Nav: Home

Maternal and paternal cooperation

May 08, 2017

The Arabidopsis thaliana is a tiny, inconspicuous and herbaceous offshoot of the family of cruciferous plant that one might easily overlook in a meadow, yet the plant has the potential to disrupt a common school of thought: Together with his working group and colleagues from the University of Nagoya, Japan, the Freiburg biologist Prof. Dr. Thomas Laux show how plants start embryo development and thereby follow a fundamentally different reproduction strategy than animals. The team used the Arabidopsis thaliana as a model organism and showed how plants begin with gene transcription, that is genome reading, just hours after fertilization. That includes the genes that regulate the first steps in embryonic development. The researchers describe the newly found mechanism in the scientific journal Genes and Development.

From a biological standpoint, life begins after fertilization: The organism has a gene expression program that regulates embryonic development from a single zygote -- that is, from the fusion of an egg cell and a sperm. In mammals, this new start occurs almost without any transcription in the zygote and rather uses gene transcripts and proteins that have been stored by the mother in the egg cell. Plants, however, have chosen a different strategy to ensure the transcription of the correct genes in the zygote: an intracellular signal pathway, activated by the sperm, adds phosphate residues to the transcription factor WRKY2 and ensures communication between the cell membrane and nucleus. As a consequence, this protein is enabled to activate the transcription of a master regulator, named WOX8, which controls the first steps of embryogenesis. In the case of the Arabidopsis thaliana, it includes, for instance, the formation of the shoot-root axis and the cell divisions that give rise to plant growth.

Nonetheless, WRKY2 alone cannot completely regulate the WOX8 transcription. It requires the help of additional transcription factors stemming from the maternal genes called HDG11 and HDG12. Only the combination of the sperm-activated WRKY2 and the maternally provided HDG proteins guarantees that the embryo regulation begins in the zygote. One obvious advantage of this collaboration is that the embryogenesis program is only activated when the egg cell and sperm fuse.

The study stands in contrast to the long-standing so-called „parental conflict theory" that has been proposed for plants and mammals: This theory holds that for embryonic nourishment the two parents act antagonistically. Whereas paternal gene copies favor nutrient supply to only their own offspring, the maternal gene copies tend to favor the distribution of resources among all offspring. The findings of the research group suggest that one must assume a new model for the initiation of embryonic development of plants that relies on both parents' cooperation.
-end-
Original publication:

Ueda, M., Aichinger, E., Gong, W., Groot, E., Verstraeten, I., Dai Vu, L., De Smet, I., Higashiyama, T., Umeda, M. and Laux, T. (2017). Transcriptional integration of paternal and maternal factors in the Arabidopsis zygote. Genes and Development 31, S. 617-662.

Thomas Laux's research at the University of Freiburg http://www.biologie.uni-freiburg.de/LauxLab/welcome.htm

Contact:

Institute of Biology III

University of Freiburg

University of Freiburg

Related Proteins Articles:

Discovering, counting, cataloguing proteins
Scientists describe a well-defined mitochondrial proteome in baker's yeast.
Interrogating proteins
Scientists from the University of Bristol have designed a new protein structure, and are using it to understand how protein structures are stabilized.
Ancient proteins studied in detail
How did protein interactions arise and how have they developed?
What can we learn from dinosaur proteins?
Researchers recently confirmed it is possible to extract proteins from 80-million-year-old dinosaur bones.
Relocation of proteins with a new nanobody tool
Researchers at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel have developed a new method by which proteins can be transported to a new location in a cell.
More Proteins News and Proteins Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...