skip to main content

Attention:

The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Title: Meta Gene Regulatory Networks in Maize Highlight Functionally Relevant Regulatory Interactions
Abstract

The regulation of gene expression is central to many biological processes. Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) link transcription factors (TFs) to their target genes and represent maps of potential transcriptional regulation. Here, we analyzed a large number of publically available maize (Zea mays) transcriptome data sets including >6000 RNA sequencing samples to generate 45 coexpression-based GRNs that represent potential regulatory relationships between TFs and other genes in different populations of samples (cross-tissue, cross-genotype, and tissue-and-genotype samples). While these networks are all enriched for biologically relevant interactions, different networks capture distinct TF-target associations and biological processes. By examining the power of our coexpression-based GRNs to accurately predict covarying TF-target relationships in natural variation data sets, we found that presence/absence changes rather than quantitative changes in TF gene expression are more likely associated with changes in target gene expression. Integrating information from our TF-target predictions and previous expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) mapping results provided support for 68 TFs underlying 74 previously identified trans-eQTL hotspots spanning a variety of metabolic pathways. This study highlights the utility of developing multiple GRNs within a species to detect putative regulators of important plant pathways and provides potential targets for breeding or biotechnological applications.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1828149 1733633
NSF-PAR ID:
10139899
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Plant Cell
Volume:
32
Issue:
5
ISSN:
1040-4651
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1377-1396
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. ABSTRACT Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) are critical for dynamic transcriptional responses to environmental stress. However, the mechanisms by which GRN regulation adjusts physiology to enable stress survival remain unclear. Here we investigate the functions of transcription factors (TFs) within the global GRN of the stress-tolerant archaeal microorganism Halobacterium salinarum . We measured growth phenotypes of a panel of TF deletion mutants in high temporal resolution under heat shock, oxidative stress, and low-salinity conditions. To quantitate the noncanonical functional forms of the growth trajectories observed for these mutants, we developed a novel modeling framework based on Gaussian process regression and functional analysis of variance (FANOVA). We employ unique statistical tests to determine the significance of differential growth relative to the growth of the control strain. This analysis recapitulated known TF functions, revealed novel functions, and identified surprising secondary functions for characterized TFs. Strikingly, we observed that the majority of the TFs studied were required for growth under multiple stress conditions, pinpointing regulatory connections between the conditions tested. Correlations between quantitative phenotype trajectories of mutants are predictive of TF-TF connections within the GRN. These phenotypes are strongly concordant with predictions from statistical GRN models inferred from gene expression data alone. With genome-wide and targeted data sets, we provide detailed functional validation of novel TFs required for extreme oxidative stress and heat shock survival. Together, results presented in this study suggest that many TFs function under multiple conditions, thereby revealing high interconnectivity within the GRN and identifying the specific TFs required for communication between networks responding to disparate stressors. IMPORTANCE To ensure survival in the face of stress, microorganisms employ inducible damage repair pathways regulated by extensive and complex gene networks. Many archaea, microorganisms of the third domain of life, persist under extremes of temperature, salinity, and pH and under other conditions. In order to understand the cause-effect relationships between the dynamic function of the stress network and ultimate physiological consequences, this study characterized the physiological role of nearly one-third of all regulatory proteins known as transcription factors (TFs) in an archaeal organism. Using a unique quantitative phenotyping approach, we discovered functions for many novel TFs and revealed important secondary functions for known TFs. Surprisingly, many TFs are required for resisting multiple stressors, suggesting cross-regulation of stress responses. Through extensive validation experiments, we map the physiological roles of these novel TFs in stress response back to their position in the regulatory network wiring. This study advances understanding of the mechanisms underlying how microorganisms resist extreme stress. Given the generality of the methods employed, we expect that this study will enable future studies on how regulatory networks adjust cellular physiology in a diversity of organisms. 
    more » « less
  2. Marshall-Colon, Amy (Ed.)
    Abstract Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) are defined by a cascade of transcriptional events by which signals, such as hormones or environmental cues, change development. To understand these networks, it is necessary to link specific transcription factors (TFs) to the downstream gene targets whose expression they regulate. Although multiple methods provide information on the targets of a single TF, moving from groups of co-expressed genes to the TF that controls them is more difficult. To facilitate this bottom-up approach, we have developed a web application named TF DEACoN. This application uses a publicly available Arabidopsis thaliana DNA Affinity Purification (DAP-Seq) data set to search for TFs that show enriched binding to groups of co-regulated genes. We used TF DEACoN to examine groups of transcripts regulated by treatment with the ethylene precursor 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC), using a transcriptional data set performed with high temporal resolution. We demonstrate the utility of this application when co-regulated genes are divided by timing of response or cell-type-specific information, which provides more information on TF/target relationships than when less defined and larger groups of co-regulated genes are used. This approach predicted TFs that may participate in ethylene-modulated root development including the TF NAM (NO APICAL MERISTEM). We used a genetic approach to show that a mutation in NAM reduces the negative regulation of lateral root development by ACC. The combination of filtering and TF DEACoN used here can be applied to any group of co-regulated genes to predict GRNs that control coordinated transcriptional responses. 
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Deciphering gene regulatory networks (GRNs) is both a promise and challenge of systems biology. The promise lies in identifying key transcription factors (TFs) that enable an organism to react to changes in its environment. The challenge lies in validating GRNs that involve hundreds of TFs with hundreds of thousands of interactions with their genome-wide targets experimentally determined by high-throughput sequencing. To address this challenge, we developed ConnecTF, a species-independent, web-based platform that integrates genome-wide studies of TF–target binding, TF–target regulation, and other TF-centric omic datasets and uses these to build and refine validated or inferred GRNs. We demonstrate the functionality of ConnecTF by showing how integration within and across TF–target datasets uncovers biological insights. Case study 1 uses integration of TF–target gene regulation and binding datasets to uncover TF mode-of-action and identify potential TF partners for 14 TFs in abscisic acid signaling. Case study 2 demonstrates how genome-wide TF–target data and automated functions in ConnecTF are used in precision/recall analysis and pruning of an inferred GRN for nitrogen signaling. Case study 3 uses ConnecTF to chart a network path from NLP7, a master TF in nitrogen signaling, to direct secondary TF2s and to its indirect targets in a Network Walking approach. The public version of ConnecTF (https://ConnecTF.org) contains 3,738,278 TF–target interactions for 423 TFs in Arabidopsis, 839,210 TF–target interactions for 139 TFs in maize (Zea mays), and 293,094 TF–target interactions for 26 TFs in rice (Oryza sativa). The database and tools in ConnecTF will advance the exploration of GRNs in plant systems biology applications for model and crop species. 
    more » « less
  4. Nitrogen (N) and Water (W) - two resources critical for crop productivity – are becoming increasingly limited in soils globally. To address this issue, we aim to uncover the gene regulatory networks (GRNs) that regulate nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) - as a function of water availability - in Oryza sativa, a staple for 3.5 billion people. In this study, we infer and validate GRNs that correlate with rice NUE phenotypes affected by N-by-W availability in the field. We did this by exploiting RNA-seq and crop phenotype data from 19 rice varieties grown in a 2x2 N-by-W matrix in the field. First, to identify gene-to-NUE field phenotypes, we analyzed these datasets using weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA). This identified two network modules ("skyblue" & "grey60") highly correlated with NUE grain yield (NUEg). Next, we focused on 90 TFs contained in these two NUEg modules and predicted their genome-wide targets using the N-and/or-W response datasets using a random forest network inference approach (GENIE3). Next, to validate the GENIE3 TF→target gene predictions, we performed Precision/Recall Analysis (AUPR) using nine datasets for three TFs validated in planta . This analysis sets a precision threshold of 0.31, used to "prune" the GENIE3 network for high-confidence TF→target gene edges, comprising 88 TFs and 5,716 N-and/or-W response genes. Next, we ranked these 88 TFs based on their significant influence on NUEg target genes responsive to N and/or W signaling. This resulted in a list of 18 prioritized TFs that regulate 551 NUEg target genes responsive to N and/or W signals. We validated the direct regulated targets of two of these candidate NUEg TFs in a plant cell-based TF assay called TARGET, for which we also had in planta data for comparison. Gene ontology analysis revealed that 6/18 NUEg TFs - OsbZIP23 (LOC_Os02g52780), Oshox22 (LOC_Os04g45810), LOB39 (LOC_Os03g41330), Oshox13 (LOC_Os03g08960), LOC_Os11g38870, and LOC_Os06g14670 - regulate genes annotated for N and/or W signaling. Our results show that OsbZIP23 and Oshox22, known regulators of drought tolerance, also coordinate W-responses with NUEg. This validated network can aid in developing/breeding rice with improved yield on marginal, low N-input, drought-prone soils. 
    more » « less
  5. Drought is one of the most serious abiotic stressors in the environment, restricting agricultural production by reducing plant growth, development, and productivity. To investigate such a complex and multifaceted stressor and its effects on plants, a systems biology-based approach is necessitated, entailing the generation of co-expression networks, identification of high-priority transcription factors (TFs), dynamic mathematical modeling, and computational simulations. Here, we studied a high-resolution drought transcriptome of Arabidopsis. We identified distinct temporal transcriptional signatures and demonstrated the involvement of specific biological pathways. Generation of a large-scale co-expression network followed by network centrality analyses identified 117 TFs that possess critical properties of hubs, bottlenecks, and high clustering coefficient nodes. Dynamic transcriptional regulatory modeling of integrated TF targets and transcriptome datasets uncovered major transcriptional events during the course of drought stress. Mathematical transcriptional simulations allowed us to ascertain the activation status of major TFs, as well as the transcriptional intensity and amplitude of their target genes. Finally, we validated our predictions by providing experimental evidence of gene expression under drought stress for a set of four TFs and their major target genes using qRT-PCR. Taken together, we provided a systems-level perspective on the dynamic transcriptional regulation during drought stress in Arabidopsis and uncovered numerous novel TFs that could potentially be used in future genetic crop engineering programs. 
    more » « less