing the lignin content are two important targets in engineering of plants that are more suitable for downstream processing for second-generation biofuel production. Here, we have studied the basic mechanisms of cell wall biosynthesis and identified genes involved in biosynthesis of pectic galactan, including the GALS1 galactan synthase andmore » the UDP-galactose/UDP-rhamnose transporter URGT1. We have engineered plants with a more suitable biomass composition by applying these findings, in conjunction with synthetic biology and gene stacking tools. Plants were engineered to have up to fourfold more pectic galactan in stems by overexpressing GALS1, URGT1, and UGE2, a UDP-glucose epimerase. Furthermore, the increased galactan trait was engineered into plants that were already engineered to have low xylan content by restricting xylan biosynthesis to vessels where this polysaccharide is essential. Finally, the high galactan and low xylan traits were stacked with the low lignin trait obtained by expressing the QsuB gene encoding dehydroshikimate dehydratase in lignifying cells. In conclusion, the results show that approaches to increasing C6 sugar content, decreasing xylan, and reducing lignin content can be combined in an additive manner. Thus, the engineered lines obtained by this trait-stacking approach have substantially improved properties from the perspective of biofuel production, and they do not show any obvious negative growth effects. The approach used in this study can be readily transferred to bioenergy crop plants.« less
  3. The role of seemingly non-enzymatic proteins in complexes interconverting UDP-arabinopyranose and UDP-arabinofuranose (UDP-arabinosemutases; UAMs) in the plant cytosol remains unknown. To shed light on their function, crystallographic and functional studies of the seemingly non-enzymatic UAM2 protein from Oryza sativa (OsUAM2) were undertaken. Here, X-ray diffraction data are reported, as well as analysis of the oligomeric state in the crystal and in solution. OsUAM2 crystallizes readily but forms highly radiation-sensitive crystals with limited diffraction power, requiring careful low-dose vector data acquisition. Using size-exclusion chromatography, it is shown that the protein is monomeric in solution. Finally, limited proteolysis was employed to demonstratemore » DTT-enhanced proteolytic digestion, indicating the existence of at least one intramolecular disulfide bridge or, alternatively, a requirement for a structural metal ion.« less
  4. UDP-glucuronic acid (UDP-GlcA) is the precursor of many plant cell wall polysaccharides and is required for production of seed mucilage. Following synthesis in the cytosol, it is transported into the lumen of the Golgi apparatus, where it is converted to UDP-galacturonic acid (UDP-GalA), UDP-arabinose, and UDP-xylose. To identify the Golgi-localized UDP-GlcA transporter, we screened Arabidopsis thaliana mutants in genes coding for putative nucleotide sugar transporters for altered seed mucilage, a structure rich in the GalA-containing polysaccharide rhamnogalacturonan I. As a result, we identified UUAT1, which encodes a Golgi-localized protein that transports UDP-GlcA and UDP-GalA in vitro. The seed coat ofmore » uuat1 mutants had less GalA, rhamnose, and xylose in the soluble mucilage, and the distal cell walls had decreased arabinan content. Cell walls of other organs and cells had lower arabinose levels in roots and pollen tubes, but no differences were observed in GalA or xylose contents. Furthermore, the GlcA content of glucuronoxylan in the stem was not affected in the mutant. Interestingly, the degree of homogalacturonan methylation increased in uuat1. These results suggest that this UDP-GlcA transporter plays a key role defining the seed mucilage sugar composition and that its absence produces pleiotropic effects in this component of the plant extracellular matrix.« less
  5. Glycosylinositol phosphorylceramides (GIPCs) are a class of glycosylated sphingolipids found in plants, fungi, and protozoa. These lipids are abundant in the plant plasma membrane, forming ~25% of total plasma membrane lipids. Little is known about the function of the glycosylated headgroup, but two recent studies have indicated that they play a key role in plant signaling and defense. Here, we show that a member of glycosyltransferase family 64, previously named ECTOPICALLY PARTING CELLS1, is likely a Golgi-localized GIPC-specific mannosyl-transferase, which we renamed GIPC MANNOSYL-TRANSFERASE1 (GMT1). Sphingolipid analysis revealed that the Arabidopsis thaliana gmt1 mutant almost completely lacks mannose-carrying GIPCs. Heterologousmore » expression of GMT1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) cv Bright Yellow 2 resulted in the production of non-native mannosylated GIPCs. gmt1 displays a severe dwarfed phenotype and a constitutive hypersensitive response characterized by elevated salicylic acid and hydrogen peroxide levels, similar to that we previously reported for the Golgi-localized, GIPC-specific, GDP-Man transporter GONST1 (Mortimer et al., 2013). Unexpectedly, we show that gmt1 cell walls have a reduction in cellulose content, although other matrix polysaccharides are unchanged.« less
  6. Calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CCaMK) has been shown to play an important role in abscisic acid (ABA)-induced antioxidant defense and enhance the tolerance of plants to drought stress. However, its downstream molecular events are poorly understood. Here, we identify a NAC transcription factor, ZmNAC84, in maize, which physically interacts with ZmCCaMK in vitro and in vivo. ZmNAC84 display a partially overlapping expression pattern with ZmCCaMK after ABA treatment and H 2O 2 is required for ABA-induced ZmNAC84 expression. Functional analysis reveals that ZmNAC84 is essential for ABA-induced antioxidant defense in a ZmCCaMK-dependent manner. Furthermore, ZmCCaMK directly phosphorylates S113 of ZmNAC84 inmore » vitro, and S113 is essential for the ABA-induced stimulation of antioxidant defense by ZmCCaMK. Moreover, overexpression of ZmNAC84 in tobacco can improve drought tolerance, and alleviate drought-induced oxidative damage of transgenic plants. These results define a mechanism for ZmCCaMK function in ABA-induced antioxidant defense, where ABA-produced H 2O 2 first induces expression of ZmCCaMK and ZmNAC84 and activates ZmCCaMK, and subsequently the activated ZmCCaMK phosphorylates ZmNAC84 at S113, thereby inducing antioxidant defense by activating downstream genes.« less

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