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Concept: Vascular plant


Electronic plants, e-Plants, are an organic bioelectronic platform that allows electronic interfacing with plants. Recently we have demonstrated plants with augmented electronic functionality. Using the vascular system and organs of a plant, we manufactured organic electronic devices and circuits in vivo, leveraging the internal structure and physiology of the plant as the template, and an integral part of the devices. However, this electronic functionality was only achieved in localized regions, whereas new electronic materials that could be distributed to every part of the plant would provide versatility in device and circuit fabrication and create possibilities for new device concepts. Here we report the synthesis of such a conjugated oligomer that can be distributed and form longer oligomers and polymer in every part of the xylem vascular tissue of a Rosa floribunda cutting, forming long-range conducting wires. The plant’s structure acts as a physical template, whereas the plant’s biochemical response mechanism acts as the catalyst for polymerization. In addition, the oligomer can cross through the veins and enter the apoplastic space in the leaves. Finally, using the plant’s natural architecture we manufacture supercapacitors along the stem. Our results are preludes to autonomous energy systems integrated within plants and distribute interconnected sensor-actuator systems for plant control and optimization.

Concepts: Protein, Blood, Integrated circuit, Monomer, Transistor, Vascular plant, Fern, Vascular tissue


CRISPR/Cas9 technology is a versatile tool for targeted mutagenesis in many organisms, including plants. However, this technique has not been applied to the Japanese morning glory (Ipomoea [Pharbitis] nil), a traditional garden plant chosen for the National BioResource Project in Japan. We selected dihydroflavonol-4-reductase-B (DFR-B) of I. nil, encoding an anthocyanin biosynthesis enzyme, as the target gene, and changes in the stem colour were observed during the early stages of plant tissue culture by Rhizobium [Agrobacterium]-mediated transformation. Twenty-four of the 32 (75%) transgenic plants bore anthocyanin-less white flowers with bi-allelic mutations at the Cas9 cleavage site in DFR-B, exhibiting a single base insertion or deletions of more than two bases. Thus, these results demonstrate that CRISPR/Cas9 technology enables the exploration of gene functions in this model horticultural plant. To our knowledge, this report is the first concerning flower colour changes in higher plants using CRISPR/Cas9 technology.

Concepts: Genetics, Mutation, Organism, Plant, Vascular plant, Flowering plant, Vascular tissue, Ipomoea


Effective point-of-use devices for providing safe drinking water are urgently needed to reduce the global burden of waterborne disease. Here we show that plant xylem from the sapwood of coniferous trees - a readily available, inexpensive, biodegradable, and disposable material - can remove bacteria from water by simple pressure-driven filtration. Approximately 3 cm(3) of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person. The results demonstrate the potential of plant xylem to address the need for pathogen-free drinking water in developing countries and resource-limited settings.

Concepts: Plant, Water, Tree, Vascular plant, Wood, Need, Pinophyta, Drinking water


As a consequence of climate warming, species usually shift their distribution towards higher latitudes or altitudes. Yet, it is unclear how different taxonomic groups may respond to climate warming over larger altitudinal ranges. Here, we used data from the national biodiversity monitoring program of Switzerland, collected over an altitudinal range of 2500 m. Within the short period of eight years (2003-2010), we found significant shifts in communities of vascular plants, butterflies and birds. At low altitudes, communities of all species groups changed towards warm-dwelling species, corresponding to an average uphill shift of 8 m, 38 m and 42 m in plant, butterfly and bird communities, respectively. However, rates of community changes decreased with altitude in plants and butterflies, while bird communities changed towards warm-dwelling species at all altitudes. We found no decrease in community variation with respect to temperature niches of species, suggesting that climate warming has not led to more homogenous communities. The different community changes depending on altitude could not be explained by different changes of air temperatures, since during the 16 years between 1995 and 2010, summer temperatures in Switzerland rose by about 0.07°C per year at all altitudes. We discuss that land-use changes or increased disturbances may have prevented alpine plant and butterfly communities from changing towards warm-dwelling species. However, the findings are also consistent with the hypothesis that unlike birds, many alpine plant species in a warming climate could find suitable habitats within just a few metres, due to the highly varied surface of alpine landscapes. Our results may thus support the idea that for plants and butterflies and on a short temporal scale, alpine landscapes are safer places than lowlands in a warming world.

Concepts: Species, Plant, Taxonomy, Change, Vascular plant, Fern, Plants, Global warming


The xylem and phloem, major conducting and supporting tissues in vascular plants, are established by cell division and cell-type specification in the procambium/cambium. The organization of the xylem, phloem, and procambium/cambium is tightly controlled. However, the underlying regulatory mechanisms remain largely unknown. In this study, we report the discovery of two transcription factors, AT-HOOK MOTIF NUCLEAR LOCALIZED PROTEIN 3 (AHL3) and AHL4, which regulate vascular tissue boundaries in Arabidopsis thaliana roots. In either of the knockout mutants of AHL3 and AHL4, encoding closely related AT-hook transcription factors, a misspecification of tissue boundaries between the xylem and procambium occurred and ectopic xylem developed in the procambium domain. In plants, specific types of transcription factors can serve as direct intercellular signals by moving from one cell to another, playing crucial roles in tissue patterning. Adding to this paradigm, AHL4 moves actively from the procambium to xylem in the root meristem to regulate the tissue boundaries. When the intercellular movement of AHL4 was impaired, AHL4 could not complement the xylem phenotype in the ahl4. Furthermore, AHL4 revealed unique characteristics in that it interacts with AHL3 in vivo and that this interaction facilitates their intercellular trafficking. Taken together, this study uncovered a novel mechanism in vascular tissue patterning that requires the intercellular trafficking of two interacting transcription factors.

Concepts: Plant, Tissues, Vascular plant, Root, Xylem, Phloem, Meristem, Vascular tissue


Xylem and phloem are essential for the exchange of solutes and signals among organs of land plants. The synergy of both enables the transport and ultimately the partitioning of water, nutrients, metabolic products and signals among the organs of plants. The collection and analysis of xylem sap allow at least qualitative assumptions about bulk transport in the transpiration stream. For quantification of element-, ion-, and compound-flow, the additional estimation of volume flow is necessary. In this chapter we describe methods for collecting xylem sap by (1) root pressure exudate, (2) Scholander-Hammel pressure vessel, (3) root pressurizing method according to Passioura, and (4) (hand/battery) vacuum pump.

Concepts: Plant, Water, Pressure, Vascular plant, Plant physiology, Xylem, Vacuum, Plant sap


With the discovery of strigolactones as root exudate signals that trigger parasitic weed seed germination, and then as a branching inhibitor and plant hormone, the next phase of strigolactone research has quickly revealed this hormone class as a major player in optimizing plant growth and development. From the early stages of plant evolution, it seems that strigolactones were involved in enabling plants to modify growth in order to gain advantage in competition with neighboring organisms for limited resources. For example, a moss plant can alter its growth in response to strigolactones emanating from a neighbor. Within a higher plant, strigolactones appear to be involved in controlling the balance of resource distribution via strategic modification of growth and development. Most notably, higher plants that encounter phosphate deficiency increase strigolactone production, which changes root growth and promotes fungal symbiosis to enhance phosphate intake. The shoot also changes by channeling resources away from unessential leaves and branches and into the main stem and root system. This hormonal response is a key adaption that radically alters whole plant architecture in order to optimize growth and development under diverse environmental conditions.

Concepts: Plant, Vascular plant, Root, Fern, Plants, Seed, Plant morphology, Moss


Vascular formation is intimately associated with bone formation during distraction osteogenesis (DO). While prior studies on this association have focused on vascular formation locally within the regenerate, we hypothesized that this vascular formation, as well as the resulting osteogenesis, relies heavily on the response of the vascular network in surrounding muscular compartments. To test this hypothesis, the spatiotemporal sequence of vascular formation was assessed in both muscular and osseous compartments in a murine model of DO and was compared to the progression of osteogenesis. Micro-computed tomography (μCT) scans were performed sequentially, before and after demineralization, on specimens containing contrast-enhanced vascular casts. Image registration and subtraction procedures were developed to examine the co-related, spatiotemporal patterns of vascular and osseous tissue formation. Immunohistochemistry was used to assess the contributory roles of arteriogenesis (formation of large vessels) and angiogenesis (formation of small vessels) to overall vessel formation. Mean vessel thickness showed an increasing trend during the period of active distraction (p=0.068), whereas vessel volume showed maximal increases during the consolidation period (p=0.009). The volume of mineralized tissue in the regenerate increased over time (p<0.039), was correlated with vessel volume (r=0.59; p=0.025), and occurred primarily during consolidation. Immunohistological data suggested that: 1) the period of active distraction was characterized primarily by arteriogenesis in the surrounding muscle; 2) during consolidation, angiogenesis predominated in the intraosteal region; and 3) vessel formation proceeded from the surrounding muscle into the regenerate. These data show that formation of vascular tissue occurs in both muscular and osseous compartments during DO and that periods of intense osteogenesis are concurrent with those of angiogenesis. The results further suggest the presence of morphogenetic factors that coordinate the development of vascular tissues from the intramuscular compartment into the regions of osseous regeneration.

Concepts: Bone, Skeletal system, Tissues, Sequence, Tissue, Vascular plant, Vascular tissue


Casparian strips are ring-like cell-wall modifications in the root endodermis of vascular plants. Their presence generates a paracellular barrier, analogous to animal tight junctions, that is thought to be crucial for selective nutrient uptake, exclusion of pathogens, and many other processes. Despite their importance, the chemical nature of Casparian strips has remained a matter of debate, confounding further molecular analysis. Suberin, lignin, lignin-like polymers, or both, have been claimed to make up Casparian strips. Here we show that, in Arabidopsis, suberin is produced much too late to take part in Casparian strip formation. In addition, we have generated plants devoid of any detectable suberin, which still establish functional Casparian strips. In contrast, manipulating lignin biosynthesis abrogates Casparian strip formation. Finally, monolignol feeding and lignin-specific chemical analysis indicates the presence of archetypal lignin in Casparian strips. Our findings establish the chemical nature of the primary root-diffusion barrier in Arabidopsis and enable a mechanistic dissection of the formation of Casparian strips, which are an independent way of generating tight junctions in eukaryotes.

Concepts: Plant, Chemistry, Cell wall, Lignin, Vascular plant, Suberin, Casparian strip


The ability for cut tissues to join and form a chimeric organism is a remarkable property of many plants; however, grafting is poorly characterized at the molecular level. To better understand this process, we monitored genome-wide gene expression changes in graftedArabidopsis thalianahypocotyls. We observed a sequential activation of genes associated with cambium, phloem, and xylem formation. Tissues above and below the graft rapidly developed an asymmetry such that many genes were more highly expressed on one side than on the other. This asymmetry correlated with sugar-responsive genes, and we observed an accumulation of starch above the graft junction. This accumulation decreased along with asymmetry once the sugar-transporting vascular tissues reconnected. Despite the initial starvation response below the graft, many genes associated with vascular formation were rapidly activated in grafted tissues but not in cut and separated tissues, indicating that a recognition mechanism was activated independently of functional vascular connections. Auxin, which is transported cell to cell, had a rapidly elevated response that was symmetric, suggesting that auxin was perceived by the root within hours of tissue attachment to activate the vascular regeneration process. A subset of genes was expressed only in grafted tissues, indicating that wound healing proceeded via different mechanisms depending on the presence or absence of adjoining tissues. Such a recognition process could have broader relevance for tissue regeneration, intertissue communication, and tissue fusion events.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Cell, Organism, Cellular differentiation, Vascular plant, Vascular cambium