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Journal: Plant science : an international journal of experimental plant biology


Cannabis sativa (cannabis) produces a resin that is valued for its psychoactive and medicinal properties. Despite being the foundation of a multi-billion dollar global industry, scientific knowledge and research on cannabis is lagging behind compared to other high-value crops. This is largely due to legal restrictions that have prevented many researchers from studying cannabis, its products, and their effects in humans. Cannabis resin contains hundreds of different terpene and cannabinoid metabolites. Many of these metabolites have not been conclusively identified. Our understanding of the genomic and biosynthetic systems of these metabolites in cannabis, and the factors that affect their variability, is rudimentary. As a consequence, there is concern about lack of consistency with regard to the terpene and cannabinoid composition of different cannabis ‘strains’. Likewise, claims of some of the medicinal properties attributed to cannabis metabolites would benefit from thorough scientific validation.


We investigated the mechanism regulating cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) in Brassica rapa ssp. pekinensis using floral bud transcriptome analyses of Ogura-CMS Chinese cabbage and its maintainer line in B. rapa 300-K oligomeric probe (Br300K) microarrays. Ogura-CMS Chinese cabbage produced few and infertile pollen grains on indehiscent anthers. Compared to the maintainer line, CMS plants had shorter filaments and plant growth, and delayed flowering and pollen development. In microarray analysis, 4646 genes showed different expression, depending on floral bud size, between Ogura-CMS and its maintainer line. We found 108 and 62 genes specifically expressed in Ogura-CMS and its maintainer line, respectively. Ogura-CMS line-specific genes included stress-related, redox-related, and B. rapa novel genes. In the maintainer line, genes related to pollen coat and germination were specifically expressed in floral buds longer than 3mm, suggesting insufficient expression of these genes in Ogura-CMS is directly related to dysfunctional pollen. In addition, many nuclear genes associated with auxin response, ATP synthesis, pollen development and stress response had delayed expression in Ogura-CMS plants compared to the maintainer line, which is consistent with the delay in growth and development of Ogura-CMS plants. Delayed expression may reduce pollen grain production and/or cause sterility, implying that mitochondrial, retrograde signaling delays nuclear gene expression.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Cell, Brassica, Plant morphology, Flowering plant, Flower, Pollen


Omics tools constitute a powerful means of describing the complexity of plants and soil-borne microorganisms. Next generation sequencing technologies, coupled with emerging systems biology approaches, seem promising to represent a new strategy in the study of plant-microbe interactions. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are ubiquitous symbionts of plant roots, that provide their host with many benefits. However, as obligate biotrophs, AMF show a genetic, cellular and physiological complexity that makes the study of their biology as well as their effective agronomical exploitation rather difficult. Here, we speculate that the increasing availability of omics data on mycorrhiza and of computational tools that allow systems biology approaches represents a step forward in the understanding of arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis. Furthermore, the application of this study-perspective to agriculturally relevant model plants, such as tomato and rice, will lead to a better in-field exploitation of this beneficial symbiosis in the frame of low-input agriculture.

Concepts: Bacteria, Plant, Fungus, Symbiosis, Mycorrhiza, Glomeromycota, Arbuscular mycorrhiza, Mycology


Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L.) is one of the fifth most important ornamental species worldwide. Many desirable plant characteristics, such as big size, adaptation under stress, and intra or interspecific hybridization capability, are dependent on plant ploidy level. We optimized a quick flow cytometry method for DNA content determination in wild and cultivated carnation samples that allowed a systematic evaluation of ploidy levels in Dianthus species. The DNA content of different carnation cultivars and wild Dianthus species was determined using internal reference standards. The precise characterization of ploidy, endoreduplication and C-value of D. caryophyllus ‘Master’ makes it a suitable standard cultivar for ploidy level determination in other carnation cultivars. Mixoploidy was rigorously characterized in different regions of several organs from D. caryophyllus ‘Master’, which combined with a detailed morphological description suggested some distinctive developmental traits of this species. Both the number of endoreduplication cycles and the proportion of endopolyploid cells were highly variable in the petals among the cultivars studied, differently to the values found in leaves. Our results suggest a positive correlation between ploidy, cell size and petal size in cultivated carnation, which should be considered in breeding programs aimed to obtain new varieties with large flowers.

Concepts: DNA, Organism, Flow cytometry, Flower, Cultivar, Dianthus, Cultivated plant taxonomy, Dianthus caryophyllus


Anthropogenic increases in fossil fuel emissions have been a primary driver of increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide ([CO2]) and other greenhouse gases resulting in warmer temperatures, alterations in precipitation patterns, and increased occurrence of extreme weather events in terrestrial areas across the globe. In agricultural growing regions, alterations in climate can challenge plant productivity in ways that impact the ability of the world to sustain adequate food production for a growing and increasingly affluent population with shifting access to affordable and nutritious food. While the knowledge gap that exists regarding potential climate change impacts is large across agriculture, it is especially large in specialty cropping systems. This includes fruit and vegetable crops, and perennial cropping systems which also contribute (along with row crops) to our global diet. In order to obtain a comprehensive view of the true impact of climate change on our global food supply, we must expand our narrow focus from improving yield and plant productivity to include the impact of climate change on the nutritional value of these crops. In order to address these questions, we need a multi-faceted approach that integrates physiology and genomics tools and conducts comprehensive experiments under realistic depictions of future projected climate. This review describes gaps in our knowledge in relation to these responses, and future questions and actions that are needed to develop a sustainable future food supply in light of global climate change.


High oleate peanuts have two marketable benefits, health benefits to consumers and extended shelf life of peanut products. Two mutant alleles present on linkage group a09 (ahFAD2A) and b09 (ahFAD2B) control composition of three major fatty acids, oleic, linoleic and palmitic acids which together determine peanut oil quality. In conventional breeding, selection for fatty acid composition is delayed to advanced generations. However by using DNA markers, breeders can reject large number of plants in early generations and therefore can optimize time and resources. Here, two approaches of molecular breeding namely marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC) and marker-assisted selection (MAS) were employed to transfer two FAD2 mutant alleles from SunOleic 95R into the genetic background of ICGV 06110, ICGV 06142 and ICGV 06420. In summary, 82 MABC and 387 MAS derived introgression lines (ILs) were developed using DNA markers with elevated oleic acid varying from 62 to 83%. Oleic acid increased by 0.5-1.1 folds, with concomitant reduction of linoleic acid by 0.4-1.0 folds and palmitic acid by 0.1-0.6 folds among ILs compared to recurrent parents. Finally, high oleate ILs, 27 with high oil (53-58%), and 28 ILs with low oil content (42-50%) were selected that may be released for cultivation upon further evaluation.

Concepts: Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Oleic acid, Linoleic acid, Olive oil, Palm oil, Palmitic acid, Peanut oil


With an expected 9 billion people by 2050 and average income on the rise in the developing world, meeting future food demand will be a challenge. Climate change, urbanisation and land degradation are putting further pressure on the food supply. The multifaceted and self-reinforcing nature of these challenges calls for a fundamental transformation of the food system. In the past, crop improvement through breeding has been the major tool to lift people out of poverty and increase global food supply. To adequately address these food security challenges, new improved crop varieties need to be developed and reach farmers sooner as a partial solution. In this review, we focus on various proven conventional and biotechnological accelerating plant breeding methods that do not require genetic engineering or gene editing. We pay specific attention to the feasibility for implementation by national agricultural research systems in developing countries in the short term. We argue that postponing technologies that can accelerate breeding makes no economic sense and justify immediate adoption of accelerated breeding practices in the public sector. Considering a wide range of factors including the economics of accelerated breeding, we advocate the use of a method called rapid generation advance (RGA) as the most feasible method for accelerating breeding in the public sector.


New types of phenotyping tools generate large amounts of data on many aspects of plant physiology and morphology with high spatial and temporal resolution. These new phenotyping data are potentially useful to improve understanding and prediction of complex traits, like yield, that are characterized by strong environmental context dependencies, i.e., genotype by environment interactions. For an evaluation of the utility of new phenotyping information, we will look at how this information can be incorporated in different classes of genotype-to-phenotype (G2P) models. G2P models predict phenotypic traits as functions of genotypic and environmental inputs. In the last decade, access to high-density single nucleotide polymorphism markers (SNPs) and sequence information has boosted the development of a class of G2P models called genomic prediction models that predict phenotypes from genome wide marker profiles. The challenge now is to build G2P models that incorporate simultaneously extensive genomic information alongside with new phenotypic information. Beyond the modification of existing G2P models, new G2P paradigms are required. We present candidate G2P models for the integration of genomic and new phenotyping information and illustrate their use in examples. Special attention will be given to the modelling of genotype by environment interactions. The G2P models provide a framework for model based phenotyping and the evaluation of the utility of phenotyping information in the context of breeding programs.


Activation of plant immune responses is associated with rapid production of vast amounts of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS) that dramatically alter cellular redox homeostasis. Even though excessive ROS/RNS accumulation can cause widespread cellular damage and thus constitute a major risk, plant cells have evolved to utilise these molecules as important signalling cues. Particularly their ability to modify redox-sensitive cysteine residues has emerged as a key mechanism to control the activity, conformation, protein-protein interaction and localisation of a growing number of immune signalling proteins. Regulated reversal of cysteine oxidation is dependent on activities of the conserved superfamily of Thioredoxin (TRX) enzymes that function as cysteine reductases. The plant immune system recruits specific TRX enzymes that have the potential to functionally regulate numerous immune signalling proteins. Although our knowledge of different TRX immune targets is now expanding, little remains known about how these enzymes select their substrates, what range of oxidized residues they target, and if they function selectively in different redox-mediated immune signalling pathways. In this review we discuss these questions by examining evidence showing TRX enzymes exhibit novel activities that play important roles in diverse aspects of plant immune signalling.


Legume crops such as chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut, mostly grown in marginal environments, are the major source of nutrition and protein to the human population in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. These crops, however, have a low productivity, mainly due to their exposure to several biotic and abiotic stresses in the marginal environments. Until 2005, these crops had limited genomics resources and molecular breeding was very challenging. During the last decade (2005-2015), ICRISAT led demand-driven innovations in genome science and translated the massive genome information in breeding. For instance, large-scale genomic resources including draft genome assemblies, comprehensive genetic and physical maps, thousands of SSR markers, millions of SNPs, several high-throughput as well as low cost marker genotyping platforms have been developed in these crops. After mapping several breeding related traits, several success stories of translational genomics have become available in these legumes. These include development of superior lines with enhanced drought tolerance in chickpea, enhanced and pyramided resistance to Fusarium wilt and Ascochyta blight in chickpea, enhanced resistance to leaf rust in groundnut, improved oil quality in groundnut and utilization of markers for assessing purity of hybrids/parental lines in pigeonpea. Some of these stories together with future prospects have been discussed.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Human genome, Human Genome Project, Genome, Genomics