In this study, we show that both arginine decarboxylase (ADC) protein and mRNA transcript are present at different phases of mitosis in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) zygotic embryogenesis. We also examined the consistency of polyamine (PA) profiles with the effective temperature sum, the latter indicating the developmental stage of the embryos. PA metabolism was analyzed by fitting statistical regression models to the data of free and soluble conjugated PAs, to the enzyme activities of ADC and ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), as well as to the gene expression of ADC. According to the fitted models, PAs typically had the tendency to increase at the early stages but decrease at the late stages of embryogenesis. Only the free putrescine fraction remained stable during embryo development. The PA biosynthesis strongly preferred the ADC pathway. Both ADC gene expression and ADC enzyme activity were substantially higher than putative ODC gene expression or ODC enzyme activity, respectively. ADC gene expression and enzyme activity increased during embryogenesis, which suggests the involvement of transcriptional regulation in the expression of ADC. Both ADC mRNA and ADC protein localized in dividing cells of embryo meristems and more specifically within the mitotic spindle apparatus and close to the chromosomes, respectively. The results suggest the essential role of ADC in the mitosis of plant cells.
In the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) seed, embryos grow and develop within the corrosion cavity of the megagametophyte, a maternally derived haploid tissue, which houses the majority of the storage reserves of the seed. In the present study, histochemical methods and quantification of the expression levels of the programmed cell death (PCD) and DNA repair processes related genes (MCA, TAT-D, RAD51, KU80, and LIG) were used to investigate the physiological events occurring in the megagametophyte tissue during embryo development. It was found that the megagametophyte was viable from the early phases of embryo development until the early germination of mature seeds. However, the megagametophyte cells in the narrow embryo surrounding region (ESR) were destroyed by cell death with morphologically necrotic features. Their cell wall, plasma membrane, and nuclear envelope broke down with the release of cell debris and nucleic acids into the corrosion cavity. The occurrence of necrotic-like cell death in gymnosperm embryogenesis provides a favourable model for the study of developmental cell death with necrotic-like morphology and suggests that the mechanism underlying necrotic cell death is evolutionary conserved.
Understanding the consequences of local adaptation at the genomic diversity is a central goal in evolutionary genetics of natural populations. In species with large continuous geographical distributions the phenotypic signal of local adaptation is frequently clear, but the genetic basis often remains elusive. We examined the patterns of genetic diversity in Pinus sylvestris, a keystone species in many Eurasian ecosystems with a huge distribution range and decades of forestry research showing that it is locally adapted to the vast range of environmental conditions. Making P. sylvestris an even more attractive subject of local adaptation study, population structure has been shown to be weak previously and in this study. However, little is known about the molecular genetic basis of adaptation, as the massive size of gymnosperm genomes has prevented large scale genomic surveys. We generated a both geographically and genomically extensive dataset using a targeted sequencing approach. By applying divergence-based and landscape genomics methods we identified several loci contributing to local adaptation, but only few with large allele frequency changes across latitude. We also discovered a very large (ca. 300 Mbp) putative inversion potentially under selection, which to our knowledge is the first such discovery in conifers. Our results call for more detailed analysis of structural variation in relation to genomic basis of local adaptation, emphasize the lack of large effect loci contributing to local adaptation in the coding regions and thus point out the need for more attention towards multi-locus analysis of polygenic adaptation.
Polyamine (PA) metabolism was studied in liquid cultures of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) embryogenic cells. The focus of the study was on the metabolic changes at the interphase between the initial lag phase and the exponential growth phase. PA concentrations fluctuated in the liquid cultures as follows. Putrescine (Put) concentrations increased, whereas spermidine (Spd) concentrations decreased in both free and soluble conjugated PA fractions. The concentrations of free and soluble conjugated spermine (Spm) remained low, and small amounts of excreted PAs were also found in the culture medium. The minor production of secondary metabolites reflected the undifferentiated stage of the embryogenic cell culture. Put was produced via the arginine decarboxylase (ADC) pathway. Futhermore, the gene expression data suggested that the accumulation of Put was caused neither by an increase in Put biosynthesis nor by a decrease in Put catabolism, but resulted mainly from the decrease in the biosynthesis of Spd and Spm. Put seemed to play an important role in cell proliferation in Scots pine embryogenic cells, but the low pH of the culture medium could also, at least partially, be the reason for the accumulation of endogenous Put. High Spd concentrations at the initiation of the culture, when cells were exposed to stress and cell death, suggested that Spd may act not only as a protector against stress but also as a growth suppressor, when proliferative growth is not promoted. All in all, Scots pine embryogenic cell culture was proved to be a favourable experimental platform to study PA metabolism and, furthermore, the developed system may also be beneficial in experiments where, e.g., the effect of specific stressors on PA metabolism is addressed.
Contrary to previous views, our results demonstrate that SPMS activity is not a novel feature developed solely in the angiosperm lineage of seed plants but also exists as a secondary property in the Scots pine SPDS enzyme. The discovery of bifunctional SPDS from an evolutionarily old conifer reveals the missing link in the evolution of the polyamine biosynthesis pathway. The finding emphasizes the importance of pre-existing secondary functions in the evolution of new enzyme activities via gene duplication. Our results also associate PsACL5 with the development of vascular structures in Scots pine.
Somatic embryogenesis (SE) is one of the methods with the highest potential for the vegetative propagation of commercially important coniferous species. However, many conifers, including Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.), are recalcitrant to SE and a better understanding of the mechanisms behind the SE process is needed. In Scots pine SE cultures, embryo production is commonly induced by the removal of auxin, addition of abscisic acid (ABA) and the desiccation of cell masses by polyethylene glycol (PEG). In the present study, we focus on the possible link between the induction of somatic embryo formation and cellular stress responses such as hydrogen peroxide protection, DNA repair, changes in polyamine (PA) metabolism and autophagy. Cellular PA contents and the expression of the PA metabolism genes arginine decarboxylase (ADC), spermidine synthase (SPDS), thermospermine synthase (ACL5) and diamine oxidase (DAO) were analyzed, as well as the expression of catalase (CAT), DNA repair genes (RAD51, KU80) and autophagy-related genes (ATG5, ATG8) throughout the induction of somatic embryo formation in Scots pine SE cultures. Among the embryo-producing SE lines, the expression of ADC, SPDS, ACL5, DAO, CAT, RAD51, KU80 and ATG8 showed consistent profiles. Furthermore, the overall low expression of the stress-related genes suggests that cells in those SE lines were not stressed but recognized the ABA+PEG treatment as a signal to trigger the embryogenic pathway. In those SE lines that were unable to produce embryos, cells seemed to experience the ABA+PEG treatment mostly as osmotic stress and activated a wide range of stress defense mechanisms. Altogether, our results suggest that the direction to the embryogenic pathway is connected with cellular stress responses in Scots pine SE cultures. Thus, the manipulation of stress response pathways may provide a way to enhance somatic embryo production in recalcitrant Scots pine SE lines.
Long-lived conifers are vulnerable to climate change because classical evolutionary processes are slow in developing adaptive responses. Therefore, the capacity of a genotype to adopt different phenotypes is important. Gene expression is the primary mechanism that converts genome-encoded information into phenotypes, and DNA methylation is employed in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression. We investigated variations in global DNA methylation and gene expression between three Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) populations located in northern and southern Finland using mature seeds. Gene expression levels were studied in six DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) genes, which were characterized in this study, and in 19 circadian clock genes regulating adaptive traits. In embryos, expression diversity was found for three DNMT genes, which maintain DNA methylation. The expression of two DNMT genes was strongly correlated with climate variables, which suggests a role for DNA methylation in local adaptation. For adaptation-related genes, expression levels showed between-population variation in 11 genes in megagametophytes and in eight genes in embryos, and many of these genes were linked to climate factors. Altogether, our results suggest that differential DNA methylation and gene expression contribute to local adaptation in Scots pine populations and may enhance the fitness of trees under rapidly changing climatic conditions.
The northern regions are experiencing considerable changes in winter climate leading to more frequent warm periods, rain-on-snow events and reduced snow pack diminishing the insulation properties of snow cover and increasing soil frost and freeze-thaw cycles. In this study, we investigated how the lack of snow cover, formation of ice encasement and snow compaction affect the size, structure and activities of soil bacterial and fungal communities. Contrary to our hypotheses, snow manipulation treatments over one winter had limited influence on microbial community structure, bacterial or fungal copy numbers or enzyme activities. However, microbial community structure and activities shifted seasonally among soils sampled before snow melt, in early and late growing season and seemed driven by substrate availability. Bacterial and fungal communities were dominated by stress-resistant taxa such as the orders Acidobacteriales, Chaetothyriales and Helotiales that are likely adapted to adverse winter conditions. This study indicated that microbial communities in acidic northern boreal forest soil may be insensitive to direct effects of changing snow cover. However, in long term, the detrimental effects of increased ice and frost to plant roots may alter plant derived carbon and nutrient pools to the soil likely leading to stronger microbial responses.
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