PhD student, University of Cape Town (currently spending six months at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane)
How does this remarkable plant survive loss of 95% of its subcellular water?
Resurrection plants are these truly wonderful plants which are able to withstand total subcellular water loss - they lose all of their free water and enter into a dormant state known as anhydrobiosis. They are able to 'resurrect' from this dormant state within 24-48 hours of watering. Dormancy can be maintained for months to years, depending on the species. The focus of my PhD project is how one of these plants, Xerophyta viscosa, alters its gene expression profile to prevent cellular death during desiccation. It is emerging as a model resurrection species, with the genome recently published. If we can understand how cellular death is prevented in this species, we may be one step closer to engineering crop plants with improved drought tolerance in an ever-warming world.
Abstract: Provides a first comprehensive review of integrated physiological and molecular aspects of desiccation tolerance Xerophyta viscosa. A synopsis of biotechnological studies being undertaken to improve drought tolerance in maize is given. Xerophyta viscosa (Baker) is a monocotyledonous resurrection plant from the family Vellociacea that occurs in summer-rainfall areas of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It inhabits rocky terrain in exposed grasslands and frequently experiences periods of water deficit. Being a resurrection plant it tolerates the loss of 95% of total cellular water, regaining full metabolic competency within 3 days of rehydration. In this paper, we review some of the molecular and physiological adaptations that occur during various stages of dehydration of X. viscosa, these being functionally grouped into early and late responses, which might be relevant to the attainment of desiccation tolerance. During early drying (to 55% RWC) photosynthesis is shut down, there is increased presence and activity of housekeeping antioxidants and a redirection of metabolism to the increased formation of sucrose and raffinose family oligosaccharides. Other metabolic shifts suggest water replacement in vacuoles proposed to facilitate mechanical stabilization. Some regulatory processes observed include increased presence of a linker histone H1 variant, a Type 2C protein phosphatase, a calmodulin- and an ERD15-like protein. During the late stages of drying (to 10% RWC) there was increased expression of several proteins involved in signal transduction, and retroelements speculated to be instrumental in gene silencing. There was induction of antioxidants not typically found in desiccation-sensitive systems, classical stress-associated proteins (HSP and LEAs), proteins involved in structural stabilization and those associated with changes in various metabolite pools during drying. Metabolites accumulated in this stage are proposed, inter alia, to facilitate subcellular stabilization by vitrification process which can include glass- and ionic liquid formation.
Pub.: 23 May '15, Pinned: 29 Aug '17
Abstract: The desiccation transcriptome of the resurrection plant C. plantagineum is composed of conserved protein coding transcripts, taxonomically restricted transcripts and recently evolved non-protein coding transcripts. Research in resurrection plants has been hampered by the lack of genome sequence information, but recently introduced sequencing technologies overcome this limitation partially and provide access to the transcriptome of these plants. Transcriptome studies showed that mechanisms involved in desiccation tolerance are conserved in resurrection plants, seeds and pollen. The accumulation of protective molecules such as sugars and LEA proteins are major components in desiccation tolerance. Leaf folding, chloroplast protection and protection during rehydration must involve specific molecular mechanisms, but the basis of such mechanisms is mainly unknown. The study of regulatory regions of a desiccation-induced C. plantagineum gene suggests that cis-regulatory elements may be responsible for expression variations in desiccation tolerant and non-desiccation-tolerant plants. The analysis of the C. plantagineum transcriptome also revealed that part of it is composed of taxonomically restricted genes (TRGs) and non-protein coding RNAs (ncRNAs). TRGs are known to code for new traits required for the adaptation of organisms to particular environmental conditions. Thus the study of TRGs from resurrection plants should reveal species-specific functions related to the desiccation tolerance phenotype. Non-protein coding RNAs can regulate gene expression at epigenetic, transcriptional and post-transcriptional level and thus these RNAs may be key players in the rewiring of regulatory networks of desiccation-related genes in C. plantagineum.
Pub.: 24 May '15, Pinned: 29 Aug '17
Abstract: Maintaining a strong antioxidant system is essential for preventing drought-induced oxidative stress. Thus, in the present study we investigated the role of some non-enzymic and enzymic antioxidants in desiccation tolerance of Haberlea rhodopensis. The effects of high light upon desiccation on antioxidant capacity was estimated by comparing the response of shade and sun plants. The significant enhancement of the antioxidant capacity at 8% RWC corresponded to an enormous increase in flavonoid content. The important role of ascorbate-glutathione cycle in overcoming oxidative stress during drying of H. rhodopensis was established. The antioxidant capacity increased upon dehydration of both shade and sun plants but some differences in non-enzymatic and enzymatic antioxidants were observed. Investigations on the role of polyphenols in desiccation tolerance are scarce. In the present study the polyphenol profiles (fingerprints) of the resurrection plant Haberlea rhodopensis, including all components of the complex are obtained for the first time. It was clarified that the polyphenol complex of H. rhodopensis includes only two types of glycosides - phenylethanoid glucosides and hispidulin 8-C-glucosides. Upon desiccation the polyphenol content increase and the main role of phenylethanoid glucosides in the protection of H. rhodopensis was revealed.
Pub.: 08 Mar '17, Pinned: 29 Aug '17
Abstract: Osmotin is a key protein associated with abiotic and biotic stress response in plants. In this study, an osmotin from the resurrection plant Tripogon loliiformis (TlOsm) was characterized and functionally analyzed under abiotic stress conditions in T. loliiformis as well as in transgenic Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) and Oryza sativa (rice) plants. Real-time PCR analysis on mixed elicitor cDNA libraries from T. loliiformis showed that TlOsm was upregulated a thousand-fold during the early stages of osmotic stresses (cold, drought, and salinity) in both shoots and roots but down-regulated in shoots during heat stress. There was no change in TlOsm gene expression in roots of heat-stressed plants and during plant development. The plasma membrane localization of TlOsm was demonstrated in fluorescent-tagged TlOsm tobacco plants by confocal laser scanning microscopic analysis. Transgenic rice plants expressing TlOsm were assessed for enhanced tolerance to salinity, drought and cold stresses. Constitutively expressed TlOsm in transgenic rice plants showed increased tolerance to cold, drought, and salinity stresses when compared to the wild type and vector control counterparts. This was evidenced by maintained growth, retained higher water content and membrane integrity, and improved survival rate of TlOsm-expressing plants. The results thus indicate the involvement of TlOsm in plant response to multiple abiotic stresses, possibly through the signaling pathway, and highlight its potential applications for engineering crops with improved tolerance to cold, drought and salinity stress.
Pub.: 04 May '17, Pinned: 29 Aug '17