Expression Atlas of Selaginella moellendorffii Provides Insights into the Evolution of Vasculature, Secondary Metabolism, and Roots.

Ferrari C, Shivhare D, Hansen BO, Pasha A, Esteban E, Provart NJ, Kragler F, Fernie A, Tohge T, Mutwil M.

Plant Cell 2020 32(4):853-870. 10.1105/tpc.19.00780 PMID:31988262


Selaginella moellendorffii is a representative of the lycophyte lineage that is studied to understand the evolution of land plant traits such as the vasculature, leaves, stems, roots, and secondary metabolism. However, only a few studies have investigated the expression and transcriptional coordination of Selaginella genes, precluding us from understanding the evolution of the transcriptional programs behind these traits. We present a gene expression atlas comprising all major organs, tissue types, and the diurnal gene expression profiles for S. moellendorffii We show that the transcriptional gene module responsible for the biosynthesis of lignocellulose evolved in the ancestor of vascular plants and pinpoint the duplication and subfunctionalization events that generated multiple gene modules involved in the biosynthesis of various cell wall types. We demonstrate how secondary metabolism is transcriptionally coordinated and integrated with other cellular pathways. Finally, we identify root-specific genes and show that the evolution of roots did not coincide with an increased appearance of gene families, suggesting that the development of new organs does not coincide with increased fixation of new gene functions. Our updated database at represents a valuable resource for studying the evolution of genes, gene families, transcriptomes, and functional gene modules in the Archaeplastida kingdom.

A High-Throughput, Seedling Screen for Plant Immunity

Alexandre Martel, Timothy Lo, Darrell Desveaux, and David S. Guttman

MPMI 2020 33(3):394-401. 10.1094/MPMI-10-19-0295-TA PMID:31851574


An understanding of how biological diversity affects plant-microbe interactions is becoming increasingly important, particularly with respect to components of the pathogen effector arsenal and the plant immune system. Although technological improvements have greatly advanced our ability to examine molecular sequences and interactions, relatively few advances have been made that facilitate high-throughput, in vivo pathology screens. Here, we present a high-throughput, microplate-based, nondestructive seedling pathology assay, and apply it to identify Arabidopsis thaliana effector-triggered immunity (ETI) responses against Pseudomonas syringae type III secreted effectors. The assay was carried out in a 48-well microplate format with spray inoculation, and disease symptoms were quantitatively recorded in a semiautomated manner, thereby greatly reducing both time and costs. The assay requires only slight modifications of common labware and uses no proprietary software. We validated the assay by recapitulating known ETI responses induced by P. syringae in Arabidopsis. We also demonstrated that we can quantitatively differentiate responses from a diversity of plant genotypes grown in the same microplate. Finally, we showed that the results obtained from our assay can be used to perform genome-wide association studies to identify host immunity genes, recapitulating results that have been independently obtained with mature plants.

Generation of Transgenic Self-Incompatible Arabidopsis thaliana Shows a Genus-Specific Preference for Self-Incompatibility Genes

Zhang T, Zhou G, Goring DR, Liang X, Macgregor S, Dai C, Wen J, Yi B, Shen J, Tu J, Fu T, Ma C.

Plants 2019 8(12):570. 10.3390/plants8120570 PMID:31817214


Brassicaceae species employ both self-compatibility and self-incompatibility systems to regulate post-pollination events. Arabidopsis halleri is strictly self-incompatible, while the closely related Arabidopsis thaliana has transitioned to self-compatibility with the loss of functional S-locus genes during evolution. The downstream signaling protein, ARC1, is also required for the self-incompatibility response in some Arabidopsis and Brassica species, and its gene is deleted in the A. thaliana genome. In this study, we attempted to reconstitute the SCR-SRK-ARC1 signaling pathway to restore self-incompatibility in A. thaliana using genes from A. halleri and B. napus, respectively. Several of the transgenic A. thaliana lines expressing the A. halleri SCR13-SRK13-ARC1 transgenes displayed self-incompatibility, while all the transgenic A. thaliana lines expressing the B. napusSCR1-SRK1-ARC1 transgenes failed to show any self-pollen rejection. Furthermore, our results showed that the intensity of the self-incompatibility response in transgenic A. thaliana plants was not associated with the expression levels of the transgenes. Thus, this suggests that there are differences between the Arabidopsis and Brassica self-incompatibility signaling pathways, which perhaps points to the existence of other factors downstream of B. napus SRK that are absent in Arabidopsis species.

Convergent patterns of evolution of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) genes in electric fishes.

Elbassiouny AA, Lovejoy NR, Chang BSW

Philios Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2020 375(1790):20190179. 10.1098/rstb.2019.0179 PMID:31787042


The ability to generate and detect electric fields has evolved in several groups of fishes as a means of communication, navigation and, occasionally, predation. The energetic burden required can account for up to 20% of electric fishes’ daily energy expenditure. Despite this, molecular adaptations that enable electric fishes to meet the metabolic demands of bioelectrogenesis remain unknown. Here, we investigate the molecular evolution of the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) complexes in the two most diverse clades of weakly electric fishes-South American Gymnotiformes and African Mormyroidea, using codon-based likelihood approaches. Our analyses reveal that although mitochondrial OXPHOS genes are generally subject to strong purifying selection, this constraint is significantly reduced in electric compared to non-electric fishes, particularly for complexes IV and V. Moreover, analyses of concatenated mitochondrial genes show strong evidence for positive selection in complex I genes on the two branches associated with the independent evolutionary origins of electrogenesis. These results suggest that adaptive evolution of proton translocation in the OXPHOS cellular machinery may be associated with the evolution of bioelectrogenesis. Overall, we find striking evidence for remarkably similar effects of electrogenesis on the molecular evolution of mitochondrial OXPHOS genes in two independently derived clades of electrogenic fishes. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Linking the mitochondrial genotype to phenotype: a complex endeavour’.

Multiple Modes of Convergent Adaptation in the Spread of Glyphosate-Resistant Amaranthus tuberculatus

Kreiner JM, Giacomini DA, Bemm F, Waithaka B, Regalado J, Lanz C, Hildebrandt J, Sikkema PH, Tranel PJ, Weigel D, Stinchcombe JR, Wright SI.

Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2019 116(42):21076-21084. 10.1073/pnas.1900870116 PMID:31570613


The selection pressure exerted by herbicides has led to the repeated evolution of herbicide resistance in weeds. The evolution of herbicide resistance on contemporary timescales in turn provides an outstanding opportunity to investigate key questions about the genetics of adaptation, in particular the relative importance of adaptation from new mutations, standing genetic variation, or geographic spread of adaptive alleles through gene flow. Glyphosate-resistant Amaranthus tuberculatus poses one of the most significant threats to crop yields in the Midwestern United States, with both agricultural populations and herbicide resistance only recently emerging in Canada. To understand the evolutionary mechanisms driving the spread of resistance, we sequenced and assembled the A. tuberculatus genome and investigated the origins and population genomics of 163 resequenced glyphosate-resistant and susceptible individuals from Canada and the United States. In Canada, we discovered multiple modes of convergent evolution: in one locality, resistance appears to have evolved through introductions of preadapted US genotypes, while in another, there is evidence for the independent evolution of resistance on genomic backgrounds that are historically nonagricultural. Moreover, resistance on these local, nonagricultural backgrounds appears to have occurred predominantly through the partial sweep of a single haplotype. In contrast, resistant haplotypes arising from the Midwestern United States show multiple amplification haplotypes segregating both between and within populations. Therefore, while the remarkable species-wide diversity of A. tuberculatus has facilitated geographic parallel adaptation of glyphosate resistance, more recently established agricultural populations are limited to adaptation in a more mutation-limited framework.

Screening of Chemical Libraries Using a Yeast Model of Retinal Disease

Scott BM, Wybenga-Groot LE, McGlade CJ, Heon E, Peisajovich SG, Chang BSW

SLAS Discovery 2019 24(10):969-977. 10.1177/2472555219875934 PMID:31556794


Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a degenerative retinal disease, often caused by mutations in the G-protein-coupled receptor rhodopsin. The majority of pathogenic rhodopsin mutations cause rhodopsin to misfold, including P23H, disrupting its crucial ability to respond to light. Previous screens to discover pharmacological chaperones of rhodopsin have primarily been based on rescuing rhodopsin trafficking and localization to the plasma membrane. Here, we present methods utilizing a yeast-based assay to screen for compounds that rescue the ability of rhodopsin to activate an associated downstream G-protein signaling cascade. We engineered a yeast strain in which human rhodopsin variants were genomically integrated, and were able to demonstrate functional coupling to the yeast mating pathway, leading to fluorescent protein expression. We confirmed that a known pharmacological chaperone, 9-cis retinal, could partially rescue light-dependent activation of a disease-associated rhodopsin mutation (P23H) expressed in yeast. These novel yeast strains were used to perform a phenotypic screen of 4280 compounds from the LOPAC1280 library and a peptidomimetic library, to discover novel pharmacological chaperones of rhodopsin. The fluorescence-based assay was robust in a 96-well format, with a Z’ factor of 0.65 and a signal-to-background ratio of above 14. One compound was selected for additional analysis, but it did not appear to rescue rhodopsin function in yeast. The methods presented here are amenable to future screens of small-molecule libraries, as they are robust and cost-effective. We also discuss how these methods could be further modified or adapted to perform screens of more compounds in the future.

Learning unsupervised feature representations for single cell microscopy images with paired cell inpainting.

Lu AX, Kraus OZ, Cooper S, Moses AM

PLoS Comput Biol 2019 15(9):e1007348. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007348 PMID:31479439


Cellular microscopy images contain rich insights about biology. To extract this information, researchers use features, or measurements of the patterns of interest in the images. Here, we introduce a convolutional neural network (CNN) to automatically design features for fluorescence microscopy. We use a self-supervised method to learn feature representations of single cells in microscopy images without labelled training data. We train CNNs on a simple task that leverages the inherent structure of microscopy images and controls for variation in cell morphology and imaging: given one cell from an image, the CNN is asked to predict the fluorescence pattern in a second different cell from the same image. We show that our method learns high-quality features that describe protein expression patterns in single cells both yeast and human microscopy datasets. Moreover, we demonstrate that our features are useful for exploratory biological analysis, by capturing high-resolution cellular components in a proteome-wide cluster analysis of human proteins, and by quantifying multi-localized proteins and single-cell variability. We believe paired cell inpainting is a generalizable method to obtain feature representations of single cells in multichannel microscopy images.

Gut-associated IgA+ immune cells regulate obesity-related insulin resistance.

Luck H, Khan S, Kim JH, Copeland JK, Revelo XS, Tsai S, Chakraborty M, Cheng K, Tao Chan Y, Nøhr MK, Clemente-Casares X, Perry MC, Ghazarian M, Lei H, Lin YH, Coburn B, Okrainec A, Jackson T, Poutanen S, Gaisano H, Allard JP, Guttman DS, Conner ME, Winer S, Winer DA

Nature Communications 2019 10(1):3650. 10.1038/s41467-019-11370-y PMID:31409776


The intestinal immune system is emerging as an important contributor to obesity-related insulin resistance, but the role of intestinal B cells in this context is unclear. Here, we show that high fat diet (HFD) feeding alters intestinal IgA+ immune cells and that IgA is a critical immune regulator of glucose homeostasis. Obese mice have fewer IgA+ immune cells and less secretory IgA and IgA-promoting immune mediators. HFD-fed IgA-deficient mice have dysfunctional glucose metabolism, a phenotype that can be recapitulated by adoptive transfer of intestinal-associated pan-B cells. Mechanistically, IgA is a crucial link that controls intestinal and adipose tissue inflammation, intestinal permeability, microbial encroachment and the composition of the intestinal microbiome during HFD. Current glucose-lowering therapies, including metformin, affect intestinal-related IgA+B cell populations in mice, while bariatric surgery regimen alters the level of fecal secretory IgA in humans. These findings identify intestinal IgA+ immune cells as mucosal mediators of whole-body glucose regulation in diet-induced metabolic disease.

An ‘eFP‐Seq Browser’ for visualizing and exploring RNA sequencing data

Alexander Sullivan, Priyank K. Purohit, Nowlan H. Freese, Asher Pasha, Eddi Esteban, Jamie Waese, Alison Wu, Michelle Chen, Chih Y. Chin, Richard Song, Sneha R. Watharkar, Agnes P. Chan, Vivek Krishnakumar, Matthew W. Vaughn, Chris Town, Ann E. Loraine, Nicholas J. Provart

The Plant Journal 2019 100(3):641-654. 10.1111/tpj.14468 PMID:31350781


Improvements in next-generation sequencing technologies have resulted in dramatically reduced sequencing costs. This has led to an explosion of ‘-seq’-based methods, of which RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) for generating transcriptomic data is the most popular. By analysing global patterns of gene expression in organs/tissues/cells of interest or in response to chemical or environmental perturbations, researchers can better understand an organism’s biology. Tools designed to work with large RNA-seq data sets enable analyses and visualizations to help generate hypotheses about a gene’s function. We present here a user-friendly RNA-seq data exploration tool, called the ‘eFP-Seq Browser’, that shows the read map coverage of a gene of interest in each of the samples along with ‘electronic fluorescent pictographic’ (eFP) images that serve as visual representations of expression levels. The tool also summarizes the details of each RNA-seq experiment, providing links to archival databases and publications. It automatically computes the reads per kilobase per million reads mapped expression-level summaries and point biserial correlation scores to sort the samples based on a gene’s expression level or by how dissimilar the read map profile is from a gene splice variant, to quickly identify samples with the strongest expression level or where alternative splicing might be occurring. Links to the Integrated Genome Browser desktop visualization tool allow researchers to visualize and explore the details of RNA-seq alignments summarized in eFP-Seq Browser as coverage graphs. We present four cases of use of the eFP-Seq Browser for ABI3, SR34, SR45a and U2AF65B, where we examine expression levels and identify alternative splicing. The URL for the browser is OPEN RESEARCH BADGES: This article has earned an Open Data Badge for making publicly available the digitally-shareable data necessary to reproduce the reported results. Tool is at; RNA-seq data at and Code is available at

Evolutionary signatures of photoreceptor transmutation in geckos reveal potential adaptation and convergence with snakes

Ryan K. Schott  Nihar Bhattacharyya  Belinda S.W. Chang

Evolution 2019 73(9):1958-1971. 10.1111/evo.13810 PMID:31339168


Most vertebrates use a combination of rod and cone photoreceptors to enable vision in conditions ranging from starlight to direct sunlight. Nocturnal geckos, however, have simplex retinas that contain only rods in terms of morphology and physiology, but these rods are thought to be derived from cones through an evolutionary process known as photoreceptor transmutation. To investigate this, we generated eye transcriptomes and analyzed patterns of phototransduction gene evolution in geckos in comparison to other reptiles. We confirm that geckos have lost several major components of the rod phototransduction pathway, including rod opsin (RH1), which we identified as a pseudogene in multiple genomes. We also identified a partial rod transducin transcript, but found no evidence of the protein in retinal sections. However, we find that geckos express several complete rod phototransduction transcripts in the eye, which may contribute to the rod-like physiology of nocturnal gecko photoreceptors. Finally, we found surprising evidence that even though photoreceptor transmutation evolved independently in geckos and snakes, they have experienced parallel shifts in selective constraint on phototransduction genes. These results implicate adaptive change in the underlying molecular machinery of visual transduction, in addition to the convergent changes in cellular morphology, during photoreceptor transmutation.