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.
One of the main strengths of Arabidopsis thaliana as a model species is the impressive number of public resources available to the scientific community. Exploring species genetic diversity--and therefore adaptation--relies on collections of individuals from natural populations taken from diverse environments. Nevertheless, due to a few mislabeling events or genotype mixtures, some variants available in stock centers have been misidentified, causing inconsistencies and limiting the potential of genetic analyses. To improve the identification of natural accessions, we genotyped 1311 seed stocks from our Versailles Arabidopsis Stock Center and from other collections to determine their molecular profiles at 341 single nucleotide polymorphism markers. These profiles were used to compare genotypes at both the intra- and inter-accession levels. We confirmed previously described inconsistencies and revealed new ones, and suggest likely identities for accessions whose lineage had been lost. We also developed two new tools: a minimal fingerprint computation to quickly verify the identity of an accession, and an optimized marker set to assist in the identification of unknown or mixed accessions. These tools are available on a dedicated web interface called ANATool (https://www.versailles.inra.fr/ijpb/crb/anatool) that provides a simple and efficient means to verify or determine the identity of A. thaliana accessions in any laboratory, without the need for any specific or expensive technology.
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.
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