Publications

Journal Article
Galli, M, Liu Q, Moss BL, Malcomber S, Li W, Gaines C, Federici S, Roshkovan J, Meeley R, Nemhauser J et al..  2015.  Auxin signaling modules regulate maize inflorescence architecture. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 112:13372-13377. AbstractWebsite
In plants, small groups of pluripotent stem cells called axillary meristems are required for the formation of the branches and flowers that eventually establish shoot architecture and drive reproductive success. To ensure the proper formation of new axillary meristems, the specification of boundary regions is required for coordinating their development. We have identified two maize genes, BARREN INFLORESCENCE1 and BARREN INFLORESCENCE4 (BIF1 and BIF4), that regulate the early steps required for inflorescence formation. BIF1 and BIF4 encode AUXIN/INDOLE-3-ACETIC ACID (Aux/IAA) proteins, which are key components of the auxin hormone signaling pathway that is essential for organogenesis. Here we show that BIF1 and BIF4 are integral to auxin signaling modules that dynamically regulate the expression of BARREN STALK1 (BA1), a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcriptional regulator necessary for axillary meristem formation that shows a striking boundary expression pattern. These findings suggest that auxin signaling directly controls boundary domains during axillary meristem formation and define a fundamental mechanism that regulates inflorescence architecture in one of the most widely grown crop species.
Skirpan, A, Culler A H, Gallavotti A, Jackson D, Cohen JD, McSteen P.  2009.  BARREN INFLORESCENCE2 Interaction with ZmPIN1a Suggests a role in Auxin Transport During Maize Inflorescence Development. Plant Cell Physiol. 50:652-657. Abstract
Polar auxin transport, mediated by the PIN-FORMED (PIN) class of auxin efflux carriers, controls organ initiation in plants. In maize, BARREN INFLORESCENCE2 (BIF2) encodes a serine/threonine protein kinase co-orthologous to PINOID (PID), which regulates the subcellular localization of AtPIN1 in Arabidopsis. We show that BIF2 phosphorylates ZmPIN1a, a maize homolog of AtPIN1, in vitro and regulates ZmPIN1a subcellular localization in vivo, similar to the role of PID in Arabidopsis. In addition, bif2 mutant inflorescences have lower auxin levels later in development. We propose that BIF2 regulates auxin transport through direct regulation of ZmPIN1a during maize inflorescence development.
Gallavotti, A, Malcomber S, Gaines C, Stanfield S, Whipple C, Kellogg E, Schmidt RJ.  2011.  BARREN STALK FASTIGIATE1 is an AT-hook Protein Required for the Formation of Maize ears. Plant Cell. 23:1756-1771. AbstractWebsite
Ears are the seed-bearing inflorescences of maize (Zea mays) plants and represent a crucial component of maize yield. The first step in the formation of ears is the initiation of axillary meristems in the axils of developing leaves. In the classic maize mutant barren stalk fastigiate1 (baf1), first discovered in the 1950s, ears either do not form or, if they do, are partially fused to the main stalk. We positionally cloned Baf1 and found that it encodes a transcriptional regulator containing an AT-hook DNA binding motif. Single coorthologs of Baf1 are found in syntenic regions of brachypodium (Brachypodium distachyon), rice (Oryza sativa), and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), suggesting that the gene is likely present in all cereal species. Protein-protein interaction assays suggest that BAF1 is capable of forming homodimers and heterodimers with other members of the AT-hook family. Another transcriptional regulator required for ear initiation is the basic helix-loop-helix protein BARREN STALK1 (BA1). Genetic and expression analyses suggest that Baf1 is required to reach a threshold level of Ba1 expression for the initiation of maize ears. We propose that Baf1 functions in the demarcation of a boundary region essential for the specification of a stem cell niche.
Chatterjee, M, Tabi Z, Galli M, Malcomber S, Buck A, Muszynski M, Gallavotti A.  2014.  The boron efflux transporter ROTTEN EAR is required for maize inflorescence development and fertility. Plant Cell. (26):2962-2977. AbstractWebsite
Although boron has a relatively low natural abundance, it is an essential plant micronutrient. Boron deficiencies cause major crop losses in several areas of the world, affecting reproduction and yield in diverse plant species. Despite the importance of boron in crop productivity, surprisingly little is known about its effects on developing reproductive organs. We isolated a maize (Zea mays) mutant, called rotten ear (rte), that shows distinct defects in vegetative and reproductive development, eventually causing widespread sterility in its inflorescences, the tassel and the ear. Positional cloning revealed that rte encodes a membrane-localized boron efflux transporter, co-orthologous to the Arabidopsis thaliana BOR1 protein. Depending on the availability of boron in the soil, rte plants show a wide range of phenotypic defects that can be fully rescued by supplementing the soil with exogenous boric acid, indicating that rte is crucial for boron transport into aerial tissues. rte is expressed in cells surrounding the xylem in both vegetative and reproductive tissues and is required for meristem activity and organ development.We show that low boron supply to the inflorescences results in widespread defects in cell and cell wall integrity, highlighting the structural importance of boron in the formation of fully fertile reproductive organs.
O’Malley, RC, Huang SC, Song L, Lewsey MG, Bartlett A, Nery JR, Galli M, Gallavotti A, Ecker JR.  2016.  Cistrome and epicistrome features shape the regulatory DNA landscape. Cell. 165:1280-1292. AbstractWebsite
The cistrome is the complete set of transcription factor (TF) binding sites (cis-elements) in an organism, while an epicistrome incorporates tissue-specific DNA chemical modifications and TF-specific chemical sensitivities into these binding profiles. Robust methods to construct comprehensive cistrome and epicistrome maps are critical for elucidating complex transcriptional networks that underlie growth, behavior, and disease. Here, we describe DNA affinity purification sequencing (DAP-seq), a high-throughput TF binding site discovery method that interrogates genomic DNA with in-vitro-expressed TFs. Using DAP-seq, we defined the Arabidopsis cistrome by resolving motifs and peaks for 529 TFs. Because genomic DNA used in DAP-seq retains 5-methylcytosines, we determined that >75% (248/327) of Arabidopsis TFs surveyed were methylation sensitive, a property that strongly impacts the epicistrome landscape. DAP-seq datasets also yielded insight into the biology and binding site architecture of numerous TFs, demonstrating the value of DAP-seq for cost-effective cistromic and epicistromic annotation in any organism.
Chatterjee, M, Liu Q, Menello C, Galli M, Gallavotti A.  2017.  The Combined Action of Duplicated Boron Transporters Is Required for Maize Growth in Boron Deficient Conditions. Genetics. 206:2041-2051. AbstractWebsite
The micronutrient boron is essential in maintaining the structure of plant cell walls and is critical for high yields in crop species. Boron can move into plants by diffusion or by active and facilitated transport mechanisms. We recently showed that mutations in the maize boron efflux transporter ROTTEN EAR (RTE) cause severe developmental defects and sterility. RTE is part of a small gene family containing five additional members (RTE2-RTE6) that show tissue specific expression. The close paralogous gene RTE2 encodes a protein with 95% amino acid identity with RTE and is similarly expressed in shoot and root cells surrounding the vasculature. Despite sharing similar functions with RTE, mutations in the RTE2 gene do not cause growth defects in the shoot, even in boron deficient conditions. However, rte2 mutants strongly enhance the rte phenotype in soils with low boron content, producing shorter plants that fail to form all reproductive structures. The joint action of RTE and RTE2 is also required in root development. These defects can be fully complemented by supplying boric acid, suggesting that diffusion or additional transport mechanisms overcome active boron transport deficiencies in the presence of an excess of boron. Overall, these results suggest that RTE2 and RTE function are essential for maize shoot and root growth in boron deficient conditions.
Gallavotti, A, Long JA, Stanfield S, Yang X, Jackson D, Vollbrecht E, Schmidt RJ.  2010.  The Control of Axillary Meristem fate in the Maize Ramosa Pathway. Development. 137:2849-2856. AbstractWebsite
Plant axillary meristems are composed of highly organized, self-renewing stem cells that produce indeterminate branches or terminate in differentiated structures, such as the flowers. These opposite fates, dictated by both genetic and environmental factors, determine interspecific differences in the architecture of plants. The Cys(2)-His(2) zinc-finger transcription factor RAMOSA1 (RA1) regulates the fate of most axillary meristems during the early development of maize inflorescences, the tassel and the ear, and has been implicated in the evolution of grass architecture. Mutations in RA1 or any other known members of the ramosa pathway, RAMOSA2 and RAMOSA3, generate highly branched inflorescences. Here, we report a genetic screen for the enhancement of maize inflorescence branching and the discovery of a new regulator of meristem fate: the RAMOSA1 ENHANCER LOCUS2 (REL2) gene. rel2 mutants dramatically increase the formation of long branches in ears of both ra1 and ra2 mutants. REL2 encodes a transcriptional co-repressor similar to the TOPLESS protein of Arabidopsis, which is known to maintain apical-basal polarity during embryogenesis. REL2 is capable of rescuing the embryonic defects of the Arabidopsis topless-1 mutant, suggesting that REL2 also functions as a transcriptional co-repressor throughout development. We show by genetic and molecular analyses that REL2 physically interacts with RA1, indicating that the REL2/RA1 transcriptional repressor complex antagonizes the formation of indeterminate branches during maize inflorescence development. Our results reveal a novel mechanism for the control of meristem fate and the architecture of plants.
Galli, M and Gallavotti, A.  2016.  Expanding the regulatory network for meristem size in plants. Trends in Genetics. 32(6):372-383. AbstractWebsite
The remarkable plasticity of post-embryonic plant development is due to groups of stem-cell-containing structures called meristems. In the shoot, meristems continuously produce organs such as leaves, flowers, and stems. Nearly two decades ago the WUSCHEL/CLAVATA (WUS/CLV) negative feedback loop was established as being essential for regulating the size of shoot meristems by maintaining a delicate balance between stem cell proliferation and cell recruitment for the differentiation of lateral primordia. Recent research in various model species (Arabidopsis, tomato, maize, and rice) has led to discoveries of additional components that further refine and improve the current model of meristem regu- lation, adding new complexity to a vital network for plant growth and productivity.
Bartlett, A, O'Malley R, Huang SC, Galli M, Nery JR, Gallavotti A, Ecker JR.  2017.  Mapping genome-wide transcription factor binding sites using DAP-seq. Nature Protocols. 12(8):1659-1672. AbstractWebsite
To enable low-cost, high-throughput generation of cistrome and epicistrome maps for any organism, we developed DNA affinity purification sequencing (DAP-seq), a transcription factor (TF)-binding site (TFBS) discovery assay that couples affinity-purified TFs with next-generation sequencing of a genomic DNA library. The method is fast, inexpensive, and more easily scaled than chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq). DNA libraries are constructed using native genomic DNA from any source of interest, preserving cell- and tissue-specific chemical modifications that are known to affect TF binding (such as DNA methylation) and providing increased specificity as compared with in silico predictions based on motifs from methods such as protein-binding microarrays (PBMs) and systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX). The resulting DNA library is incubated with an affinity-tagged in vitro-expressed TF, and TF–DNA complexes are purified using magnetic separation of the affinity tag. Bound genomic DNA is eluted from the TF and sequenced using next-generation sequencing. Sequence reads are mapped to a reference genome, identifying genome-wide binding locations for each TF assayed, from which sequence motifs can then be derived. A researcher with molecular biology experience should be able to follow this protocol, processing up to 400 samples per week.
Gupta, S, Gallavotti A, Stryker GA, Schmidt RJ, Lal SK.  2005.  A Novel Class of Helitron-related Transposable Elements in Maize Contain Portions of Multiple Pseudogenes. Plant Mol Biol. 57:115-127. Abstract
We recently described a maize mutant caused by an insertion of a Helitron type transposable element (Lal, S.K., Giroux, M.J., Brendel, V., Vallejos, E. and Hannah, L.C., 2003, Plant Cell, 15: 381-391). Here we describe another Helitron insertion in the barren stalk1 gene of maize. The termini of a 6525 bp insertion in the proximal promoter region of the mutant reference allele of maize barren stalk1 gene (ba1-ref) shares striking similarity to the Helitron insertion we reported in the Shrunken-2 gene. This insertion is embedded with pseudogenes that differ from the pseudogenes discovered in the mutant Shrunken-2 insertion. Using the common terminal ends of the mutant insertions as a query, we discovered other Helitron insertions in maize BAC clones. Based on the comparison of the insertion site and PCR amplified genomic sequences, these elements inserted between AT dinucleotides. These putative non-autonomous Helitron insertions completely lacked sequences similar to RPA (replication protein A) and DNA Helicases reported in other species. A blastn analysis indicated that both the 5' and 3' termini of Helitrons are repeated in the maize genome. These data provide strong evidence that Helitron type transposable elements are active and may have played an essential role in the evolution and expansion of the maize genome.
Gallavotti, A. and Whipple, CJ.  2015.  Positional cloning in maize (Zea mays subsp. mays, Poaceae). Applications in Plant Sciences. 3:1400092.Website
Gallavotti, A, Yang Y, Schmidt RJ, Jackson D.  2008.  The Relationship Between Auxin Transport and Maize Branching. Plant Physiol. 147:1913-1923. Abstract
Maize (Zea mays) plants make different types of vegetative or reproductive branches during development. Branches develop from axillary meristems produced on the flanks of the vegetative or inflorescence shoot apical meristem. Among these branches are the spikelets, short grass-specific structures, produced by determinate axillary spikelet-pair and spikelet meristems. We investigated the mechanism of branching in maize by making transgenic plants expressing a native expressed endogenous auxin efflux transporter (ZmPIN1a) fused to yellow fluorescent protein and a synthetic auxin-responsive promoter (DR5rev) driving red fluorescent protein. By imaging these plants, we found that all maize branching events during vegetative and reproductive development appear to be regulated by the creation of auxin response maxima through the activity of polar auxin transporters. We also found that the auxin transporter ZmPIN1a is functional, as it can rescue the polar auxin transport defects of the Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) pin1-3 mutant. Based on this and on the groundbreaking analysis in Arabidopsis and other species, we conclude that branching mechanisms are conserved and can, in addition, explain the formation of axillary meristems (spikelet-pair and spikelet meristems) that are unique to grasses. We also found that BARREN STALK1 is required for the creation of auxin response maxima at the flanks of the inflorescence meristem, suggesting a role in the initiation of polar auxin transport for axillary meristem formation. Based on our results, we propose a general model for branching during maize inflorescence development.
Gallavotti, A.  2013.  The role of auxin in shaping shoot architecture. Journal of Experimental Botany. 64(9):2593-2608. AbstractWebsite
The variety of plant architectures observed in nature is predominantly determined by vegetative and reproductive branching patterns, the positioning of lateral organs, and differential stem elongation. Branches, lateral organs, and stems are the final products of the activity of meristems, groups of stem cells whose function is genetically deter- mined and environmentally influenced. Several decades of studies in different plant species have shed light on the essential role of the hormone auxin in plant growth and development. Auxin influences stem elongation and regulates the formation, activity, and fate of meristems, and has therefore been recognized as a major hormone shaping plant architecture. Increasing our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that regulate auxin function is necessary to understand how different plant species integrate a genetically determined developmental programme, the establish- ment of a body plan, with constant inputs from the surrounding environment. This information will allow us to develop the molecular tools needed to modify plant architecture in several crop species and in rapidly changing environments.
Gallavotti, A, Zhao Q, Kyozuka J, Meeley RB, Ritter MK, Doebley JF, Pè EM, Schmidt RJ.  2004.  The role of Barren Stalk1 in the Architecture of Maize. Nature. 432:630-635. Abstract
The architecture of higher plants is established through the activity of lateral meristems–small groups of stem cells formed during vegetative and reproductive development. Lateral meristems generate branches and inflorescence structures, which define the overall form of a plant, and are largely responsible for the evolution of different plant architectures. Here, we report the isolation of the barren stalk1 gene, which encodes a non-canonical basic helix-loop-helix protein required for the initiation of all aerial lateral meristems in maize. barren stalk1 represents one of the earliest genes involved in the patterning of maize inflorescences, and, together with the teosinte branched1 gene, it regulates vegetative lateral meristem development. The architecture of maize has been a major target of selection for early agriculturalists and modern farmers, because it influences harvesting, breeding strategies and mechanization. By sampling nucleotide diversity in the barren stalk1 region, we show that two haplotypes entered the maize gene pool from its wild progenitor, teosinte, and that only one was incorporated throughout modern inbreds, suggesting that barren stalk1 was selected for agronomic purposes.
Gallavotti, A, Barazesh S, Malcomber S, Hall D, Jackson D, Schmidt RJ, McSteen P.  2008.  Sparse Inflorescence1 Encodes a Monocot-specific YUCCA-like gene Required for Vegetative and Reproductive Development in Maize. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 105:15196-15201. Abstract
The plant growth hormone auxin plays a critical role in the initiation of lateral organs and meristems. Here, we identify and characterize a mutant, sparse inflorescence1 (spi1), which has defects in the initiation of axillary meristems and lateral organs during vegetative and inflorescence development in maize. Positional cloning shows that spi1 encodes a flavin monooxygenase similar to the YUCCA (YUC) genes of Arabidopsis, which are involved in local auxin biosynthesis in various plant tissues. In Arabidopsis, loss of function of single members of the YUC family has no obvious effect, but in maize the mutation of a single yuc locus causes severe developmental defects. Phylogenetic analysis of the different members of the YUC family in moss, monocot, and eudicot species shows that there have been independent expansions of the family in monocots and eudicots. spi1 belongs to a monocot-specific clade, within which the role of individual YUC genes has diversified. These observations, together with expression and functional data, suggest that spi1 has evolved a dominant role in auxin biosynthesis that is essential for normal maize inflorescence development. Analysis of the interaction between spi1 and genes regulating auxin transport indicate that auxin transport and biosynthesis function synergistically to regulate the formation of axillary meristems and lateral organs in maize.
Lee, B-ha, Johnston R, Yang Y, Gallavotti A, Kojima M, Travençolo BAN, da Costa LF, Sakakibara H, Jackson D.  2009.  Studies of Aberrant Phyllotaxy1 Mutants of Maize Indicate Complex Interactions Between Auxin and Cytokinin Signaling in the Shoot Apical Meristem. Plant Physiol. 150:205-216. Abstract
One of the most fascinating aspects of plant morphology is the regular geometric arrangement of leaves and flowers, called phyllotaxy. The shoot apical meristem (SAM) determines these patterns, which vary depending on species and developmental stage. Auxin acts as an instructive signal in leaf initiation, and its transport has been implicated in phyllotaxy regulation in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). Altered phyllotactic patterns are observed in a maize (Zea mays) mutant, aberrant phyllotaxy1 (abph1, also known as abphyl1), and ABPH1 encodes a cytokinin-inducible type A response regulator, suggesting that cytokinin signals are also involved in the mechanism by which phyllotactic patterns are established. Therefore, we investigated the interaction between auxin and cytokinin signaling in phyllotaxy. Treatment of maize shoots with a polar auxin transport inhibitor, 1-naphthylphthalamic acid, strongly reduced ABPH1 expression, suggesting that auxin or its polar transport is required for ABPH1 expression. Immunolocalization of the PINFORMED1 (PIN1) polar auxin transporter revealed that PIN1 expression marks leaf primordia in maize, similarly to Arabidopsis. Interestingly, maize PIN1 expression at the incipient leaf primordium was greatly reduced in abph1 mutants. Consistently, auxin levels were reduced in abph1, and the maize PIN1 homolog was induced not only by auxin but also by cytokinin treatments. Our results indicate distinct roles for ABPH1 as a negative regulator of SAM size and a positive regulator of PIN1 expression. These studies highlight a complex interaction between auxin and cytokinin signaling in the specification of phyllotactic patterns and suggest an alternative model for the generation of altered phyllotactic patterns in abph1 mutants. We propose that reduced auxin levels and PIN1 expression in abph1 mutant SAMs delay leaf initiation, contributing to the enlarged SAM and altered phyllotaxy of these mutants.
Durbak, AR, Phillips KA, Pike S, O'Neill MA, Mares J, Gallavotti A, Malcomber S, Gassmann W, McSteen P.  2014.  Transport of boron by the tassel-less1 aquaporin is critical for vegetative and reproductive development in maize. Plant Cell. (26):2978-2995. AbstractWebsite
The element boron (B) is an essential plant micronutrient, and B deficiency results in significant crop losses worldwide. The maize (Zea mays) tassel-less1 (tls1) mutant has defects in vegetative and inflorescence development, comparable to the effects of B deficiency. Positional cloning revealed that tls1 encodes a protein in the aquaporin family co-orthologous to known B channel proteins in other species. Transport assays show that the TLS1 protein facilitates the movement of B and water into Xenopus laevis oocytes. B content is reduced in tls1 mutants, and application of B rescues the mutant phenotype, indicating that the TLS1 protein facilitates the movement of B in planta. B is required to cross-link the pectic polysaccharide rhamnogalacturonan II (RG-II) in the cell wall, and the percentage of RG-II dimers is reduced in tls1 inflorescences, indicating that the defects may result from altered cell wall properties. Plants heterozygous for both tls1 and rotten ear (rte), the proposed B efflux transporter, exhibit a dosage-dependent defect in inflorescence development under B-limited conditions, indicating that both TLS1 and RTE function in the same biological processes. Together, our data provide evidence that TLS1 is a B transport facilitator in maize, highlighting the importance of B homeostasis in meristem function.
Gallavotti, A, Schmidt RJ.  2007.  Two sides of the same coin. Nat Genet. 39:1425-1426.