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  1. Abstract The spatiotemporal development of somatic tissues of the anther lobe is necessary for successful fertile pollen production. This process is mediated by many transcription factors acting through complex, multi-layered networks. Here, our analysis of functional knockout mutants of interacting basic helix–loop–helix genes Ms23, Ms32, basic helix–loop–helix 122 (bHLH122), and bHLH51 in maize (Zea mays) established that male fertility requires all four genes, expressed sequentially in the tapetum (TP). Not only do they regulate each other, but also they encode proteins that form heterodimers that act collaboratively to guide many cellular processes at specific developmental stages. MS23 is confirmed to be the master factor, as the ms23 mutant showed the earliest developmental defect, cytologically visible in the TP, with the most drastic alterations in premeiotic gene expression observed in ms23 anthers. Notably, the male-sterile ms23, ms32, and bhlh122-1 mutants lack 24-nt phased secondary small interfering RNAs (phasiRNAs) and the precursor transcripts from the corresponding 24-PHAS loci, while the bhlh51-1 mutant has wild-type levels of both precursors and small RNA products. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that 24-nt phasiRNA biogenesis primarily occurs downstream of MS23 and MS32, both of which directly activate Dcl5 and are required for most 24-PHAS transcription, withmore »bHLH122 playing a distinct role in 24-PHAS transcription.« less
  2. Abstract Previously, we have shown that apoplastic wash fluid (AWF) purified from Arabidopsis leaves contains small RNAs (sRNAs). To investigate whether these sRNAs are encapsulated inside extracellular vesicles (EVs), we treated EVs isolated from Arabidopsis leaves with the protease trypsin and RNase A, which should degrade RNAs located outside EVs but not those located inside. These analyses revealed that apoplastic RNAs are mostly located outside and are associated with proteins. Further analyses of these extracellular RNAs (exRNAs) revealed that they include both sRNAs and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), including circular RNAs (circRNAs). We also found that exRNAs are highly enriched in the posttranscriptional modification N6-methyladenine (m6A). Consistent with this, we identified a putative m6A-binding protein in AWF, GLYCINE-RICH RNA-BINDING PROTEIN 7 (GRP7), as well as the sRNA-binding protein ARGONAUTE2 (AGO2). These two proteins coimmunoprecipitated with lncRNAs, including circRNAs. Mutation of GRP7 or AGO2 caused changes in both the sRNA and lncRNA content of AWF, suggesting that these proteins contribute to the secretion and/or stabilization of exRNAs. We propose that exRNAs located outside of EVs mediate host-induced gene silencing, rather than RNA located inside EVs.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 16, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  4. Abstract The Solanaceae or “nightshade” family is an economically important group with remarkable diversity. To gain a better understanding of how the unique biology of the Solanaceae relates to the family’s small RNA (sRNA) genomic landscape, we downloaded over 255 publicly available sRNA data sets that comprise over 2.6 billion reads of sequence data. We applied a suite of computational tools to predict and annotate two major sRNA classes: (1) microRNAs (miRNAs), typically 20- to 22-nucleotide (nt) RNAs generated from a hairpin precursor and functioning in gene silencing and (2) short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), including 24-nt heterochromatic siRNAs typically functioning to repress repetitive regions of the genome via RNA-directed DNA methylation, as well as secondary phased siRNAs and trans-acting siRNAs generated via miRNA-directed cleavage of a polymerase II-derived RNA precursor. Our analyses described thousands of sRNA loci, including poorly understood clusters of 22-nt siRNAs that accumulate during viral infection. The birth, death, expansion, and contraction of these sRNA loci are dynamic evolutionary processes that characterize the Solanaceae family. These analyses indicate that individuals within the same genus share similar sRNA landscapes, whereas comparisons between distinct genera within the Solanaceae reveal relatively few commonalities.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 28, 2023
  5. Abstract Plant cells communicate information for the regulation of development and responses to external stresses. A key form of this communication is transcriptional regulation, accomplished via complex gene networks operating both locally and systemically. To fully understand how genes are regulated across plant tissues and organs, high resolution, multi-dimensional spatial transcriptional data must be acquired and placed within a cellular and organismal context. Spatial transcriptomics (ST) typically provides a two-dimensional spatial analysis of gene expression of tissue sections that can be stacked to render three-dimensional data. For example, X-ray and light-sheet microscopy provide sub-micron scale volumetric imaging of cellular morphology of tissues, organs, or potentially entire organisms. Linking these technologies could substantially advance transcriptomics in plant biology and other fields. Here, we review advances in ST and 3D microscopy approaches and describe how these technologies could be combined to provide high resolution, spatially organized plant tissue transcript mapping.
  6. In this work, we sequenced and annotated the genome of Streptochaeta angustifolia , one of two genera in the grass subfamily Anomochlooideae, a lineage sister to all other grasses. The final assembly size is over 99% of the estimated genome size. We find good collinearity with the rice genome and have captured most of the gene space. Streptochaeta is similar to other grasses in the structure of its fruit (a caryopsis or grain) but has peculiar flowers and inflorescences that are distinct from those in the outgroups and in other grasses. To provide tools for investigations of floral structure, we analyzed two large families of transcription factors, AP2-like and R2R3 MYBs, that are known to control floral and spikelet development in rice and maize among other grasses. Many of these are also regulated by small RNAs. Structure of the gene trees showed that the well documented whole genome duplication at the origin of the grasses (ρ) occurred before the divergence of the Anomochlooideae lineage from the lineage leading to the rest of the grasses (the spikelet clade) and thus that the common ancestor of all grasses probably had two copies of the developmental genes. However, Streptochaeta (and by inference othermore »members of Anomochlooideae) has lost one copy of many genes. The peculiar floral morphology of Streptochaeta may thus have derived from an ancestral plant that was morphologically similar to the spikelet-bearing grasses. We further identify 114 loci producing microRNAs and 89 loci generating phased, secondary siRNAs, classes of small RNAs known to be influential in transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of several plant functions.« less
  7. Abstract Epigenomics is the study of molecular signatures associated with discrete regions within genomes, many of which are important for a wide range of nuclear processes. The ability to profile the epigenomic landscape associated with genes, repetitive regions, transposons, transcription, differential expression, cis-regulatory elements, and 3D chromatin interactions has vastly improved our understanding of plant genomes. However, many epigenomic and single-cell genomic assays are challenging to perform in plants, leading to a wide range of data quality issues; thus, the data require rigorous evaluation prior to downstream analyses and interpretation. In this commentary, we provide considerations for the evaluation of plant epigenomics and single-cell genomics data quality with the aim of improving the quality and utility of studies using those data across diverse plant species.
  8. Abstract

    Plant small RNAs are important regulatory elements that fine-tune gene expression and maintain genome integrity by silencing transposons. Reproductive organs of monocots produce abundant phased, small interfering RNAs (phasiRNAs). The 21-nt reproductive phasiRNAs triggered by miR2118 are highly enriched in pre-meiotic anthers, and have been found in multiple eudicot species, in contrast with prior reports of monocot specificity. The 24-nt reproductive phasiRNAs are triggered by miR2275, and are highly enriched during meiosis in many angiosperms. Here, we report the widespread presence of the 21-nt reproductive phasiRNA pathway in eudicots including canonical and non-canonical microRNA (miRNA) triggers of this pathway. In eudicots, these 21-nt phasiRNAs are enriched in pre-meiotic stages, a spatiotemporal distribution consistent with that of monocots and suggesting a role in anther development. Although this pathway is apparently absent in well-studied eudicot families including the Brassicaceae, Solanaceae and Fabaceae, our work in eudicots supports an earlier singular finding in spruce, a gymnosperm, indicating that the pathway of 21-nt reproductive phasiRNAs emerged in seed plants and was lost in some lineages.

  9. Jez, Joseph M. ; Topp, Christopher N. (Ed.)
    Single-cell RNA-seq is a tool that generates a high resolution of transcriptional data that can be used to understand regulatory networks in biological systems. In plants, several methods have been established for transcriptional analysis in tissue sections, cell types, and/or single cells. These methods typically require cell sorting, transgenic plants, protoplasting, or other damaging or laborious processes. Additionally, the majority of these technologies lose most or all spatial resolution during implementation. Those that offer a high spatial resolution for RNA lack breadth in the number of transcripts characterized. Here, we briefly review the evolution of spatial transcriptomics methods and we highlight recent advances and current challenges in sequencing, imaging, and computational aspects toward achieving 3D spatial transcriptomics of plant tissues with a resolution approaching single cells. We also provide a perspective on the potential opportunities to advance this novel methodology in plants.