The epidermal cells of the seed coat of certain species accumulate polysaccharides during seed development for cell wall reinforcement or release on imbibition to form mucilage. Seed-coat epidermal cells show natural variation in their structure and mucilage production, which could explain the diverse ecophysiological roles proposed for the latter. Arabidopsis mucilage mutants have proved to be an important tool for the identification of genes involved in the production of seed-coat polysaccharides.
Natural killer cells are controlled by peptide selective inhibitory receptors for MHC class I, including the killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs). Despite having similar ligands, KIR2DL2 and KIR2DL3 confer different levels of protection to infectious disease. To investigate how changes in peptide repertoire may differentially affect NK cell reactivity, NK cells from KIR2DL2 and KIR2DL3 homozygous donors were tested for activity against different combinations of strong inhibitory (VAPWNSFAL), weak inhibitory (VAPWNSRAL) and antagonist peptide (VAPWNSDAL). KIR2DL3-positive NK cells were more sensitive to changes in the peptide content of MHC class I than KIR2DL2-positive NK cells. These differences were observed for the weakly inhibitory peptide VAPWNSRAL in single peptide and double peptide experiments (p<0.01 and p<0.03 respectively). More significant differences were observed in experiments using all three peptides (p<0.0001). Mathematical modeling of the experimental data demonstrated that VAPWNSRAL was dominant over VAPWNSFAL in distinguishing KIR2DL3- from KIR2DL2-positive donors. Donors with different KIR genotypes have different responses to changes in the peptide bound by MHC class I. Differences in the response to the peptide content of MHC class I may be one mechanism underlying the protective effects of different KIR genes against infectious disease. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Arabidopsis seeds rapidly release hydrophilic polysaccharides from the seed coat on imbibition. These form a heavy mucilage layer around the seed that makes it sink in water. Fourteen natural Arabidopsis variants from central Asia and Scandinavia were identified with seeds that have modified mucilage release and float. Four of these have a novel mucilage phenotype with almost none of the released mucilage adhering to the seed and the absence of cellulose microfibrils. Mucilage release was modified in the variants by ten independent causal mutations in four different loci. Seven distinct mutations affected one locus, coding the MUM2 ?-D-galactosidase, and represent a striking example of allelic heterogeneity. The modification of mucilage release has thus evolved a number of times independently in two restricted geographical zones. All the natural mutants identified still accumulated mucilage polysaccharides in seed coat epidermal cells. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) relaxometry their production and retention was shown to reduce water mobility into internal seed tissues during imbibition, which would help to maintain seed buoyancy. Surprisingly, despite released mucilage being an excellent hydrogel it did not increase the rate of water uptake by internal seed tissues and is more likely to play a role in retaining water around the seed.
Imbibed seeds of the Arabidopsis thaliana accession Djarly are affected in mucilage release from seed coat epidermal cells. The impaired locus was identified as a pectin methylesterase inhibitor gene, PECTIN METHYLESTERASE INHIBITOR6 (PMEI6), specifically expressed in seed coat epidermal cells at the time when mucilage polysaccharides are accumulated. This spatio-temporal regulation appears to be modulated by GLABRA2 and LEUNIG HOMOLOG/MUCILAGE MODIFIED1, as expression of PMEI6 is reduced in mutants of these transcription regulators. In pmei6, mucilage release was delayed and outer cell walls of epidermal cells did not fragment. Pectin methylesterases (PMEs) demethylate homogalacturonan (HG), and the majority of HG found in wild-type mucilage was in fact derived from outer cell wall fragments. This correlated with the absence of methylesterified HG labeling in pmei6, whereas transgenic plants expressing the PMEI6 coding sequence under the control of the 35S promoter had increased labeling of cell wall fragments. Activity tests on seeds from pmei6 and 35S:PMEI6 transgenic plants showed that PMEI6 inhibits endogenous PME activities, in agreement with reduced overall methylesterification of mucilage fractions and demucilaged seeds. Another regulator of PME activity in seed coat epidermal cells, the subtilisin-like Ser protease SBT1.7, acts on different PMEs, as a pmei6 sbt1.7 mutant showed an additive phenotype.
Imbibed Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) seeds are encapsulated by mucilage that is formed of hydrated polysaccharides released from seed coat epidermal cells. The mucilage is structured with water-soluble and adherent layers, with cellulose present uniquely in an inner domain of the latter. Using a reverse-genetic approach to identify the cellulose synthases (CESAs) that produce mucilage cellulose, cesa5 mutants were shown to be required for the correct formation of these layers. Expression of CESA5 in the seed coat was specific to epidermal cells and coincided with the accumulation of mucilage polysaccharides in their apoplast. Analysis of sugar composition showed that although total sugar composition or amounts were unchanged, their partition between layers was different in the mutant, with redistribution from adherent to water-soluble mucilage. The macromolecular characteristics of the water-soluble mucilage were also modified. In accordance with a role for CESA5 in mucilage cellulose synthesis, crystalline cellulose contents were reduced in mutant seeds and birefringent microfibrils were absent from adherent mucilage. Although the mucilage-modified5 mutant showed similar defects to cesa5 in the distribution of sugar components between water-soluble and adherent mucilage, labeling of residual adherent mucilage indicated that cesa5 contained less cellulose and less pectin methyl esterification. Together, the results demonstrate that CESA5 plays a major and essential role in cellulose production in seed mucilage, which is critical for the establishment of mucilage structured in layers and domains.
On water deficit, abscisic acid (ABA) induces stomata closure to reduce water loss by transpiration. To identify Arabidopsis thaliana mutants which transpire less on drought, infrared thermal imaging of leaf temperature has been used to screen for suppressors of an ABA-deficient mutant (aba3-1) cold-leaf phenotype. Three novel mutants, called hot ABA-deficiency suppressor (has), have been identified with hot-leaf phenotypes in the absence of the aba3 mutation. The defective genes imparted no apparent modification to ABA production on water deficit, were inherited recessively and enhanced ABA responses indicating that the proteins encoded are negative regulators of ABA signalling. All three mutants showed ABA-hypersensitive stomata closure and inhibition of root elongation with little modification of growth and development in non-stressed conditions. The has2 mutant also exhibited increased germination inhibition by ABA, while ABA-inducible gene expression was not modified on dehydration, indicating the mutated gene affects early ABA-signalling responses that do not modify transcript levels. In contrast, weak ABA-hypersensitivity relative to mutant developmental phenotypes suggests that HAS3 regulates drought responses by both ABA-dependent and independent pathways. has1 mutant phenotypes were only apparent on stress or ABA treatments, and included reduced water loss on rapid dehydration. The HAS1 locus thus has the required characteristics for a targeted approach to improving resistance to water deficit. In contrast to has2, has1 exhibited only minor changes in susceptibility to Dickeya dadantii despite similar ABA-hypersensitivity, indicating that crosstalk between ABA responses to this pathogen and drought stress can occur through more than one point in the signalling pathway.
Water economy in agricultural practices is an issue that is being addressed through studies aimed at understanding both plant water-use efficiency (WUE), i.e. biomass produced per water consumed, and responses to water shortage. In the model species Arabidopsis thaliana, the ESKIMO1 (ESK1) gene has been described as involved in freezing, cold and salt tolerance as well as in water economy: esk1 mutants have very low evapo-transpiration rates and high water-use efficiency. In order to establish ESK1 function, detailed characterization of esk1 mutants has been carried out. The stress hormone ABA (abscisic acid) was present at high levels in esk1 compared to wild type, nevertheless, the weak water loss of esk1 was independent of stomata closure through ABA biosynthesis, as combining mutant in this pathway with esk1 led to additive phenotypes. Measurement of root hydraulic conductivity suggests that the esk1 vegetative apparatus suffers water deficit due to a defect in water transport. ESK1 promoter-driven reporter gene expression was observed in xylem and fibers, the vascular tissue responsible for the transport of water and mineral nutrients from the soil to the shoots, via the roots. Moreover, in cross sections of hypocotyls, roots and stems, esk1 xylem vessels were collapsed. Finally, using Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, severe chemical modifications of xylem cell wall composition were highlighted in the esk1 mutants. Taken together our findings show that ESK1 is necessary for the production of functional xylem vessels, through its implication in the laying down of secondary cell wall components.
Seeds play a fundamental role in colonization of the environment by spermatophytes, and seeds harvested from crops are the main food source for human beings. Knowledge of seed biology is therefore important for both fundamental and applied issues. This review on seed biology illustrates the important progress made in the field of Arabidopsis seed research over the last decade. Access to omics tools, including the inventory of genes deduced from sequencing of the Arabidopsis genome, has speeded up the analysis of biological functions operating in seeds. This review covers the following processes: seed and seed coat development, seed reserve accumulation, seed dormancy and seed germination. We present new insights in these various fields and describe ongoing biotechnology approaches to improve seed characteristics in crops.
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