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Title: The role of the transcription factor ZHOUPI in endosperm Programmed Cell Death during Arabidopsis thaliana seed development
Author: Waters, Andrew James
ISNI:       0000 0004 5991 3285
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2014
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The model angiosperm Arabidopsis thaliana produces viable seed through coordinated growth of three constituents; seed coat, embryo and endosperm. During development the embryo grows to fill the space defined by the seed coat. The growing embryo is surrounded by endosperm, an ephemeral, nutritive structure. The process of programmed cell death (PCD) is essential for endosperm consumption by the embryo however very little is known about developmental PCD in the endosperm. ZOU is a transcription factor expressed specifically in endosperm adjacent to the growing embryo in the Embryo Surrounding Region (ESR) (Yang et al., 2008). zou seed likely have reduced PCD resulting in abnormally persistent endosperm and a small embryo at seed maturity which results in seed shriveling. A second zou phenotype is an impairment of cuticle development in the embryonic leaves (cotyledons), suggesting that ZOU may mediate a signal from endosperm to embryo. The ESR expressed gene ALE1 is down-regulated in zou. When ALE1 is artificially expressed in zou ESR by the construct pSUC5::ALE1 the zou epidermal phenotype is rescued but not the seed shriveling phenotype of zou (Xing et al., 2013). Fixed and resin-embedded sections of zou and pSUC5::ALE1 lines herein confirm that zou-like endosperm is exhibited in pSUC5::ALE1 lines. This confirms that the two phenotypes of zou are genetically separable. The involvement of ZOU in epidermal processes is further confirmed through genetic studies showing that ZOU acts in the same pathway to impart embryonic cuticle as the embryo-expressed Receptor Like Kinases GSO1 and GSO2. In order to quantify PCD in the endosperm of wild-type and zou seed, PCD expression marker and TUNEL analysis were conducted. One PCD marker, pCEP:H2A-YFP is shown to be expressed in wild-type ESR, it is not clear if expression is lost in zou. To identify candidate genes under the control of ZOU active in endosperm PCD the results from several transcriptional profiling experiments were analysed and validated; this detailed gene expression in wild-type, ale1 and zou siliques which allowed for the identification of targets of ZOU but not of ALE1, targets predicted to be PCD effectors. In silico expression and ontology analysis confirmed likely roles for some candidates in endosperm PCD processes (particularly cell wall modification). Selected targets were cloned under pSUC5 and expressed in the ESR of zou seed as part of a molecular screen for the rescue of the zou endosperm phenotype. The ZOU target FRINGE-Like, a Glycosyl Transferase which shows strong endosperm expression is shown to partially rescue the zou phenotype but does not rescue the epidermal phenotype, suggesting that it may mediate PCD processes under ZOU control. The initial discovery that a Glycosyl Transferase may be active in a developmental PCD process in plants is exciting and novel and benefits understanding of developmental PCD and endosperm breakdown, two poorly characterized processes in plants.
Supervisor: Goodrich, Justin ; Oparka, Karl Sponsor: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: programmed cell death ; seed development ; endosperm