Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Plant Mechanisms to Mitigate UV-B Damage


In order to avoid UV-B radiation, plants have developed several mechanisms for UV-B exclusion. Plants are thought to employ a variety of UV-B-protective mechanisms, including increases in UV-6-absorptive pigments, UV-6-reflective properties, and leaf thickness. Thicker leaves may decrease the internal influence of UV-B radiation. This additional leaf thickness in field-grown silver birch has been associated with a slight increase in the thickness of the upper epidermis, spongy parenchyma and spongy intercellular space. In addition, optical structures in the leaf, such as epidermal wax and leaf hairs, scatter and reflect UV-B radiation, but in general, the reflectance of the UV-B radiation reaching leaf surface is only about 10%. Apparently, the most efficient mechanism of exclusion is the accumulation of UV-B-screening phenolics in the epidermal cells of leaves. Consequently, the penetration of UV-B radiation through the epidermis has been shown to be nearly zero in conifer needles, 3-12% in the leaves of deciduous trees and grasses, and 18-41% in the leaves of herbaceous plants.

One of the most common responses of field-grown plants to elevated UV-B radiation is an increase in UV-B-absorbing phenolics in the leaves. In fact, accumulation of certain phenolic filters with UV-B levels above the ambient level has been found to be a continuation of the response within the ambient range. UV-B radiation stimulates the expression of genes that encode phenylalanine ammonialyase (PAL) and chalcone synthase (CHS), which are the key regulatory enzymes in the phenylpropanoid and flavonoid pathways.

Recently, it was also found that UV light selectively induces several primary metabolic activities that are directly or indirectly required for flavonoid formation. This implies complex regulation in the different branches of the phenylpropanoid biosynthesis pathway during UV-B stress. Elevated UV-B radiation significantly increased the concentrations of UV-B-absorbing flavonoids, such as quercetin-3-arabinoside, quercetin-3-glucose + glucuronide and kaempferol- 3-rhamnoside, and a few phenolic acids in silver birch leaves. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the transparent testa-4 (tt4) mutant, which has reduced flavonoids and normal levels of sinapate esters, is more sensitive to UV-B than the wild type when grown under high UV-B irradiance. The tt5 and tt6 mutants, which have reduced levels of UV-absorptive leaf flavonoids and the monocyclic sinapic acid ester phenolic compounds, are highly sensitive to the damaging effects of UV-B radiation. These demonstrated that both flavonoids and other phenolic compounds play important roles in vivo in plant UV-B protection. In Arabidopsis UV damage and heat induce a common stress response in plants that leads to tissue death and reduced chloroplast function.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

UV-B Radiation Stress in Rice


Rice is grown mostly in tropical and subtropical countries. It is known that UV-B radiation is highest in tropical regions where rice is grown, because the stratospheric ozone layer in high latitudes, and solar angles are higher. The current information on rice is insufficient to conclude the potential risks of UV-B exposure to rice production. UV-B radiation would also have indirect effects on rice production through indirect effects on other components of rice ecosystem such as weeds, diseases and nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria. Increased UV-B radiation induces a significant reduction in the total biomass in a number of rice cultivars, accompanied by a reduction in tiller number and photosynthetic capacity of plants. The prolonged exposure of UV-B light affects plant height, leaf area, dry weight, net assimilation rate and relative growth rate in some rice cultivars.

Evidence were shown for that UV-B mediates photoinduction of anthocyanin synthesis in seedlings of a cyanic rice cultivar, Purple puttu, which is associated with PAL biosynthesis. They observed that sunlight triggered the photoinduction of anthocyanin in shoots of purple puttu seedlings, whereas seedlings exposed to sunlight filtered through window glass showed little formation of anthocyanin. In addition to UV-B receptor the anthocyanin level was also modulated by phytochrome. However, the anthocyanin photoinduction was restricted to only a few cultivars of rice, indicating variability within the cultivars with respect to anthocyanin induction. 

The stresses imposed by UV-light irradiation can cause reactive oxygen species generation (ROS) such as O2- and H2O2. Though H2O2 is an innocuous metabolite present in cells irradiation with UV-light breaks it down to extremely deleterious hydroxyl free radicals (OH). Since H2O2 can easily diffuse through cell membranes it is extremely deleterious to cellular constituents such as DNA. Studies have indicated that in vitro anthocyanins could act as effective antioxidants as anthocyanins prevent ascorbic acid (AsA) against metal induced oxidation by forming a stable AsA-metal-anthocyanin co-ordinate complex. Above complex protected AsA from H2O2 and OH, and also anthocyanins from damage.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

UV-B Radiation Stress in Plants


Our nearest star, the sun, emits short wavelength radiation that is incident on the earth’s atmosphere. Most of the radiation in the atmosphere is infrared radiation (700-3000 nm, 67% of the photons) and visible light (400-700 nm, 28%; Nobel, 1983). Ultraviolet radiation (UV, 200-400 nm), on the other hand, reaches the atmosphere in smaller amounts (5% of the photons). The biologically most hazardous part of UV radiation, i.e. UV-C (200-280 nm) and UV-B (280-320 nm) below 290 nm, are completely absorbed by the stratospheric ozone (O3) layer and by other oxygen molecules in the atmosphere (Frederick, 1993). In addition, the ozone layer absorbs some longer-wave UV-B and UV-A radiation (320-400 nm) (Fig. 1). Consequently, of the photons at the earth’s surface, only about 2% are in the ultraviolet range (Nobel, 1983). However, of the total solar energy reaching the earth’s surface, UV-B radiation comprises about 1.5% and UV-A radiation about 6.4% (Frederick et al., 1989). The intensity of UV-B radiation, in particular, is affected by the thickness of the ozone layer, which in turn varies periodically as a consequence of natural processes such as seasons, winds and solar cycles. In addition, latitude, time of year and time of day determine the length of the path of a UV-B photon through the absorptive ozone layer (Caldwell et al., 1980). 

Fig 1. Ultraviolet spectrum 

On average, the ozone concentration in the stratosphere is low, i.e. about ten ozone molecules per million molecules of air; and it is highly dynamic because the ozone molecules are created and destroyed continuously. However, since the 1970’s, human activities have disrupted the natural balance between synthesis and breakdown of ozone. Depletion of the ozone layer has repeatedly been reported to occur over Antarctica, but in the 1990’s there were also frequent occurrences of major spring-time ozone depletion over the Arctic. It has been found that the main man-made compounds responsible for enhancing ozone breakdown are the chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) (Fig. 2) and nitrogen oxides. Recently, it was also found that the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases result in stratospheric cooling, thus creating suitable conditions for breakdown of ozone molecules. Therefore, the most recent predictions based on stratospheric chemistry and climate-change models estimate that in the northern areas (60-90° N), compared with the long-term means, the maximum springtime UV-B radiation will increase up to 50-60% in 2010-2020. 

Fig 2. Chlorine atoms induce the decomposition of two ozone molecules into three oxygen molecules in a net chain reaction in which the chlorine atoms are regenerated so that decomposition of ozone continues. 

Effect of UV-B radiation in plants

Elevated levels of UV-B radiation will have many direct and indirect effects on plants (Fig. 3). Even present-day levels of UV-B radiation affect the growth and development of plants. The direct effects of UV-B radiation on plant cells are mostly damaging, because UV-B photons have enough energy to create lesions in important UV-B-absorbing biomolecules such as nucleic acids and proteins. It is known that the photoproducts of DNA formed by UV-B radiation, cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers and pyrimidine (6-4) pyrimidone and (6-4) photoproducts, are all toxic and mutagenic. In addition, the altered DNA and RNA structures may interfere with transcription and replication; and therefore protein synthesis may be slowed down during UV-B stress. In order to avoid the effects of DNA damage, plants have efficient systems for DNA repair, including photoreactivation and excision repair, which are involved in restoring the structure of genetic material during exposure to UV-B radiation. However, the indirect effects of UV-B on plant cells can also be damaging: UV-B radiation may cause oxidative damage in chlorophylls and polyunsaturated lipids by increasing the formation of free radicals and peroxides (Jordan, 1996). To prevent oxidative damage, cells contain antioxidants, e.g., phenolic compounds, that scavenge the free radicals. Phenolic compounds have variable antioxidant properties; and several studies have shown that during UV-B exposure, the production of compounds with efficient antioxidant structures, such as additional hydroxyl groups on ring B of the flavonoid skeleton, is favoured. Plant cells also contain enzymes, e.g., superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase, which scavenge superoxide radicals and protect the cells against H2O2, respectively. 

Fig. 3. Effects of UV-B radiation on plant system.

Signal transduction and gene expression 

In addition to damaging plant cell components, UV-B radiation often exerts its effects through altered patterns of gene activity; e.g., the effects of UV-B radiation on photosynthesis, UV-B-screening phenolics, growth, reproductive processes, plant form and timing of life phases, are all caused by altered gene action. The mechanisms by which plants perceive UV-B radiation are not fully understood, but it has been suggested that direct absorption of UV-B by DNA could result in the formation of a “signal” that regulates the transcription of genes.

Signal transduction pathway in relation to UV-B radiation stress. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) increase in response to UV-B and are an important component in the regulation of both up-regulated and down-regulated genes. The nature and origin of the ROS involved in the early part of UV-B induced signalling pathways have been investigated in Arabidopsis thaliana. The increase in PR-1 transcript and decrease in light harvesting chlorophyll binding gene (Lhcb) transcript in response to UV-B exposure was shown to be mediated through pathways involving hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) derived from superoxide (O2•-). In contrast, the up-regulation of PDF1.2 transcript was mediated through a pathway involving O2•-- directly. The origins of the ROS were also shown to be distinct and to involve NADPH oxidase and peroxidase(s). The upregulation of CHS by UV-B was not affected by ROS scavengers, but was reduced by inhibitors of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) or NO scavengers. Together these results suggest that UV-B exposure leads to the generation of ROS, from multiple sources, and NO, through increased NOS activity, giving rise to parallel signalling pathways mediating responses of specific genes to UV-B radiation (Fig. 4).
In addition, it has been hypothesized that in plant cells, specific UV-B photoreceptor-mediated signalling processes regulate gene expression. However, the characteristics of a UV-B photoreceptor and how the signals are transduced after UV-B perception, are not yet known.
In addition to the increase in ROS other known signal transduction intermediates increase their levels. These include salicyclic acid (SA), jasmonic acid (JA) and ethylene. Using Arabidopsis mutants that are insensitive to SA, JA and ethylene (NahG, jar 1 and etr 1-1 respectively), clear differences in gene activity response have been demonstrated. For instance, an increase in expression of the two pathogen-related genes PR-1 and PDF1.2 are depended on SA and ethylene or JA and ethylene respectively. In contrast, down-regulation of RNA transcripts for photosynthetic proteins was independent of all three compounds. Furthermore, although ROS is involved in down-regulation of RNA for photosynthetic proteins, the chloroplast signal may not be involved.There are at least three separate signal transduction pathways involved in UV-B gene regulation and substantial “cross-talk” must take place.
A unique response of plants to UV-B radiation relates to the property of high photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) to ameliorate its damaging impact. The interaction of UV-B and PAR was initially discovered at the physiological level, but Jordan et al., (1992) demonstrated that high PAR also reduced down-regulation of gene expression. This ‘protection’ against UV-B damage did not involve synthesis of protective pigments, but was related to the function of the photosynthetic apparatus itself. The photosynthetic system can act as a photoreceptor and specific wavelengths can change chloroplast gene expression. Research conducted by Jordan et al., (1994) on etiolated tissue is also indicative of a strong link between the development of the photosynthetic apparatus and UV-B-induced gene expression. The connections between UV-B radiation and photosynthesis, and the signal transduction pathways that lead to modification of gene expression are yet to be comprehended.

Fig.4.  Schematic illustration of signal transduction pathways induced by UV-B radiation

It was found that in genetically modified tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) increased activity of the anionic peroxidase correlated with increased tolerance to UV radiation as well as decreased levels of free auxin indicating that phenol-oxidizing peroxidases concurrently contribute to UV protection as well as the control of leaf and plant architecture.  

Caldwell, C.R. 1993. Ultraviolet-induced photodegradation of cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) microsomal and soluble protein tryptophanyl residues in vitro. Plant Physiology 101:947-953.

Frederick, J.E. 1993. Ultraviolet sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface: a review of recent research. Photochemistry and Photobiology 57:175-178.

Nobel, P.S. 1983. Biophysical Plant Physiology and Ecology. Freeman & Co., New York, pp.185-238.

Jordan, B.R. 1996. The effects of ultraviolet-B radiation on plants: a molecular perspective. In: Callow, J.A. (editor). Advances in Botanical Research, Vol 22. Academic Press, New York, pp. 97-162.

Jordan, B.R., P. James and S.A-H. Mackerness. (1998). Factors affecting UV-B induced changes in Arabidopsis thaliana gene expression: role of development, protective pigments and the chloroplast signal. Plant & Cell Physiolog, 39: 769-778.

Jordan, B.R., J. He, W.S. Chow and J.M. Anderson. Changes in mRNA levels and polypeptide subunits of ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase in response to supplemental UVB radiation. Plant, Cell and Environment 15: 91-98, 1992.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Why I am proud to be a Plant Breeder?

Plant breeding was the science which existed as long as the humans did... It probably started when the first man was hungry.. and when he selected what to eat... and when he probably thought to have his favourite food near his home.... He did exploration, collection and conservation of the grass and grains he needed... he grew the fruits he was fond of... He did selection of the best among the natural variability...Later, he started agriculture...and finally, selecting those types which yielded more than the one he was growing earlier.

PLANT BREEDING was continuous process...Earlier man never knew how variation occurred...and never knew how it was occurring... and how it perpetuated.

The science of GENETICS opened up a whole new area of knowledge.. the knowledge which catered the needs of ever growing global population.. The knowledge which is going to sustain the generations to come..