Publications

2013
Sun, G, Irvine KD.  2013.  Ajuba Family Proteins Link JNK to Hippo Signaling.. Science signaling. 6:ra81. AbstractWebsite
Wounding, apoptosis, or infection can trigger a proliferative response in neighboring cells to replace damaged tissue. Studies in Drosophila have implicated c-Jun amino-terminal kinase (JNK)-dependent activation of Yorkie (Yki) as essential to regeneration-associated growth, as well as growth associated with neoplastic tumors. Yki is a transcriptional coactivator that is inhibited by Hippo signaling, a conserved pathway that regulates growth. We identified a conserved mechanism by which JNK regulated Hippo signaling. Genetic studies in Drosophila identified Jub (also known as Ajuba LIM protein) as required for JNK-mediated activation of Yki and showed that Jub contributed to wing regeneration after wounding and to tumor growth. Biochemical studies revealed that JNK promoted the phosphorylation of Ajuba family proteins in both Drosophila and mammalian cells. Binding studies in mammalian cells indicated that JNK increased binding between the Ajuba family proteins LIMD1 or WTIP and LATS1, a kinase within the Hippo pathway that inhibits the Yki homolog YAP. Moreover, JNK promoted binding of LIMD1 and LATS1 through direct phosphorylation of LIMD1. These results identify Ajuba family proteins as a conserved link between JNK and Hippo signaling, and imply that JNK increases Yki and YAP activity by promoting the binding of Ajuba family proteins to Warts and LATS.
Marcello, MR, Singaravelu G, Singson A.  2013.  Fertilization. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol.. 757:321–350. Abstract
Fertilization-the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism-is the culmination of a multitude of intricately regulated cellular processes. In Caenorhabditis elegans, fertilization is highly efficient. Sperm become fertilization competent after undergoing a maturation process during which they become motile, and the plasma membrane protein composition is reorganized in preparation for interaction with the oocyte. The highly specialized gametes begin their interactions by signaling to one another to ensure that fertilization occurs when they meet. The oocyte releases prostaglandin signals to help guide the sperm to the site of fertilization, and sperm secrete a protein called major sperm protein (MSP) to trigger oocyte maturation and ovulation. Upon meeting one another in the spermatheca, the sperm and oocyte fuse in a specific and tightly regulated process. Recent studies are providing new insights into the molecular basis of this fusion process. After fertilization, the oocyte must quickly transition from the relative quiescence of oogenesis to a phase of rapid development during the cleavage divisions of early embryogenesis. In addition, the fertilized oocyte must prevent other sperm from fusing with it as well as produce an eggshell for protection during external development. This chapter will review the nature and regulation of the various cellular processes of fertilization, including the development of fertilization competence, gamete signaling, sperm-oocyte fusion, the oocyte to embryo transition, and production of an eggshell to protect the developing embryo.
2012
Bao, X, Nickels BE, Fan H.  2012.  Chlamydia trachomatis protein GrgA activates transcription by contacting the nonconserved region of sigma66. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. AbstractWebsite
The bacterial RNA polymerase holoenzyme consists of a catalytic core enzyme in complex with a sigma factor that is required for promoter-specific transcription initiation. Primary, or housekeeping, sigma factors are responsible for most of the gene expression that occurs during the exponential phase of growth. Primary sigma factors share four regions of conserved sequence, regions 1-4, which have been further subdivided. Many primary sigma factors also contain a nonconserved region (NCR) located between subregions 1.2 and 2.1, which can vary widely in length. Interactions between the NCR of the primary sigma factor of Escherichia coli, sigma(70), and the beta' subunit of the E. coli core enzyme have been shown to influence gene expression, suggesting that the NCR of primary sigma factors represents a potential target for transcription regulation. Here, we report the identification and characterization of a previously undocumented Chlamydia trachomatis transcription factor, designated GrgA (general regulator of genes A). We demonstrate in vitro that GrgA is a DNA-binding protein that can stimulate transcription from a range of sigma(66)-dependent promoters. We further show that GrgA activates transcription by contacting the NCR of the primary sigma factor of C. trachomatis, sigma(66). Our findings suggest GrgA serves as an important regulator of sigma(66)-dependent transcription in C. trachomatis. Furthermore, because GrgA is present only in chlamydiae, our findings highlight how nonconserved regions of the bacterial RNA polymerase can be targets of regulatory factors that are unique to particular organisms.
Thyssen, G, Svab Z, Maliga P.  2012.  Exceptional inheritance of plastids via pollen in Nicotiana sylvestris with no detectable paternal mitochondrial DNA in the progeny. Plant J.. 72:84-8. AbstractWebsite
Plastids and mitochondria, the DNA-containing cytoplasmic organelles, are maternally inherited in the majority of angiosperm species. Even in plants with strict maternal inheritance, exceptional paternal transmission of plastids has been observed. Our objective was to detect rare leakage of plastids via pollen in Nicotiana sylvestris and to determine if pollen transmission of plastids results in co-transmission of paternal mitochondria. As father plants, we used N. sylvestris plants with transgenic, selectable plastids and wild-type mitochondria. As mother plants, we used N. sylvestris plants with Nicotiana undulata cytoplasm, including the CMS-92 mitochondria that cause cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) by homeotic transformation of the stamens. We report here exceptional paternal plastid DNA in approximately 0.002% of N. sylvestris seedlings. However, we did not detect paternal mitochondrial DNA in any of the six plastid-transmission lines, suggesting independent transmission of the cytoplasmic organelles via pollen. When we used fertile N. sylvestris as mothers, we obtained eight fertile plastid transmission lines, which did not transmit their plastids via pollen at higher frequencies than their fathers. We discuss the implications for transgene containment and plant evolutionary histories inferred from cytoplasmic phylogenies.
Weiss, LA, Harrison PG, Nickels BE, Glickman MS, Campbell EA, Darst SA, Stallings CL.  2012.  Interaction of CarD with RNA Polymerase Mediates Mycobacterium tuberculosis Viability, Rifampin Resistance, and Pathogenesis. J Bacteriol. 194:5621-5631. AbstractWebsite
Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection continues to cause substantial human suffering. New chemotherapeutic strategies, which require insight into the pathways essential for M. tuberculosis pathogenesis, are imperative. We previously reported that depletion of the CarD protein in mycobacteria compromises viability, resistance to oxidative stress and fluoroquinolones, and pathogenesis. CarD associates with the RNA polymerase (RNAP), but it has been unknown which of the diverse functions of CarD are mediated through the RNAP; this question must be answered to understand the CarD mechanism of action. Herein, we describe the interaction between the M. tuberculosis CarD and the RNAP beta subunit and identify point mutations that weaken this interaction. The characterization of mycobacterial strains with attenuated CarD/RNAP beta interactions demonstrates that the CarD/RNAP beta association is required for viability and resistance to oxidative stress but not for fluoroquinolone resistance. Weakening the CarD/RNAP beta interaction also increases the sensitivity of mycobacteria to rifampin and streptomycin. Surprisingly, depletion of the CarD protein did not affect sensitivity to rifampin. These findings define the CarD/RNAP interaction as a new target for chemotherapeutic intervention that could also improve the efficacy of rifampin treatment of tuberculosis. In addition, our data demonstrate that weakening the CarD/RNAP beta interaction does not completely phenocopy the depletion of CarD and support the existence of functions for CarD independent of direct RNAP binding.
Wu, Y, Messing J.  2012.  Rapid divergence of prolamin gene promoters of maize after gene amplification and dispersal. Genetics. 192:507-19. AbstractWebsite
Seeds have evolved to accommodate complicated processes like senescence, dormancy, and germination. Central to these is the storage of carbohydrates and proteins derived from sugars and amino acids synthesized during photosynthesis. In the grasses, the bulk of amino acids is stored in the prolamin superfamily that specifically accumulates in seed endosperm during senescence. Their promoters contain a conserved cis-element, called prolamin-box (P-box), recognized by the trans-activator P-box binding factor (PBF). Because of the lack of null mutants in all grass species, its physiological role in storage-protein gene expression has been elusive. In contrast, a null mutant of another endosperm-specific trans-activator Opaque2 (O2) has been shown to be required for the transcriptional activation of subsets of this superfamily by binding to the O2 box. Here, we used RNAi to knockdown Pbf expression and found that only 27-kDa gamma- and 22-kDa alpha-zein gene expression were affected, whereas the level of other zeins remained unchanged. Still, transgenic seeds had an opaque seed phenotype. Combination of PbfRNAi and o2 resulted in further reduction of alpha-zein expression. We also tested the interaction of promoters and constitutively expressed PBF and O2. Whereas transgenic promoters could be activated, endogenous promoters appeared to be not accessible to transcriptional activation, presumably due to differential chromatin states. Although analysis of the methylation of binding sites of PBF and O2 correlated with the expression of endogenous 22-kDa alpha-zein promoters, a different mechanism seems to apply to the 27-kDa gamma-zein promoter, which does not undergo methylation changes.
Dudas, B, Jenes B, Kiss GB, Maliga P.  2012.  Spectinomycin resistance mutations in the rrn16 gene are new plastid markers in Medicago sativa. Theor. Appl. Genet. 125:1517-23. AbstractWebsite
We report here the isolation of spectinomycin-resistant mutants in cultured cells of Medicago sativa line RegenSY-T2. Spectinomycin induces bleaching of cultured alfalfa cells due to inhibition of protein synthesis on the prokaryotic type 70S plastid ribosomes. Spontaneous mutants resistant to spectinomycin bleaching were identified by their ability to form green shoots on plant regeneration medium containing selective spectinomycin concentrations in the range of 25-50 mg/l. Sequencing of the plastid rrn16 gene revealed that spectinomycin resistance is due to mutations in a conserved stem structure of the 16S rRNA. Resistant plants transferred to the greenhouse developed normally and produced spectinomycin-resistant seed progeny. In light of their absence in soybean, a related leguminous plant, the isolation of spectinomycin-resistant mutants in M. sativa was unexpected. The new mutations are useful for the study of plastid inheritance, as demonstrated by detection of predominantly paternal plastid inheritance in the RegenSY-T2 x Szapko57 cross, and can be used as selective markers in plastid transformation vectors to obtain cisgenic plants.
Irvine, KD.  2012.  Integration of intercellular signaling through the Hippo pathway.. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology. AbstractWebsite
Metazoan cells are exposed to a multitude of signals, which they integrate to determine appropriate developmental or physiological responses. Although the Hippo pathway was only discovered recently, and our knowledge of Hippo signal transduction is far from complete, a wealth of interconnections amongst Hippo and other signaling pathways have already been identified. Hippo signaling is particularly important for growth control, and I describe how integration of Hippo and other pathways contributes to regulation of organ growth. Molecular links between Hippo signaling and other signal transduction pathways are summarized. Different types of mechanisms for signal integration are described, and examples of how the complex interconnections between pathways are used to guide developmental and physiological growth responses are discussed. Features of Hippo signaling appear to make it particularly well suited to signal integration, including its responsiveness to cell-cell contact and the mediation of its transcriptional output by transcriptional co-activator proteins that can interact with transcription factors of other pathways.
Singaravelu, G, Chatterjee I, Rahimi S, Druzhinina MK, Kang L, Xu XZ, Singson A.  2012.  The sperm surface localization of the TRP-3/SPE-41 Ca2+ -permeable channel depends on SPE-38 function in Caenorhabditis elegans. Dev. Biol.. 365:376–383. Abstract
Despite undergoing normal development and acquiring normal morphology and motility, mutations in spe-38 or trp-3/spe-41 cause identical phenotypes in Caenorhabditis elegans-mutant sperm fail to fertilize oocytes despite direct contact. SPE-38 is a novel, four-pass transmembrane protein and TRP-3/SPE-41 is a Ca(2+)-permeable channel. Localization of both of these proteins is confined to the membranous organelles (MOs) in undifferentiated spermatids. In mature spermatozoa, SPE-38 is localized to the pseudopod and TRP-3/SPE-41 is localized to the whole plasma membrane. Here we show that the dynamic redistribution of TRP-3/SPE-41 from MOs to the plasma membrane is dependent on SPE-38. In spe-38 mutant spermatozoa, TRP-3/SPE-41 is trapped within the MOs and fails to reach the cell surface despite MO fusion with the plasma membrane. Split-ubiquitin yeast-two-hybrid analyses revealed that the cell surface localization of TRP-3/SPE-41 is likely regulated by SPE-38 through a direct protein-protein interaction mechanism. We have identified sequences that influence the physical interaction between SPE-38 and TRP-3/SPE-41, and show that these sequences in SPE-38 are required for fertility in transgenic animals. Despite the mislocalization of TRP-3/SPE-41 in spe-38 mutant spermatozoa, ionomycin or thapsigargin induced influx of Ca(2+) remains unperturbed. This work reveals a new paradigm for the regulated surface localization of a Ca(2+)-permeable channel.
Tungsuchat-Huang, T, Maliga P.  2012.  Visual marker and Agrobacterium-delivered recombinase enable the manipulation of the plastid genome in greenhouse-grown tobacco plants. Plant J.. 70:717-25. AbstractWebsite
Successful manipulation of the plastid genome (ptDNA) has been carried out so far only in tissue-culture cells, a limitation that prevents plastid transformation being applied in major agronomic crops. Our objective is to develop a tissue-culture independent protocol that enables manipulation of plastid genomes directly in plants to yield genetically stable seed progeny. We report that in planta excision of a plastid aurea bar gene (bar(au) ) is detectable in greenhouse-grown plants by restoration of the green pigmentation in tobacco leaves. The P1 phage Cre or PhiC31 phage Int site-specific recombinase was delivered on the Agrobacterium T-DNA injected at the axillary bud site, resulting in the excision of the target-site flanked marker gene. Differentiation of new apical meristems was forced by decapitating the plants above the injection site. The new shoot apex that differentiated at the injection site contained bar(au)-free plastids in 30-40% of the injected plants, of which 7% transmitted the bar(au)-free plastids to the seed progeny. The success of obtaining seed with bar(au)-free plastids depended on repeatedly forcing shoot development from axillary buds, a process that was guided by the size and position of green sectors in the leaves. The success of in planta plastid marker excision proved that manipulation of the plastid genomes is feasible within an intact plant. Extension of the protocol to in planta plastid transformation depends on the development of new protocols for the delivery of transforming DNA encoding visual markers.
Ambegaonkar, AA, Pan G, Mani M, Feng Y, Irvine KD.  2012.  Propagation of dachsous-fat planar cell polarity.. Current Biology. 22:1302-1308. AbstractWebsite
The Fat pathway controls both planar cell polarity (PCP) and organ growth [1, 2]. Fat signaling is regulated by the graded expression of the Fat ligand Dachsous (Ds) and the cadherin-domain kinase Four-jointed (Fj). The vectors of these gradients influence PCP [1], whereas their slope can influence growth [3, 4]. The Fj and Ds gradients direct the polarized membrane localization of the myosin Dachs, which is a crucial downstream component of Fat signaling [5-7]. Here we show that repolarization of Dachs by differential expression of Fj or Ds can propagate through the wing disc, which indicates that Fj and Ds gradients can be measured over long range. Through characterization of tagged genomic constructs, we show that Ds and Fat are themselves partially polarized along the endogenous Fj and Ds gradients, providing a mechanism for propagation of PCP within the Fat pathway. We also identify a biochemical mechanism that might contribute to this polarization by showing that Ds is subject to endoproteolytic cleavage and that the relative levels of Ds isoforms are modulated by Fat.
Vvedenskaya, IO, Sharp JS, Goldman SR, Kanabar PN, Livny J, Dove SL, Nickels BE.  2012.  Growth phase-dependent control of transcription start site selection and gene expression by nanoRNAs. Genes & development. 26:1498-507. AbstractWebsite
Prokaryotic and eukaryotic RNA polymerases can use 2- to approximately 4-nt RNAs, "nanoRNAs," to prime transcription initiation in vitro. It has been proposed that nanoRNA-mediated priming of transcription can likewise occur under physiological conditions in vivo and influence transcription start site selection and gene expression. However, no direct evidence of such regulation has been presented. Here we demonstrate in Escherichia coli that nanoRNAs prime transcription in a growth phase-dependent manner, resulting in alterations in transcription start site selection and changes in gene expression. We further define a sequence element that determines, in part, whether a promoter will be targeted by nanoRNA-mediated priming. By establishing that a significant fraction of transcription initiation is primed in living cells, our findings contradict the conventional model that all cellular transcription is initiated using nucleoside triphosphates (NTPs) only. In addition, our findings identify nanoRNAs as a previously undocumented class of regulatory small RNAs that function by being directly incorporated into a target transcript.
Thyssen, G, Svab Z, Maliga P.  2012.  Cell-to-cell movement of plastids in plants. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.. 109:2439-43. AbstractWebsite
Our objective was to test whether or not plastids and mitochondria, the two DNA-containing organelles, move between cells in plants. As our experimental approach, we grafted two different species of tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana sylvestris. Grafting triggers formation of new cell-to-cell contacts, creating an opportunity to detect cell-to-cell organelle movement between the genetically distinct plants. We initiated tissue culture from sliced graft junctions and selected for clonal lines in which gentamycin resistance encoded in the N. tabacum nucleus was combined with spectinomycin resistance encoded in N. sylvestris plastids. Here, we present evidence for cell-to-cell movement of the entire 161-kb plastid genome in these plants, most likely in intact plastids. We also found that the related mitochondria were absent, suggesting independent movement of the two DNA-containing organelles. Acquisition of plastids from neighboring cells provides a mechanism by which cells may be repopulated with functioning organelles. Our finding supports the universality of intercellular organelle trafficking and may enable development of future biotechnological applications.
Thyssen, G, Svab Z, Maliga P.  2012.  Cell-to-cell movement of plastids in plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 109:2439-43. AbstractWebsite
Our objective was to test whether or not plastids and mitochondria, the two DNA-containing organelles, move between cells in plants. As our experimental approach, we grafted two different species of tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana sylvestris. Grafting triggers formation of new cell-to-cell contacts, creating an opportunity to detect cell-to-cell organelle movement between the genetically distinct plants. We initiated tissue culture from sliced graft junctions and selected for clonal lines in which gentamycin resistance encoded in the N. tabacum nucleus was combined with spectinomycin resistance encoded in N. sylvestris plastids. Here, we present evidence for cell-to-cell movement of the entire 161-kb plastid genome in these plants, most likely in intact plastids. We also found that the related mitochondria were absent, suggesting independent movement of the two DNA-containing organelles. Acquisition of plastids from neighboring cells provides a mechanism by which cells may be repopulated with functioning organelles. Our finding supports the universality of intercellular organelle trafficking and may enable development of future biotechnological applications.
Singh, A, Irvine KD.  2012.  Drosophila as a model for understanding development and disease.. Developmental Dynamics. 241:1-2.Website
Xu, JH, Bennetzen JL, Messing J.  2012.  Dynamic gene copy number variation in collinear regions of grass genomes. Mol Biol Evol. 29:861-71. AbstractWebsite
A salient feature of genomes of higher organisms is the birth and death of gene copies. An example is the alpha prolamin genes, which encode seed storage proteins in grasses (Poaceae) and represent a medium-size gene family. To better understand the mechanism, extent, and pace of gene amplification, we compared prolamin gene copies in the genomes of two different tribes in the Panicoideae, the Paniceae and the Andropogoneae. We identified alpha prolamin (setarin) gene copies in the diploid foxtail millet (Paniceae) genome (490 Mb) and compared them with orthologous regions in diploid sorghum (730 Mb) and ancient allotetraploid maize (2,300 Mb) (Andropogoneae). Because sequenced genomes of other subfamilies of Poaceae like rice (389 Mb) (Ehrhartoideae) and Brachypodium (272 Mb) (Pooideae) do not have alpha prolamin genes, their collinear regions can serve as "empty" reference sites. A pattern emerged, where genes were copied and inserted into other chromosomal locations followed by additional tandem duplications (clusters). We observed both recent (species-specific) insertion events and older ones that are shared by these tribes. Many older copies were deleted by unequal crossing over of flanking sequences or damaged by truncations. However, some remain intact with active and inactive alleles. These results indicate that genomes reflect only a snapshot of the gene content of a species and are far less static than conventional genetics has suggested. Nucleotide substitution rates for active alpha prolamins genes were twice as high as for low copy number beta, gamma, and delta prolamin genes, suggesting that gene amplification accelerates the pace of divergence.
Radford, SJ, Jang JK, McKim KS.  2012.  The Chromosomal Passenger Complex is required for Meiotic Acentrosomal Spindle Assembly and Chromosome Bi-orientation. Genetics. 192:417-429. AbstractWebsite
During meiosis in the females of many species, spindle assembly occurs in the absence of the microtubule-organizing centers called centrosomes. In the absence of centrosomes, the nature of the chromosome-based signal that recruits microtubules to promote spindle assembly as well as how spindle bipolarity is established and the chromosomes orient correctly towards the poles is not known. To address these questions, we focused on the chromosomal passenger complex (CPC). We have found that the CPC localizes in a ring around the meiotic chromosomes that is aligned with the axis of the spindle at all stages. Using new methods which dramatically increase the effectiveness of RNAi in the germline, we show that the CPC interacts with Drosophila oocyte chromosomes and is required for the assembly of spindle microtubules. Furthermore, chromosome bi-orientation and the localization of the central spindle kinesin-6 protein Subito, which is required for spindle bipolarity, depend on the CPC components Aurora B and Incenp. Based on these data we propose that the ring of CPC around the chromosomes regulates multiple aspects of meiotic cell division including spindle assembly, the establishment of bipolarity, the recruitment of important spindle organization factors, and the bi-orientation of homologous chromosomes.
Radford, SJ, Harrison AM, McKim KS.  2012.  Microtubule-depolymerizing Kinesin KLP10A Restricts the Length of the Acentrosomal Meiotic Spindle in Drosophila Females. Genetics. 192:431-440. AbstractWebsite
During cell division, a bipolar array of microtubules forms the spindle through which the forces required for chromosome segregation are transmitted. Interestingly, the spindle as a whole is stable enough to support these forces even though it is composed of dynamic microtubules, which are constantly undergoing periods of growth and shrinkage. Indeed, the regulation of microtubule dynamics is essential to the integrity and function of the spindle. We show here that a member of an important class of microtubule-depolymerizing kinesins, KLP10A, is required for the proper organization of the acentrosomal meiotic spindle in Drosophila melanogaster oocytes. In the absence of KLP10A, microtubule length is not controlled, resulting in extraordinarily long and disorganized spindles. In addition, the interactions between chromosomes and spindle microtubules are disturbed and can result in the loss of contact. These results indicate that the regulation of microtubule dynamics through KLP10A plays a critical role in restricting the length and maintaining bipolarity of the acentrosomal meiotic spindle and in promoting the contacts that the chromosomes make with microtubules required for meiosis I segregation.
Staley, B K, Irvine KD.  2012.  Hippo signaling in Drosophila: Recent advances and insights. Developmental Dynamics. 241:3-15.
Codelia, VA, Irvine KD.  2012.  Hippo Signaling Goes Long Range. Cell. 150:669-670.Website
Joyce, EF, Paul A, Chen KE, McKim KS.  2012.  Multiple Barriers to Non-homologous DNA End Joining During Meiosis in Drosophila. Genetics. 191:739-46. AbstractWebsite
Repair of meiotic double-strand breaks (DSBs) uses the homolog and recombination to yield crossovers while alternative pathways such as nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) are suppressed. Our results indicate that NHEJ is blocked at two steps of DSB repair during meiotic prophase: first by the activity of the MCM-like protein MEI-218 that is required for crossover formation and, second, by Rad51-related proteins SPN-B (XRCC3) and SPN-D (RAD51C) that physically interact and promote homologous recombination. We further show that the MCM-like proteins also promote the activity of the DSB repair checkpoint pathway, indicating an early requirement for these proteins in DSB processing. We propose that when a meiotic DSB is formed in the absence of both MEI-218 and SPN-B or SPN-D, a DSB substrate is generated that can enter the NHEJ repair pathway. Indeed, due to its high error rate, multiple barriers may have evolved to prevent NHEJ activity during meiosis.
Goettel, W, Messing J.  2012.  Paramutagenicity of a p1 epiallele in maize. Theoretical and Applied Genetics. (Epub Sep 18) AbstractWebsite
Complex silencing mechanisms in plants and other kingdoms target transposons, repeat sequences, invasive viral nucleic acids and transgenes, but also endogenous genes and genes involved in paramutation. Paramutation occurs in a heterozygote when a transcriptionally active allele heritably adopts the epigenetic state of a transcriptionally and/or post-transcriptionally repressed allele. P1-rr and its silenced epiallele P1-pr, which encode a Myb-like transcription factor mediating pigmentation in floral organs of Zea mays, differ in their cytosine methylation pattern and chromatin structure at a complex enhancer site. Here, we tested whether P1-pr is able to heritably silence its transcriptionally active P1-rr allele in a heterozygote and whether DNA methylation is associated with the establishment and maintenance of P1-rr silencing. We found that P1-pr participates in paramutation as the repressing allele and P1-rr as the sensitive allele. Silencing of P1-rr is highly variable compared to the inducing P1-pr resulting in a wide range of gene expression. Whereas cytosine methylation at P1-rr is negatively correlated with transcription and pigment levels after segregation of P1-pr, methylation lags behind the establishment of the repressed p1 gene expression. We propose a model in which P1-pr paramutation is triggered by changing epigenetic states of transposons immediately adjacent to a P1-rr enhancer sequence. Considering the vast amount of transposable elements in the maize genome close to regulatory elements of genes, numerous loci could undergo paramutation-induced allele silencing, which could also have a significant impact on breeding agronomically important traits.
Kim, YI, Vinyard DJ, Ananyev GM, Dismukes CG, Golden SS.  2012.  Oxidized quinones signal onset of darkness directly to the cyanobacterial circadian oscillator.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 109(44):17765-9. Abstract
Synchronization of the circadian clock in cyanobacteria with the day/night cycle proceeds without an obvious photoreceptor, leaving open the question of its specific mechanism. The circadian oscillator can be reconstituted in vitro, where the activities of two of its proteins, KaiA and KaiC, are affected by metabolites that reflect photosynthetic activity: KaiC phosphorylation is directly influenced by the ATP/ADP ratio, and KaiA stimulation of KaiC phosphorylation is blocked by oxidized, but not reduced, quinones. Manipulation of the ATP/ADP ratio can reset the timing of KaiC phosphorylation peaks in the reconstituted in vitro oscillator. Here, we show that pulses of oxidized quinones reset the cyanobacterial circadian clock both in vitro and in vivo. Onset of darkness causes an abrupt oxidation of the plastoquinone pool in vivo, which is in contrast to a gradual decrease in the ATP/ADP ratio that falls over the course of hours until the onset of light. Thus, these two metabolic measures of photosynthetic activity act in concert to signal both the onset and duration of darkness to the cyanobacterial clock.
Zhang, Y, Feng Y, Chatterjee S, Tuske S, Ho MX, Arnold E, Ebright RH.  2012.  Structural Basis of Transcription Initiation.. Science (New York, N.Y.). 338(6110):1076-1080. AbstractWebsite
During transcription initiation, RNA polymerase (RNAP) binds and unwinds promoter DNA to form an RNAP-promoter open complex. We have determined crystal structures at 2.9 and 3.0 Å resolution of functional transcription initiation complexes comprising Thermus thermophilus RNA polymerase, σ(A), and a promoter DNA fragment corresponding to the transcription bubble and downstream dsDNA of the RNAP-promoter open complex. The structures show that σ recognizes the -10 element and discriminator element through interactions that include the unstacking and insertion into pockets of three DNA bases, and that RNAP recognizes the -4/+2 region through interactions that include the unstacking and insertion into a pocket of the +2 base. The structures further show that interactions between σ and template-strand ssDNA preorganize template-strand ssDNA to engage the RNAP active center.
Wang, Q., Dooner HK.  2012.  Dynamic evolution of bz orthologous regions in the Andropogoneae and other grasses.. The Plant journal : for cell and molecular biology. 72(2):212-21. Abstract
Genome structure exhibits remarkable plasticity within Zea mays. To examine how haplotype structure has evolved within the Andropogoneae tribe, we have analyzed the bz gene-rich region of maize (Zea mays), the Zea teosintes mays ssp. mexicana, luxurians and diploperennis, Tripsacum dactyloides, Coix lacryma-jobi and Sorghum propinquum. We sequenced and annotated BAC clones from these species and re-annotated the orthologous Sorghum bicolor region. Gene colinearity in the region is well conserved within the genus Zea. However, the orthologous regions of Coix and Sorghum exhibited several micro-rearrangements relative to Zea, including addition, truncation and deletion of genes. The stc1 gene, involved in the production of a terpenoid insect defense signal, is evolving particularly fast, and its progressive disappearance from some species is occurring by microhomology-mediated recombination. LTR retrotransposons are the main contributors to the dynamic evolution of the bz region. Common transposon insertion sites occur among haplotypes from different Zea mays sub-species, but not outside the species. As in Zea, different patterns of interspersion between genes and retrotransposons are observed in Sorghum. We estimate that the mean divergence times between maize and Tripsacum, Coix and Sorghum are 8.5, 12.1 and 12.4 million years ago, respectively, and that between Coix and Sorghum is 9.3 million years ago. A comparison of the bz orthologous regions of Zea, Sorghum and Coix with those of Brachypodium, Setaria and Oryza allows us to infer how the region has evolved by addition and deletion of genes in the approximately 50 million years since these genera diverged from a common progenitor.