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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  3. Summary

    Gene duplication is a powerful source of biological innovation giving rise to paralogous genes that undergo diverse fates. Redundancy between paralogous genes is an intriguing outcome of duplicate gene evolution, and its maintenance over evolutionary time has long been considered a paradox. Redundancy can also be dubbed ‘a geneticist's nightmare’: It hinders the predictability of genome editing outcomes and limits our ability to link genotypes to phenotypes. Genetic studies in yeast and plants have suggested that the ability of ancient redundant duplicates to compensate for dosage perturbations resulting from a loss of function depends on the reprogramming of gene expression, a phenomenon known as active compensation. Starting from considerations on the stoichiometric constraints that drive the evolutionary stability of redundancy, this review aims to provide insights into the mechanisms of active compensation between duplicates that could be targeted for breaking paralog dependencies – the next frontier in plant functional studies.

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  4. Different plant species within the grasses were parallel targets of domestication, giving rise to crops with distinct evolutionary histories and traits1. Key traits that distinguish these species are mediated by specialized cell types2. Here, we compare the transcriptomes of root cells in three grass species—Zea mays (maize), Sorghum bicolor (sorghum), and Setaria viridis (Setaria). We first show that single-cell and single-nucleus RNA-seq provide complementary readouts of cell identity in both dicots and monocots, warranting a combined analysis. Cell types were mapped across species to identify robust, orthologous marker genes. The comparative cellular analysis shows that the transcriptomes of some cell types diverged more rapidly than others—driven, in part, by recruitment of gene modules from other cell types. The data also show that a recent whole genome duplication provides a rich source of new, highly localized gene expression domains that favor fast-evolving cell types. Together, the cell-by-cell comparative analysis shows how fine-scale cellular profiling can extract conserved modules from a pan transcriptome and shed light on the evolution of cells that mediate key functions in crops. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 25, 2024
  5. Messenger RNAs (mRNAs) function as mobile signals for cell-to-cell communication in multicellular organisms. The KNOTTED1 (KN1) homeodomain family transcription factors act non–cell autonomously to control stem cell maintenance in plants through cell-to-cell movement of their proteins and mRNAs through plasmodesmata; however, the mechanism of mRNA movement is largely unknown. We show that cell-to-cell movement of a KN1 mRNA requires ribosomal RNA–processing protein 44A (AtRRP44A), a subunit of the RNA exosome that processes or degrades diverse RNAs in eukaryotes. AtRRP44A can interact with plasmodesmata and mediates the cell-to-cell trafficking of KN1 mRNA, and genetic analysis indicates that AtRRP44A is required for the developmental functions of SHOOT MERISTEMLESS, an Arabidopsis KN1 homolog. Our findings suggest that AtRRP44A promotes mRNA trafficking through plasmodesmata to control stem cell–dependent processes in plants. 
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  6. Artificial domestication and improvement of the majority of crops began approximately 10,000 years ago, in different parts of the world, to achieve high productivity, good quality, and widespread adaptability. It was initiated from a phenotype-based selection by local farmers and developed to current biotechnology-based breeding to feed over 7 billion people. For most cereal crops, yield relates to grain production, which could be enhanced by increasing grain number and weight. Grain number is typically determined during inflorescence development. Many mutants and genes for inflorescence development have already been characterized in cereal crops. Therefore, optimization of such genes could fine-tune yield-related traits, such as grain number. With the rapidly advancing genome-editing technologies and understanding of yield-related traits, knowledge-driven breeding by design is becoming a reality. This review introduces knowledge about inflorescence yield-related traits in cereal crops, focusing on rice, maize, and wheat. Next, emerging genome-editing technologies and recent studies that apply this technology to engineer crop yield improvement by targeting inflorescence development are reviewed. These approaches promise to usher in a new era of breeding practice.

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