Hammer G, Messina C, van Oosterom E, Chapman S, Singh V, Borrell A, Jordan D, Cooper M
Progress in crop improvement is limited by the ability to identify favourable combinations of genotypes (G) and management practices (M) in relevant target environments (E) given the resources available to search among the myriad of possible combinations. To underpin yield advance we require prediction of phenotype based on genotype. In plant breeding, traditional phenotypic selection methods have involved measuring phenotypic performance of large segregating populations in multi-environment trials and applying rigorous statistical procedures based on quantitative genetic theory to identify superior individuals. Recent developments in the ability to inexpensively and densely map/sequence genomes have facilitated a shift from the level of the individual (genotype) to the level of the genomic region. Molecular breeding strategies using genome wide prediction and genomic selection approaches have developed rapidly. However, their applicability to complex traits remains constrained by gene-gene and gene-environment interactions, which restrict the predictive power of associations of genomic regions with phenotypic responses. Here it is argued that crop ecophysiology and functional whole plant modelling can provide an effective link between molecular and organism scales and enhance molecular breeding by adding value to genetic prediction approaches. A physiological framework that facilitates dissection and modelling of complex traits can inform phenotyping methods for marker/gene detection and underpin prediction of likely phenotypic consequences of trait and genetic variation in target environments. This approach holds considerable promise for more effectively linking genotype to phenotype for complex adaptive traits. Specific examples focused on drought adaptation are presented to highlight the concepts.
Pinto H, Powell JR, Sharwood RE, Tissue DT, Ghannoum O
C4 photosynthesis evolved multiple times in diverse lineages. Most physiological studies comparing C4 plants were not conducted at the low atmospheric CO2 prevailing during their evolution. Here, 24 C4 grasses belonging to three biochemical subtypes [nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide malic enzyme (NAD-ME), phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PCK) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate malic enzyme (NADP-ME)] and six major evolutionary lineages were grown under ambient (400 μL L−1) and inter-glacial (280 μL L−1) CO2. We hypothesized that nitrogen-related and water-related physiological traits are associated with subtypes and lineages, respectively. Photosynthetic rate and stomatal conductance were constrained by the shared lineage, while variation in leaf mass per area (LMA), leaf N per area, plant dry mass and plant water use efficiency were influenced by the subtype. Subtype and lineage were equally important for explaining variations in photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency (PNUE) and photosynthetic water use efficiency (PWUE). CO2 treatment impacted most parameters. Overall, higher LMA and leaf N distinguished the Chloridoideae/NAD-ME group, while NADP-ME and PCK grasses were distinguished by higher PNUE regardless of lineage. Plants were characterized by high photosynthesis and PWUE when grown at ambient CO2 and by high conductance at inter-glacial CO2. In conclusion, the evolutionary and biochemical diversity among C4 grasses was aligned with discernible leaf physiology, but it remains unknown whether these traits represent ecophysiological adaptation.
Li Y, Lin Y, Garvey CJ, Birch D, Corkery RW, Loughlin PC, Scheer H, Willows RD, Chen M
Phycobilisomes are the main light-harvesting protein complexes in cyanobacteria and some algae. It is commonly accepted that these complexes only absorb green and orange light, complementing chlorophyll absorbance. Here, we present a new phycobilisome derived complex that consists only of allophycocyanin core subunits, having red-shifted absorption peaks of 653 and 712 nm. These red-shifted phycobiliprotein complexes were isolated from the chlorophyll f-containing cyanobacterium, Halomicronema hongdechloris, grown under monochromatic 730 nm-wavelength (far-red) light. The 3D model obtained from single particle analysis reveals a double disk assembly of 120–145 Å with two α/β allophycocyanin trimers fitting into the two separated disks. They are significantly smaller than typical phycobilisomes formed from allophycocyanin subunits and core-membrane linker proteins, which fit well with a reduced distance between thylakoid membranes observed from cells grown under far-red light. Spectral analysis of the dissociated and denatured phycobiliprotein complexes grown under both these light conditions shows that the same bilin chromophore, phycocyanobilin, is exclusively used. Our findings show that red-shifted phycobilisomes are required for assisting efficient far-red light harvesting. Their discovery provides new insights into the molecular mechanisms of light harvesting under extreme conditions for photosynthesis, as well as the strategies involved in flexible chromatic acclimation to diverse light conditions.
Kou J, Takahashi S, Fan D-Y, Badger MR, Chow WS
Cyclic electron flux (CEF) around Photosystem I (PS I) is difficult to quantify. We obtained the linear electron flux (LEFO2) through both photosystems and the total electron flux through PS I (ETR1) in Arabidopsis in CO2-enriched air. ΔFlux = ETR1 – LEFO2 is an upper estimate of CEF, which consists of two components, an antimycin A-sensitive, PGR5 (proton gradient regulation 5 protein)-dependent component and an insensitive component facilitated by a chloroplastic nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide dehydrogenase-like complex (NDH). Using wild type as well as pgr5 and ndh mutants, we observed that (1) 40% of the absorbed light was partitioned to PS I; (2) at high irradiance a substantial antimycin A-sensitive CEF occurred in the wild type and the ndh mutant; (3) at low irradiance a sizable antimycin A-sensitive CEF occurred in the wild type but not in the ndh mutant, suggesting an enhancing effect of NDH in low light; and (4) in the pgr5 mutant, and the wild type and ndh mutant treated with antimycin A, a residual ΔFlux existed at high irradiance, attributable to charge recombination and/or pseudo-cyclic electron flow. Therefore, in low-light-acclimated plants exposed to high light, ΔFlux has contributions from various paths of electron flow through PS I.
Ort DR, Merchant SS, Alric J, Barkan A, Blankenship RE, Bock R, Croce R, Hanson MR, Hibberd JM, Long SP
The world’s crop productivity is stagnating whereas population growth, rising affluence, and mandates for biofuels put increasing demands on agriculture. Meanwhile, demand for increasing cropland competes with equally crucial global sustainability and environmental protection needs. Addressing this looming agricultural crisis will be one of our greatest scientific challenges in the coming decades, and success will require substantial improvements at many levels. We assert that increasing the efficiency and productivity of photosynthesis in crop plants will be essential if this grand challenge is to be met. Here, we explore an array of prospective redesigns of plant systems at various scales, all aimed at increasing crop yields through improved photosynthetic efficiency and performance. Prospects range from straightforward alterations, already supported by preliminary evidence of feasibility, to substantial redesigns that are currently only conceptual, but that may be enabled by new developments in synthetic biology. Although some proposed redesigns are certain to face obstacles that will require alternate routes, the efforts should lead to new discoveries and technical advances with important impacts on the global problem of crop productivity and bioenergy production.
Nagel KA, Bonnett D, Furbank R, Walter A, Schurr U, Watt M
Plants in the field are exposed to varying light and moisture. Agronomic improvement requires knowledge of whole-plant phenotypes expressed in response to simultaneous variation in these essential resources. Most phenotypes, however, have been described from experiments where resources are varied singularly. To test the importance of varying shoot and root resources for phenotyping studies, sister pre-breeding lines of wheat were phenotyped in response to independent or simultaneous exposure to two light levels and soil moisture profiles. The distribution and architecture of the root systems depended strongly on the moisture of the deeper soil layer. For one genotype, roots, specifically lateral roots, were stimulated to grow into moist soil when the upper zone was well-watered and were inhibited by drier deep zones. In contrast, the other genotype showed much less plasticity and responsiveness to upper moist soil, but maintained deeper penetration of roots into the dry layer. The sum of shoot and root responses was greater when treated simultaneously to low light and low soil water, compared to each treatment alone, suggesting the value of whole plant phenotyping in response to multiple conditions for agronomic improvement. The results suggest that canopy management for increased irradiation of leaves would encourage root growth into deeper drier soil, and that genetic variation within closely related breeding lines may exist to favour surface root growth in response to irrigation or in-season rainfall.
While genotype × environment interactions (G × E) impede progress in plant breeding, efforts have focused more on their statistical analysis than on characterizing crop environments per se. Environmental conditions are commonly the major sources of yield variation across breeding trials, and their characterization may improve breeding efficiency. This chapter reviews different facets of environment characterization, including how to describe the target population of environments (TPE; i.e. conditions to which future-release cultivars might be subjected), and how to identify relevant environment classes where genotypes are expected to perform similarly. Due to seasonal variability and resource constraints, multienvironment breeding trials typically offer a biased representation of the TPE. Weighted analysis based on how representative trials can help breeders correct for this bias, and select for germplasm better adapted to the TPE. Managed-environment trials are another way to evaluate performance in representative environments or for particular stresses, allowing detailed assessment of germplasm, traits or genes of interest. While limited resources restrict the collection of experimental data, modeling tools offer a cost-effective avenue to explore the complex genotype × environment × management (G × E × M) interactions and, in particular, to assess the potential value of traits and alleles depending on ‘genetic backgrounds’ (G × G and trait × trait interactions), environments (e.g. current and future climates) and management practices. Challenges, significance and limitations of environment characterization are discussed in the context of crop improvement.
Akimoto S, Shinoda T, Chen M, Allakhverdiev SI, Tomo T
We prepared thylakoid membranes from Halomicronema hongdechloris cells grown under white fluorescent light or light from far-red (740 nm) light-emitting diodes, and observed their energy-transfer processes shortly after light excitation. Excitation–relaxation processes were examined by steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopies. Two time-resolved fluorescence techniques were used: time-correlated single photon counting and fluorescence up-conversion methods. The thylakoids from the cells grown under white light contained chlorophyll (Chl) a of different energies, but were devoid of Chl f. At room temperature, the excitation energy was equilibrated among the Chl a pools with a time constant of 6.6 ps. Conversely, the thylakoids from the cells grown under far-red light possessed both Chl a and Chl f. Two energy-transfer pathways from Chl a to Chl f were identified with time constants of 1.3 and 5.0 ps, and the excitation energy was equilibrated between the Chl a and Chl f pools at room temperature. We also examined the energy-transfer pathways from phycobilisome to the two photosystems under white-light cultivation.
Carroll AJ, Zhang P, Whitehead L, Kaines S, Tcherkez G, Badger MR
This article describes PhenoMeter (PM), a new type of metabolomics database search that accepts metabolite response patterns as queries and searches the MetaPhen database of reference patterns for responses that are statistically significantly similar or inverse for the purposes of detecting functional links. To identify a similarity measure that would detect functional links as reliably as possible, we compared the performance of four statistics in correctly top-matching metabolic phenotypes of Arabidopsis thaliana metabolism mutants affected in different steps of the photorespiration metabolic pathway to reference phenotypes of mutants affected in the same enzymes by independent mutations. The best performing statistic, the PM score, was a function of both Pearson correlation and Fisher’s Exact Test of directional overlap. This statistic outperformed Pearson correlation, biweight midcorrelation and Fisher’s Exact Test used alone. To demonstrate general applicability, we show that the PM reliably retrieved the most closely functionally linked response in the database when queried with responses to a wide variety of environmental and genetic perturbations. Attempts to match metabolic phenotypes between independent studies were met with varying success and possible reasons for this are discussed. Overall, our results suggest that integration of pattern-based search tools into metabolomics databases will aid functional annotation of newly recorded metabolic phenotypes analogously to the way sequence similarity search algorithms have aided the functional annotation of genes and proteins. PM is freely available at MetabolomeExpress (https://www.metabolome-express.org/phenometer.php).