Functions For OsMADS2 And OsMADS1 As Master Regulators Of Gene Expression During Rice Floret Meristem Specification And Organ Development
Plant reproductive development begins when vegetative shoot apical meristems change their fate to inflorescence meristems which develop floral meristems on the flanks. This process of meristem fate change and organ development involves regulated activation and/or repression of many cell fate determining factors that execute down-stream gene expression cascades. Flowers are formed when floral organs are specified on the floral meristem in four concentric whorls. In the model dicot plant Arabidopsis, the identity and pattern of floral organs is determined by combined actions of MADS-domain containing transcription factors of the classes A, B, C, D and E. Rice florets are produced on a compact higher order branch of the inflorescence and have morphologically distinct non-reproductive organs that are positioned peripheral to the male and female reproductive organs. These unique outer organs are the lemma and palea that create a closed floret internal to which are a pair of lodicules that are asymmetrically positioned fleshy and reduced petal-like organs. The unique morphology of these rice floret organs pose intriguing questions on how evolutionary conserved floral meristem specifying and organ fate determining factors bring about their distinct developmental functions in rice. We have studied the functions for two rice MADS-box proteins, OsMADS2 and OsMADS1, to understand their role as master regulators of gene expression during rice floret meristem specification and organ development. OsMADS2; a transcriptional regulator of genes expression required for lodicule development Arabidopsis B-function genes AP3 and PI are stably expressed in the whorl 2 and 3 organ primordia and they together with other MADS-factors (Class A+E or C+E) regulate the differentiation of petals and stamens (Jack et al, 1992; Goto and Meyerowitz, 1994). Rice has a single AP3 ortholog, SPW1 (OsMADS16) but has duplicated PI-like genes, OsMADS2 and OsMADS4. Prior studies in our lab on one of these rice PI-like genes OsMADS2 showed that it is needed for lodicule development but is dispensable for stamen specification (Kang et al., 1998; Prasad and Vijayraghavan, 2003). Functional divergence between OsMADS2 and OsMADS4 may arise from protein divergence or from differences in their expression patterns within lodicule and stamen whorls. In this study, we have examined the dynamic expression pattern of both rice PI-like genes and have examined the likelihood of their functional redundancy for lodicule development. We show OsMADS2 transcripts occur at high levels in developing lodicules and transcripts are at reduced levels in stamens. In fully differentiated lodicules, OsMADS2 transcripts are more abundant in the distal and peripheral regions of lodicules, which are the tissues that are severely affected in OsMADS2 knock-down florets (Prasad and Vijayraghavan, 2003). The onset of OsMADS4 expression is in very young floret meristems before organ primordia emergence and this is expressed before OsMADS2. In florets undergoing organogenesis, high level OsMADS4 expression occurs in stamens and carpels and transcripts are at low level in lodicules (Yadav, Prasad and Vijayraghvan, 2007). Thus, we show that these paralogous genes differ in the onset of their activation and their stable transcript distribution within lodicules and stamens that are the conserved expression domains for PI-like genes. Since the expression of OsMADS4 in OsMADS2 knock-down florets is normal, our results show OsMADS2 has unique functions in lodicule development. Thus our data show subfunctionalization of these paralogous rice PI-like genes. To identify target genes regulated by OsMADS2 that could contribute to lodicule differentiation, we have adopted whole genome transcript analysis of wild-type and dsRNAiOsMADS2 panicles with developing florets. This analysis has identified potential down-stream targets of OsMADS2 many of which encode transcription factors, components of cell division cycle and signalling factors whose activities likely control lodicule differentiation. The expression levels of few candidate targets of OsMADS2 were examined in various floret organs. Further, the spatial expression pattern for four of these down-stream targets of OsMADS2 was analysed and we find overlap with OsMADS2 expression domains (Yadav, Prasad and Vijayraghvan, 2007). The predicted functions of these OsMADS2 target genes can explain the regulation of growth and unique vascular differentiation of this short fleshy modified petal analog. OsMADS1, a rice E-class gene, is a master regulator of other transcription factors and auxin and cytokinin signalling pathways In Arabidopsis four redundant SEPALLATA factors (E-class) are co-activators of other floral organ fate determining MADS-domain factors (classes ABCD) and thus contribute to floral meristem and floral organ development (Krizek and Fletcher, 2005). Among the grass-specific sub-clade of SEP-like genes, rice OsMADS1 is the best characterized. Prior studies in our lab showed that OsMADS1 is expressed early throughout the floret meristem before organ primordia emergence and later is restricted to the developing lemma and palea primordia with weak expression in carpel (Prasad et al, 2001). Stable expression continues in these floret organs. OsMADS1 plays critical non-redundant functions to specify a determinate floret meristem and also regulates floret organ identities (Jeon et al., 2000; Prasad et al, 2001; 2005; Agarwal et al., 2005; Chen et al., 2006). In the present study, we have adopted two different functional genomic approaches to identify genes down-stream of OsMADS1 in order to understand its mechanism of action during floret development. We have studied global transcript profiles in WT and dsRNAiOsMADS1 panicles and find OsMADS1 is a master regulator of a significant fraction of the genome’s transcription factors and also a number of genes involved in hormone-dependent cell signalling. We have validated few representative genes for transcription factors as targets regulated by OsMADS1. In a complementary approach, we have determined the consequences of induced-ectopic over-expression of a OsMADS1:ΔGR fusion protein in shoot apical meristems of transgenic plants. Transcript levels for candidate target genes were assessed in induced tissues and compared to mock-treated meristems and also with meristems induced for OsMADS1:ΔGR but blocked for new protein synthesis. These analyses show that OsMADS55 expression is directly regulated by OsMADS1. Importantly, OsMADS55 is related to SVP that plays an important role in floral transition and floral meristem identity in Arabidopsis. OsHB3 and OsHB4, homeodomain transcription factors, with a probable role in meristem function, are also directly regulated by OsMADS1. The regulation of such genes by OsMADS1 can explain its role in floret meristem specification. In addition to regulating other transcription factors, OsMADS1 knock-down affects expression of genes encoding proteins in various steps of auxin and cytokinin signalling pathways. Our differential expression profiling showed OsMADS1 positively regulates the auxin signalling pathway and negatively regulates cytokinin mediated signalling events. Through our induced ectopic expression studies of OsMADS1:ΔGR, we show OsMADS1 directly regulates the expression of OsETTIN2, an auxin response transcription factor, during floret development. Overall, we demonstrate that OsMADS1 modulates hormonal pathways to execute its functions during floret development on the spikelet meristems. Functional studies of OsMGH3; an auxin-responsive indirect target of OsMADS1 To better understand the contribution of auxin signalling during floret development, we have functionally characterized OsMGH3, a down-stream indirect target of OsMADS1, which is a member of the auxin-responsive GH3 family. The members of this family are direct targets of auxin response factors (ARF) class of transcription factors. GH3-proteins inactivate cellular auxin by conjugating them with amino acids and thus regulate auxin homeostasis in Arabidopsis (Staswick et al., 2005). OsMGH3 expression in rice florets overlaps with that of OsMADS1 (Prasad et al, 2005). In this study, we have demonstrated the consequences of OsMGH3 over-expression and knock-down. The over-expression of OsMGH3 during vegetative development causes auxin-deficient phenotypes such as dwarfism and loss of apical dominance. Its over-expression in developing panicles that was obtained by driving its expression from tissue-specific promoters created short panicles with reduced branching. The latter is a phenotype similar to that observed upon over-expression of OsMADS1. In contrast, the down-regulation of endogenous OsMGH3 through RNA-interference produced auxin over-production phenotypes such as ectopic rooting from aerial nodes. Knock-down of OsMGH3 expression in florets affected carpel development and pollen viability both of which affect floret fertility. Taken together, this study provides evidence for the importance of auxin homeostasis and its transcriptional regulation during rice panicle branching and floret organ development. Our analysis of various conserved transcription factors during rice floret development suggest that factors like OsMADS2, OsMADS4 and OsMADS1 are master regulators of gene expression during floret meristem specification and organ development. The target genes regulated by these factors contribute to development of morphologically distinct rice florets.