The study of Carbohydrate-Active enZymes (CAZymes) associated with plant cell wall metabolism is important for elucidating the developmental mechanisms of plants and also for the utilization of plants as a biomass resource. The use of recombinant proteins is common in this context, but heterologous expression of plant proteins is particularly difficult, in part because the presence of many cysteine residues promotes denaturation, aggregation and/or protein misfolding. In this study, we evaluated two phenotypes of methylotrophic yeast Pichia pastoris as expression hosts for expansin from peach (Prunus persica (L.) Batsch, PpEXP1), which is one of the most challenging targets for heterologous expression. cDNAs encoding wild-type expansin (PpEXP1_WT) and a mutant in which all cysteine residues were replaced with serine (PpEXP1_CS) were each inserted into expression vectors, and the protein expression levels were compared. The total amount of secreted protein in PpEXP1_WT culture was approximately twice that of PpEXP1_CS. However, the amounts of recombinant expansin were 0.58 and 4.3 mg l−1, corresponding to 0.18% and 2.37% of total expressed protein, respectively. This 13-fold increase in production of the mutant in P. pastoris indicates that the replacement of cysteine residues stabilizes recombinant PpEXP1.
Intracellular sedimentation of highly dense, starch-filled amyloplasts toward the gravity vector is likely a key initial step for gravity sensing in plants. However, recent live-cell imaging technology revealed that most amyloplasts continuously exhibit dynamic, saltatory movements in the endodermal cells of Arabidopsis stems. These complicated movements led to questions about what type of amyloplast movement triggers gravity sensing. Here we show that a confocal microscope equipped with optical tweezers can be a powerful tool to trap and manipulate amyloplasts noninvasively, while simultaneously observing cellular responses such as vacuolar dynamics in living cells. A near-infrared (λ=1064 nm) laser that was focused into the endodermal cells at 1 mW of laser power attracted and captured amyloplasts at the laser focus. The optical force exerted on the amyloplasts was theoretically estimated to be up to 1 pN. Interestingly, endosomes and trans-Golgi network were trapped at 30 mW but not at 1 mW, which is probably due to lower refractive indices of these organelles than that of the amyloplasts. Because amyloplasts are in close proximity to vacuolar membranes in endodermal cells, their physical interaction could be visualized in real time. The vacuolar membranes drastically stretched and deformed in response to the manipulated movements of amyloplasts by optical tweezers. Our new method provides deep insights into the biophysical properties of plant organelles in vivo and opens a new avenue for studying gravity-sensing mechanisms in plants.
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) can measure the mechanical properties of plant tissue at the cellular level, but for in situ observations, the sample must be held in place on a rigid support and it is difficult to obtain accurate data for living plants without inhibiting their growth. To investigate the dynamics of root cell stiffness during seedling growth, we circumvented these problems by using an array of glass micropillars as a support to hold an Arabidopsis thaliana root for AFM measurements without inhibiting root growth. The root elongated in the gaps between the pillars and was supported by the pillars. The AFM cantilever could contact the root for repeated measurements over the course of root growth. The elasticity of the root epidermal cells was used as an index of the stiffness. By contrast, we were not able to reliably observe roots on a smooth glass substrate because it was difficult to retain contact between the root and the cantilever without the support of the pillars. Using adhesive to fix the root on the smooth glass plane overcame this issue, but prevented root growth. The glass micropillar support allowed reproducible measurement of the spatial and temporal changes in root cell elasticity, making it possible to perform detailed AFM observations of the dynamics of root cell stiffness.
While it is known that plant roots can change their shapes to the stress direction, it remains unclear if the root orientation can change as a means for mechanical reinforcement. When stress in form of a unidirectional vibration is applied to cuttings of Populus nigra for 5 min a day over a period of 20 days, the root system architecture changes. The contribution of roots with a diameter larger than 0.04 cm increases, while the allocation to roots smaller than 0.03 cm decreases. In addition to the root diameter allocation, the root orientation in the stem proximity was analyzed by appearance and with a nematic tensor analysis in an attempt to calculate the average root orientation. The significant different allocation to roots with a larger diameter, and the tendency of roots to align in the vicinity of the stress axis (not significantly different), are indicating a mechanical reinforcement to cope with the received strain. This work indicates an adaptive root system architecture and a possible adaptive root orientation for mechanical reinforcement.
In most dicotyledonous plants, leaf pavement cells exhibit complex jigsaw puzzle-like cell morphogenesis during leaf expansion. Although detailed molecular biological information and mathematical modeling of this jigsaw puzzle-like cell morphogenesis are now available, a full understanding of this process remains elusive. Recent reports have highlighted the importance of three-dimensional (3D) structures (i.e., anticlinal and periclinal cell wall) in understanding the mechanical models that describe this morphogenetic process. We believe that it is important to acquire 3D shapes of pavement cells over time, i.e., acquire and analyze four-dimensional (4D) information when studying the relationship between mechanical modeling and simulations and the actual cell shape. In this report, we have developed a framework to capture and analyze 4D morphological information of Arabidopsis thaliana cotyledon pavement cells by using both direct water immersion observations and computational image analyses, including segmentation, surface modeling, virtual reality and morphometry. The 4D cell models allowed us to perform time-lapse 3D morphometrical analysis, providing detailed quantitative information about changes in cell growth rate and shape, with cellular complexity observed to increase during cell growth. The framework should enable analysis of various phenotypes (e.g., mutants) in greater detail, especially in the 3D deformation of the cotyledon surface, and evaluation of theoretical models that describe pavement cell morphogenesis using computational simulations. Additionally, our accurate and high-throughput acquisition of growing cell structures should be suitable for use in generating in silico model cell structures.
Although magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a useful technique, only a few studies have investigated the dynamic behavior of small subjects using MRI owing to constraints such as experimental space and signal amount. In this study, to acquire high-resolution continuous three-dimensional gravitropism data of pea (Pisum sativum) sprouts, we developed a small-bore MRI signal receiver coil that can be used in a clinical MRI and adjusted the imaging sequence. It was expected that such an arrangement would improve signal sensitivity and improve the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the acquired image. All MRI experiments were performed using a 3.0-T clinical MRI scanner. An SNR comparison using an agarose gel phantom to confirm the improved performance of the small-bore receiver coil and an imaging experiment of pea sprouts exhibiting gravitropism were performed. The SNRs of the images acquired with a standard 32-channel head coil and the new small-bore receiver coil were 5.23±0.90 and 57.75±12.53, respectively. The SNR of the images recorded using the new coil was approximately 11-fold higher than that of the standard coil. In addition, when the accuracy of MR imaging that captures the movement of pea sprout was verified, the difference in position information from the optical image was found to be small and could be used for measurements. These results of this study enable the application of a clinical MRI system for dynamic plant MRI. We believe that this study is a significant first step in the development of plant MRI technique.
Plant shoots can bend upward against gravity, a behavior known as shoot gravitropism. The conventional quantification of shoot bending has been restricted to measurements of shoot tip angle, which cannot fully describe the spatio-temporal bending process. Recently, however, advanced imaging analyses have been developed to quantify in detail the spatio-temporal changes in inclination angle and curvature of the shoot. We used one such method (KymoRod) to analyze the gravitropism of the Arabidopsis thaliana inflorescence stem, and successfully extracted characteristics that capture when and where bending occurs. Furthermore, we implemented an elastic spring theoretical model and successfully determined best fitted parameters that may explain typical bending behaviors of the inflorescence stem. Overall, we propose a data-model combined framework to quantitatively investigate shoot gravitropism in plants.
Grafting is an indispensable agricultural technology for propagating useful tree varieties and obtaining beneficial traits of two varieties/species—as stock and scion—at the same time. Recent studies of molecular events during grafting have revealed dynamic physiological and transcriptomic changes. Strategies focused on specific grafting steps are needed to further associate each physiological and molecular event with those steps. In this study, we developed a method to investigate the tissue adhesion event, an early grafting step, by improving an artificial in vitro grafting system in which two pieces of 1.5-mm thick Nicotiana benthamiana cut stem sections were combined and cultured on medium. We prepared a silicone sheet containing five special cutouts for adhesion of cut stem slices. We quantitatively measured the adhesive force at these grafting interfaces using a force gauge and found that graft adhesion started 2 days after grafting, with the adhesive force gradually increasing over time. After confirming the positive effect of auxin on grafting by this method, we tested the effect of cellulase treatment and observed significant enhancement of graft tissue adhesion. Compared with the addition of auxin or cellulase individually, the adhesive force was stronger when both auxin and cellulase were added simultaneously. The in vitro grafting method developed in this study is thus useful for examining the process of graft adhesion.
Arabinogalactan-proteins (AGPs) are extracellular proteoglycans, which are presumed to participate in the regulation of cell shape, thus contributing to the excellent mechanical properties of plants. AGPs consist of a hydroxyproline-rich core-protein and large arabinogalactan (AG) sugar chains, called type II AGs. These AGs have a β-1,3-galactan backbone and β-1,6-galactan side chains, to which other sugars are attached. The structure of type II AG differs depending on source plant, tissue, and age. Type II AGs obtained from woody plants in large quantity as represented by gum arabic and larch AG, here designated gum arabic-subclass, have a β-1,3;1,6-galactan structure in which the β-1,3-galactan backbone is highly substituted with short β-1,6-galactan side chains. On the other hand, it is unclear whether type II AGs found as the glycan part of AGPs from herbaceous plants, here designated AGP-subclass, also have conserved β-1,3:1,6-galactan structural features. In the present study we explore similarities of type II AG structures in the AGP-subclass. Type II AGs in fractions obtained from spinach, broccoli, bok choy, komatsuna, and cucumber were hydrolyzed into galactose and β-1,6-galactooligosaccharides by specific enzymes. Based on the proportion of these sugars, the substitution ratio of the β-1,3-galactan backbone was calculated as 46–58% in the five vegetables, which is consistently lower than what is seen in gum arabic and larch AG. Although most side chains were short, long chains such as β-1,6-galactohexaose chains were also observed in these vegetables. The results suggest a conserved β-1,3;1,6-galactan structure in the AGP-subclass that distinguishes it from the gum arabic-subclass.
Xylem vessels, which conduct water from roots to aboveground tissues in vascular plants, are stiffened by secondary cell walls (SCWs). Protoxylem vessel cells deposit cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin as SCW components in helical and/or annular patterns. The mechanisms underlying SCW patterning in the protoxylem vessel cells are not fully understood, although VASCULAR-RERATED NAC-DOMAIN 7 (VND7) has been identified as a master transcription factor in protoxylem vessel cell differentiation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Here, we investigated deposition patterns of SCWs throughout the tissues of Arabidopsis seedlings using an inducible transdifferentiation system that utilizes a chimeric protein in which VND7 is fused with the activation domain of VP16 and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) (VND7-VP16-GR). In slender- and cylinder-shaped cells, such as petiole and hypocotyl cells, SCWs that were ectopically induced by the VND7-VP16-GR system were deposited linearly, resulting in helical and annular patterns similar to the endogenous patterns in protoxylem vessel cells. By contrast, concentrated linear SCW deposition was associated with unevenness on the surface of pavement cells in cotyledon leaf blades, suggesting the involvement of cell morphology in SCW patterning. When we exposed the seedlings to hypertonic conditions that induced plasmolysis, we observed aberrant deposition patterns in SCW formation. Because the turgor pressure becomes zero at the point when cells reach limiting plasmolysis, this result implies that proper turgor pressure is required for normal SCW patterning. Taken together, our results suggest that the deposition pattern of SCWs is affected by mechanical stimuli that are related to cell morphogenesis and turgor pressure.
The mechanical strength of a plant stem (a load-bearing organ) helps the plant resist drooping, buckling and fracturing. We previously proposed a method for quickly evaluating the stiffness of an inflorescence stem in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana based on measuring its natural frequency in a free-vibration test. However, the relationship between the stiffness and flexural rigidity of inflorescence stems was unclear. Here, we compared our previously described free-vibration test with the three-point bending test, the most popular method for calculating the flexural rigidity of A. thaliana stems, and examined the extent to which the results were correlated. Finally, to expand the application range, we present an example of a modified free-vibration test. Our results provide a reference for improving estimates of the flexural rigidity of A. thaliana inflorescence stems.
Environmental stimuli such as gravity and light modify the plant development to optimize overall architecture. Many physiological and molecular biological studies of gravitropism and phototropism have been carried out. However, sufficient analysis has not been performed from a mechanical point of view. If the biological and mechanical characteristics of gravitropism and phototropism can be accurately grasped, then controlling the environmental conditions would be helpful to control the growth of plants into a specific shape. In this study, to clarify the mechanical characteristics of gravitropism, we examined the transverse bending moment occurring in cantilevered pea (Pisum sativum) sprouts in response to gravistimulation. The force of the pea sprouts lifting themselves during gravitropism was measured using an electronic balance. The gravitropic bending force of the pea sprouts was in the order of 100 Nmm in the conditions set for this study, although there were wide variations due to individual differences.
Plants establish their root system as a three-dimensional structure, which is then used to explore the soil to absorb resources and provide mechanical anchorage. Simplified two-dimensional growth systems, such as agar plates, have been used to study various aspects of plant root biology. However, it remains challenging to study the more realistic three-dimensional structure and function of roots hidden in opaque soil. Here, we optimized X-ray computer tomography (CT)-based visualization of an intact root system by using Toyoura sand, a standard silica sand used in geotechnology research, as a growth substrate. Distinct X-ray attenuation densities of root tissue and Toyoura sand enabled clear image segmentation of the CT data. Sorghum grew especially vigorously in Toyoura sand and it could be used as a model for analyzing root structure optimization in response to mechanical obstacles. The use of Toyoura sand has the potential to link plant root biology and geotechnology applications.
A laser micromarking technique on plant epidermis was developed to study how a plant can reduce the stress in bending behavior by controlling the growth and morphogenesis. The negative gravitropism in a pea seedling (Pisum sativum L.) was discussed based on the time-dependent displacement of laser marking points which were formed by spatially-selective laser ablation of the cuticle layer that covers the outer surface of a plant. The elongation of the stem in the horizontal direction was remarkable in the first half of the gravitropism. The elongation percentages of the stem length between laser-marking points at around upper surface, middle, and bottom surface were evaluated to be 2.57, 4.87, and 7.70%, respectively. The characteristic feature of the stem bending in gravitropism is the elongation even at the upper surface region, that is, inside of the bending. This is a different feature from cantilever beams for structural materials like metals and polymers, where the compression of the upper surface and elongation of the bottom surface are caused by bending. Another laser micromarking technique was developed to improve the resolution of a dot-matrix pattern by fluorescent material transfer to a plant through a masking film with a micro-hole matrix pattern. Similar time-dependent displacement behavior was observed for a fluorescent dot-marked stem showing a feedback control loop in the mechanical optimization. These results suggested that plants solve the problem of the stress in stem bending through growth. The laser micromarking is an effective method for studying the mechanical optimization in plants.