Plants that have experienced several exposures to dehydration stress show increased resistance to future exposures by producing faster and/or stronger reactions, while many dehydration stress responding genes in Arabidopsis thaliana super-induce their transcription as a 'memory' from the previous encounter. A previously unknown, rather unusual, memory response pattern is displayed by a subset of the dehydration stress response genes. Despite robustly responding to a first stress, these genes return to their initial, pre-stressed, transcript levels during the watered recovery; surprisingly, they do not respond further to subsequent stresses of similar magnitude and duration. This transcriptional behavior defines the 'revised-response' memory genes. Here, we investigate the molecular mechanisms regulating this transcription memory behavior. Potential roles of abscisic acid (ABA), of transcription factors (TFs) from the ABA signaling pathways (ABF2/3/4 and MYC2), and of histone modifications (H3K4me3 and H3K27me3) as factors in the revised-response transcription memory patterns are elucidated. We identify the TF MYC2 as the critical component for the memory behavior of a specific subset of MYC2-dependent genes.
Despite the proven correlation between gene transcriptional activity and the levels of tri-methyl marks on histone 3 lysine4 (H3K4me3) of their nucleosomes, whether H3K4me3 contributes to, or 'registers', activated transcription is still controversial. Other questions of broad relevance are whether histone-modifying proteins are involved in the recruitment of Pol II and the general transcription machinery and whether they have roles other than their enzyme activities. We address these questions as well as the roles of the ARABIDOPSIS HOMOLOG OF TRITHORAX1 (ATX1), of the COMPASS-related (AtCOMPASS) protein complex, and of their product, H3K4me3, at ATX1-dependent genes. We suggest that the ambiguity about the role of H3K4me3 as an activating mark is due to the unknown duality of the ATX1/AtCOMPASS to facilitate PIC assembly and to generate H3K4me3, which is essential for activating transcriptional elongation.
Plants subjected to a prior dehydration stress were seen to have altered transcriptional responses during a subsequent dehydration stress for up to 5 days after the initial stress. The abscisic acid (ABA) inducible RD29B gene of Arabidopsis thaliana was strongly induced after the first stress and displayed transcriptional memory with transcript levels nine-fold higher during the second dehydration stress. These increased transcript levels were due to an increased rate of transcription and are associated with an altered chromatin template during the recovery interval between the dehydration stresses. Here we use a combination of promoter deletion/substitutions, mutants in the trans-acting transcription factors and their upstream protein kinases, and treatments with exogenous ABA or dehydration stress to advance our understanding of the features required for transcriptional memory of RD29B. ABA Response Elements (ABREs) are sufficient to confer transcriptional memory on a minimal promoter, although there is a context effect from flanking sequences. Different mutations in Snf1 Related Protein Kinase 2 (SnRK2) genes positively and negatively affected the response, suggesting that this effect is important for transcriptional memory. Although exogenous ABA treatments could prime transcriptional memory, a second ABA treatment was not sufficient to activate transcriptional memory. Therefore, we concluded that transcriptional memory requires ABA and an ABA-independent factor that is induced or activated by a subsequent dehydration stress and directly or indirectly results in a more active RD29B chromatin template. These results advance our knowledge of the cis- and trans-acting factors that are required for transcriptional memory of RD29B.
Pre-exposing plants to diverse abiotic stresses may alter their physiological and transcriptional responses to a subsequent stress, suggesting a form of "stress memory". Arabidopsis thaliana plants that have experienced multiple exposures to dehydration stress display transcriptional behavior suggesting "memory" from an earlier stress. Genes that respond to a first stress by up-regulating or down-regulating their transcription but in a subsequent stress provide a significantly different response define the 'memory genes' category. Genes responding similarly to each stress form the 'non-memory' category. It is unknown whether such memory responses exists in other Angiosperm lineages and whether memory is an evolutionarily conserved response to repeated dehydration stresses.
Pre-exposure to a stress may alter the plant's cellular, biochemical, and/or transcriptional responses during future encounters as a 'memory' from the previous stress. Genes increasing transcription in response to a first dehydration stress, but producing much higher transcript levels in a subsequent stress, represent the super-induced 'transcription memory' genes in Arabidopsis thaliana. The chromatin environment (histone H3 tri-methylations of Lys 4 and Lys 27, H3K4me3, and H3K27me3) studied at five dehydration stress memory genes revealed existence of distinct memory-response subclasses that responded differently to CLF deficiency and displayed different transcriptional activities during the watered recovery periods. Among the most important findings is the novel aspect of the H3K27me3 function observed at specific dehydration stress memory genes. In contrast to its well-known role as a chromatin repressive mechanism at developmentally regulated genes, H3K27me3 did not prevent transcription from the dehydration stress-responding genes. The high H3K27me3 levels present during transcriptionally inactive states did not interfere with the transition to active transcription and with H3K4me3 accumulation. H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 marks function independently and are not mutually exclusive at the dehydration stress-responding memory genes.
How plants respond to dehydration stress has been extensively researched. However, how plants respond to multiple consecutive stresses is virtually unknown. Pre-exposure to various abiotic stresses (including dehydration) may alter plants subsequent responses by improving resistance to future exposures. These observations have led to the concept of stress memory implying that during subsequent exposures plants provide responses that are different from those during their first encounter with the stress. Genes that provide altered responses in a subsequent stress define the memory genes category; genes responding similarly to each stress form the non-memory category.
Emerging evidence suggests that the molecular mechanisms driving the responses of plants to environmental stresses are associated with specific chromatin modifications. Here, we demonstrate that the Arabidopsis trithorax-like factor ATX1, which trimethylates histone H3 at lysine?4 (H3K4me3), is involved in dehydration stress signaling in both abscisic acid (ABA)-dependent and ABA-independent pathways. The loss of function of ATX1 results in decreased germination rates, larger stomatal apertures, more rapid transpiration and decreased tolerance to dehydration stress in atx1 plants. This deficiency is caused in part by reduced ABA biosynthesis in atx1 plants resulting from decreased transcript levels from NCED3, which encodes a key enzyme controlling ABA production. Dehydration stress increased ATX1 binding to NCED3, and ATX1 was required for the increased levels of NCED3 transcripts and nucleosomal H3K4me3 that occurred during dehydration stress. Mechanistically, ATX1 affected the quantity of RNA polymerase?II bound to NCED3. By upregulating NCED3 transcription and ABA production, ATX1 influenced ABA-regulated pathways and genes. ATX1 also affected the expression of ABA-independent genes, implicating ATX1 in diverse dehydration stress-response mechanisms in Arabidopsis.
The Arabidopsis thaliana trithorax-like protein, ATX1, shares common structural domains, has similar histone methyltransferase (HMT) activity, and belongs in the same phylogenetic subgroup as its animal counterparts. Most of our knowledge of the role of HMTs in trimethylating lysine 4 of histone H3 (H3K4me3) in transcriptional regulation comes from studies of yeast and mammalian homologs. Little is known about the mechanism by which ATX1, or any other HMT of plant origin, affects transcription. Here, we provide insights into how ATX1 influences transcription at regulated genes, playing two distinct roles. At promoters, ATX1 is required for TATA binding protein (TBP) and RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) recruitment. In a subsequent event, ATX1 is recruited by a phosphorylated form of Pol II to the +300-bp region of transcribed sequences, where it trimethylates nucleosomes. In support of this model, inhibition of phosphorylation of the C-terminal domain of Pol II reduced the amounts of H3K4me3 and ATX1 bound at the +300-nucleotide region. Importantly, these changes did not reduce the occupancy of ATX1, TBP, or Pol II at promoters. Our results indicate that ATX1 affects transcription at target genes by a mechanism distinct from its ability to trimethylate H3K4 within genes.
Eukaryotes produce multiple products from a single gene locus by alternative splicing, translation or promoter usage as mechanisms expanding the complexity of their proteome. Trithorax proteins, including the Arabidopsis Trithorax-like protein ATX1, are histone modifiers regulating gene activity. Here, we report that a novel member of the Trithorax family has a role unrelated to chromatin. It is encoded from an internal promoter in the ATX1 locus as an isoform containing only the SET domain (soloSET). It is located exclusively in the cytoplasm and its substrate is the elongation factor 1A (EF1A). Loss of SET, but not of the histone modifying ATX1-SET activity, affects cytoskeletal actin bundling illustrating that the two isoforms have distinct functions in Arabidopsis cells.
The molecular mechanisms of genome reprogramming during transcriptional responses to stress are associated with specific chromatin modifications. Available data, however, describe histone modifications only at individual plant genes induced by stress. We have no knowledge of chromatin modifications taking place at genes whose transcription has been down-regulated or on the genome-wide chromatin modification patterns that occur during the plants response to dehydration stress.
Changes in gene expression enable organisms to respond to environmental stress. Levels of cellular lipid second messengers, such as the phosphoinositide PtdIns5P, change in response to a variety of stresses and can modulate the localization, conformation and activity of a number of intracellular proteins. The plant trithorax factor (ATX1) tri-methylates the lysine 4 residue of histone H3 (H3K4me3) at gene coding sequences, which positively correlates with gene transcription. Microarray analysis has identified a target gene (WRKY70) that is regulated by both ATX1 and by the exogenous addition of PtdIns5P in Arabidopsis. Interestingly, ATX1 contains a PtdIns5P interaction domain (PHD finger) and thus, phosphoinositide signaling, may link environmental stress to changes in gene transcription.
Plants respond to environmental stresses by altering transcription of genes involved in the response. The chromatin modifier ATX1 regulates expression of a large number of genes; consequently, factors that affect ATX1 activity would also influence expression from ATX1-regulated genes. Here, we demonstrate that dehydration is such a factor implicating ATX1 in the plants response to drought. In addition, we report that a hitherto unknown Arabidopsis gene, At3g10550, encodes a phosphoinositide 3-phosphatase related to the animal myotubularins (AtMTM1). Myotubularin activities in plants have not been described and herein, we identify an overlapping set of genes co-regulated by ATX1 and AtMTM under drought conditions. We propose that these shared genes represent the ultimate targets of partially overlapping branches of the pathways of the nuclear ATX1 and the cytoplasmic AtMTM1. Our analyses offer first genome-wide insights into the relationship of an epigenetic factor and a lipid phosphatase from the other end of a shared drought responding pathway in Arabidopsis.
The SET domain-containing genes of the TRITHORAX family encode epigenetic factors that maintain the expression of targeted genes. Trithorax homologs have been found in both animals and plants. Since these are thought to have evolved multicellularity independently, common mechanisms of epigenetic regulation must be evolutionarily ancient and derived from a common ancestor. In addition, each lineage has evolved unique mechanisms to expand the original repertoire of epigenetic functions. Phylogenetic analysis of SET domain proteins has outlined some intriguing evolutionary trends. In plants, epigenetic gene silencing mechanisms have been aggressively pursued. In contrast, studies of epigenetic mechanisms maintaining active gene expression have been scarce. The goal of this review is to draw attention to this gap. Trithorax function in plants are analyzed here in an evolutionary context tracing phylogenetic relationships between the histone methyltransferase activities in unicellular and multicellular domains of life. The involvement of two members of the Arabidopsis Trithorax family, ARABIDOPSIS HOMOLOG of TRITHORAX1 (ATX1), and ARABIDOPSIS HOMOLOG of TRITHORAX2 (ATX2), in developmental and adaptation processes of the plant is overviewed.
The plant cell wall is a dynamic structure playing important roles in the control of plant cell growth and differentiation. These processes involve global reprogramming of the genome driven by dynamic changes in chromatin structure. The chromatin modifier ARABIDOPSIS HOMOLOG OF TRITHORAX (ATX1) methylates lysine residue 4 on histone H3 (H3K4me), acting as an epigenetic mark on associated genes. The remarkable overrepresentation in the ATX1-regulated gene fraction of genes encoding plasma membrane and cell wall-remodeling activities suggested a link between two separate factors affecting growth, development and adaptation in Arabidopsis: the wall-modifying activities regulating cell extension, growth and fate, and the epigenetic mechanisms regulating chromatin structure and gene expression. A co-regulated fraction of specific wall-modifying proteins suggests that they may function together. Here, we study the ATX1-dependent expression of the gene encoding the wall-loosening factor XTH33 as a test case for development- and tissue-specific effects displayed by the chromatin modifier. In addition, we show that XTH33 is, most likely, an integral plasma membrane protein. A putative transmembrane domain is conserved in some, but not all, XTH family members, suggesting that they may be differently positioned when functioning as wall modifiers.
Tri-methylated H3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3) is associated with transcriptionally active genes, but its function in the transcription process is still unclear. Point mutations in the catalytic domain of ATX1 (ARABIDOPSIS TRITHORAX1), a H3K4 methyltransferase, and RNAi knockdowns of subunits of the AtCOMPASS-like (Arabidopsis Complex Proteins Associated with Set) were used to address this question. We demonstrate that both ATX1 and AtCOMPASS-like are required for high level accumulation of TBP (TATA-binding protein) and Pol II at promoters and that this requirement is independent of the catalytic histone modifying activity. However, the catalytic function is critically required for transcription as H3K4me3 levels determine the efficiency of transcription elongation. The roles of H3K4me3, ATX1, and AtCOMPASS-like may be of a general relevance for transcription of Trithorax-activated eukaryotic genes.
Conserved domains are recognized as the building blocks of eukaryotic proteins. Domains showing a tendency to occur in diverse combinations (promiscuous domains) are involved in versatile architectures in proteins with different functions. Current models, based on global-level analyses of domain combinations in multiple genomes, have suggested that the propensity of some domains to associate with other domains in high-level architectures increases with organismal complexity. Alternative models using domain-based phylogenetic trees propose that domains have become promiscuous independently in different lineages through convergent evolution and are, thus, random with no functional or structural preferences. Here we test whether complex protein architectures have occurred by accretion from simpler systems and whether the appearance of multidomain combinations parallels organismal complexity. As a model, we analyze the modular evolution of the PWWP domain and ask whether its appearance in combinations with other domains into multidomain architectures is linked with the occurrence of more complex life-forms. Whether high-level combinations of domains are conserved and transmitted as stable units (cassettes) through evolution is examined in the genomes of plant or metazoan species selected for their established position in the evolution of the respective lineages.
Pre-exposure to stress may alter plants subsequent responses by producing faster and/or stronger reactions implying that plants exercise a form of stress memory. The mechanisms of plants stress memory responses are poorly understood leaving this fundamental biological question unanswered. Here we show that during recurring dehydration stresses Arabidopsis plants display transcriptional stress memory demonstrated by an increase in the rate of transcription and elevated transcript levels of a subset of the stress-response genes (trainable genes). During recovery (watered) states, trainable genes produce transcripts at basal (preinduced) levels, but remain associated with atypically high H3K4me3 and Ser5P polymerase II levels, indicating that RNA polymerase II is stalled. This is the first example of a stalled RNA polymerase II and its involvement in transcriptional memory in plants. These newly discovered phenomena might be a general feature of plant stress-response systems and could lead to novel approaches for increasing the flexibility of a plants ability to respond to the environment.
Myotubularin and myotubularin-related proteins are evolutionarily conserved in eukaryotes. Defects in their function result in muscular dystrophy, neuronal diseases and leukemia in humans. In contrast to the animal lineage, where genes encoding both active and inactive myotubularins (phosphoinositide 3-phosphatases) have appeared and proliferated in the basal metazoan group, myotubularin genes are not found in the unicellular relatives of green plants. However, they are present in land plants encoding proteins highly similar to the active metazoan enzymes. Despite their remarkable structural conservation, plant and animal myotubularins have significantly diverged in their functions. While loss of myotubularin function causes severe disease phenotypes in humans it is not essential for the cellular homeostasis under normal conditions in Arabidopsis thaliana. Instead, myotubularin deficiency is associated with altered tolerance to dehydration stress. The two Arabidopsis genes AtMTM1 and AtMTM2 have originated from a segmental chromosomal duplication and encode catalytically active enzymes. However, only AtMTM1 is involved in elevating the cellular level of phosphatidylinositol 5-phosphate in response to dehydration stress, and the two myotubularins differentially affect the Arabidopsis dehydration stress-responding transcriptome. AtMTM1 and AtMTM2 display different localization patterns in the cell, consistent with the idea that they associate with different membranes to perform specific functions. A single amino acid mutation in AtMTM2 (L250W) results in a dramatic loss of subcellular localization. Mutations in this region are linked to disease conditions in humans.
Plant development results from controlled cell divisions, structural modifications, and reorganizations of the cell wall. Thereby, regulation of cell wall behaviour takes place at multiple length scales involving compositional and architectural aspects in addition to various developmental and/or environmental factors. The physical properties of the primary wall are largely determined by the nature of the complex polymer network, which exhibits time-dependent behaviour representative of viscoelastic materials. Here, a dynamic nanoindentation technique is used to measure the time-dependent response and the viscoelastic behaviour of the cell wall in single living cells at a micron or sub-micron scale. With this approach, significant changes in storage (stiffness) and loss (loss of energy) moduli are captured among the tested cells. The results reveal hitherto unknown differences in the viscoelastic parameters of the walls of same-age similarly positioned cells of the Arabidopsis ecotypes (Col 0 and Ws 2). The technique is also shown to be sensitive enough to detect changes in cell wall properties in cells deficient in the activity of the chromatin modifier ATX1. Extensive computational modelling of the experimental measurements (i.e. modelling the cell as a viscoelastic pressure vessel) is used to analyse the influence of the wall thickness, as well as the turgor pressure, at the positions of our measurements. By combining the nanoDMA technique with finite element simulations quantifiable measurements of the viscoelastic properties of plant cell walls are achieved. Such techniques are expected to find broader applications in quantifying the influence of genetic, biological, and environmental factors on the nanoscale mechanical properties of the cell wall.
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