School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 300
Increased Biomass, Seed Yield and Stress Tolerance Is Conferred in Arabidopsis by a Novel Enzyme from the Resurrection Grass Sporobolus stapfianus That Glycosylates the Strigolactone Analogue GR24
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2013-11-05)
Isolation of gene transcripts from desiccated leaf tissues of the resurrection grass, Sporobolus stapfianus, resulted in the identification of a gene, SDG8i, encoding a Group 1 glycosyltransferase (UGT). Here, we examine the effects of introducing this gene, under control of the CaMV35S promoter, into the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Results show that Arabidopsis plants constitutively over-expressing SDG8i exhibit enhanced growth, reduced senescence, cold tolerance and a substantial improvement in protoplasmic drought tolerance. We hypothesise that expression of SDG8i in Arabidopsis negatively affects the bioactivity of metabolite/s that mediate/s environmentally-induced repression of cell division and expansion, both during normal development and in response to stress. The phenotype of transgenic plants over-expressing SDG8i suggests modulation in activities of both growth- and stress-related hormones. Plants overexpressing the UGT show evidence of elevated auxin levels, with the enzyme acting downstream of ABA to reduce drought-induced senescence. Analysis of the in vitro activity of the UGT recombinant protein product demonstrates that SDG8i can glycosylate the synthetic strigolactone analogue GR24, evoking a link with strigolactone-related processes in vivo. The large improvements observed in survival of transgenic Arabidopsis plants under cold-, salt- and drought-stress, as well as the substantial increases in growth rate and seed yield under non-stress conditions, indicates that overexpression of SDG8i in crop plants may provide a novel means of increasing plant productivity.
p32 protein levels are integral to mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum morphology, cell metabolism and survival
(PORTLAND PRESS LTD, 2013-08-01)
p32 [also known as HABP1 (hyaluronan-binding protein 1), gC1qR (receptor for globular head domains complement 1q) or C1qbp (complement 1q-binding protein)] has been shown previously to have both mitochondrial and non-mitochondrial localization and functions. In the present study, we show for the first time that endogenous p32 protein is a mitochondrial protein in HeLa cells under control and stress conditions. In defining the impact of altering p32 levels in these cells, we demonstrate that the overexpression of p32 increased mitochondrial fibrils. Conversely, siRNA-mediated p32 knockdown enhanced mitochondrial fragmentation accompanied by a loss of detectable levels of the mitochondrial fusion mediator proteins Mfn (mitofusin) 1 and Mfn2. More detailed ultrastructure analysis by transmission electron microscopy revealed aberrant mitochondrial structures with less and/or fragmented cristae and reduced mitochondrial matrix density as well as more punctate ER (endoplasmic reticulum) with noticeable dissociation of their ribosomes. The analysis of mitochondrial bioenergetics showed significantly reduced capacities in basal respiration and oxidative ATP turnover following p32 depletion. Furthermore, siRNA-mediated p32 knockdown resulted in differential stress-dependent effects on cell death, with enhanced cell death observed in the presence of hyperosmotic stress or cisplatin treatment, but decreased cell death in the presence of arsenite. Taken together, our studies highlight the critical contributions of the p32 protein to the morphology of mitochondria and ER under normal cellular conditions, as well as important roles of the p32 protein in cellular metabolism and various stress responses.
Demographic patterns of a widespread long-lived tree are associated with rainfall and disturbances along rainfall gradients in SE Australia
Predicting species distributions with changing climate has often relied on climatic variables, but increasingly there is recognition that disturbance regimes should also be included in distribution models. We examined how changes in rainfall and disturbances along climatic gradients determined demographic patterns in a widespread and long-lived tree species, Callitris glaucophylla in SE Australia. We examined recruitment since 1950 in relation to annual (200-600 mm) and seasonal (summer, uniform, winter) rainfall gradients, edaphic factors (topography), and disturbance regimes (vertebrate grazing [tenure and species], fire). A switch from recruitment success to failure occurred at 405 mm mean annual rainfall, coincident with a change in grazing regime. Recruitment was lowest on farms with rabbits below 405 mm rainfall (mean = 0-0.89 cohorts) and highest on less-disturbed tenures with no rabbits above 405 mm rainfall (mean = 3.25 cohorts). Moderate levels of recruitment occurred where farms had no rabbits or less disturbed tenures had rabbits above and below 405 mm rainfall (mean = 1.71-1.77 cohorts). These results show that low annual rainfall and high levels of introduced grazing has led to aging, contracting populations, while higher annual rainfall with low levels of grazing has led to younger, expanding populations. This study demonstrates how demographic patterns vary with rainfall and spatial variations in disturbances, which are linked in complex ways to climatic gradients. Predicting changes in tree distribution with climate change requires knowledge of how rainfall and key disturbances (tenure, vertebrate grazing) will shift along climatic gradients.
Multi-Scale, Direct and Indirect Effects of the Urban Stream Syndrome on Amphibian Communities in Streams
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2013-07-29)
Urbanization affects streams by modifying hydrology, increasing pollution and disrupting in-stream and riparian conditions, leading to negative responses by biotic communities. Given the global trend of increasing urbanization, improved understanding of its direct and indirect effects at multiple scales is needed to assist management. The theory of stream ecology suggests that the riverscape and the surrounding landscape are inextricably linked, and watershed-scale processes will also affect in-stream conditions and communities. This is particularly true for species with semi-aquatic life cycles, such as amphibians, which transfer energy between streams and surrounding terrestrial areas. We related measures of urbanization at different scales to frog communities in streams along an urbanization gradient in Melbourne, Australia. We used boosted regression trees to determine the importance of predictors and the shape of species responses. We then used structural equation models to investigate possible indirect effects of watershed imperviousness on in-stream parameters. The proportion of riparian vegetation and road density surrounding the site at the reach scale (500-m radius) had positive and negative effects, respectively, on species richness and on the occurrence of the two most common species in the area (Criniasignifera and Limnodynastesdumerilii). Road density and local aquatic vegetation interacted in influencing species richness, suggesting that isolation of a site can prevent colonization, in spite of apparently good local habitat. Attenuated imperviousness at the catchment scale had a negative effect on local aquatic vegetation, indicating possible indirect effects on frog species not revealed by single-level models. Processes at the landscape scale, particularly related to individual ranging distances, can affect frog species directly and indirectly. Catchment imperviousness might not affect adult frogs directly, but by modifying hydrology it can disrupt local vegetation and prove indirectly detrimental. Integrating multiple-scale management actions may help to meet conservation targets for streams in the face of urbanization.
Phenological Changes in the Southern Hemisphere
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2013-10-01)
Current evidence of phenological responses to recent climate change is substantially biased towards northern hemisphere temperate regions. Given regional differences in climate change, shifts in phenology will not be uniform across the globe, and conclusions drawn from temperate systems in the northern hemisphere might not be applicable to other regions on the planet. We conduct the largest meta-analysis to date of phenological drivers and trends among southern hemisphere species, assessing 1208 long-term datasets from 89 studies on 347 species. Data were mostly from Australasia (Australia and New Zealand), South America and the Antarctic/subantarctic, and focused primarily on plants and birds. This meta-analysis shows an advance in the timing of spring events (with a strong Australian data bias), although substantial differences in trends were apparent among taxonomic groups and regions. When only statistically significant trends were considered, 82% of terrestrial datasets and 42% of marine datasets demonstrated an advance in phenology. Temperature was most frequently identified as the primary driver of phenological changes; however, in many studies it was the only climate variable considered. When precipitation was examined, it often played a key role but, in contrast with temperature, the direction of phenological shifts in response to precipitation variation was difficult to predict a priori. We discuss how phenological information can inform the adaptive capacity of species, their resilience, and constraints on autonomous adaptation. We also highlight serious weaknesses in past and current data collection and analyses at large regional scales (with very few studies in the tropics or from Africa) and dramatic taxonomic biases. If accurate predictions regarding the general effects of climate change on the biology of organisms are to be made, data collection policies focussing on targeting data-deficient regions and taxa need to be financially and logistically supported.
Wood density and its radial variation in six canopy tree species differing in shade-tolerance in western Thailand
(OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2009-08-01)
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Wood density is a key variable for understanding life history strategies in tropical trees. Differences in wood density and its radial variation were related to the shade-tolerance of six canopy tree species in seasonally dry tropical forest in Thailand. In addition, using tree ring measurements, the influence of tree size, age and annual increment on radial density gradients was analysed. METHODS: Wood density was determined from tree cores using X-ray densitometry. X-ray films were digitized and images were measured, resulting in a continuous density profile for each sample. Mixed models were then developed to analyse differences in average wood density and in radial gradients in density among the six tree species, as well as the effects of tree age, size and annual increment on radial increases in Melia azedarach. KEY RESULTS: Average wood density generally reflected differences in shade-tolerance, varying by nearly a factor of two. Radial gradients occurred in all species, ranging from an increase of (approx. 70%) in the shade-intolerant Melia azedarach to a decrease of approx. 13% in the shade-tolerant Neolitsea obtusifolia, but the slopes of radial gradients were generally unrelated to shade-tolerance. For Melia azedarach, radial increases were most-parsimoniously explained by log-transformed tree age and annual increment rather than by tree size. CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that average wood density generally reflects differences in shade-tolerance in seasonally dry tropical forests; however, inferences based on wood density alone are potentially misleading for species with complex life histories. In addition, the findings suggest that a 'whole-tree' view of life history and biomechanics is important for understanding patterns of radial variation in wood density. Finally, accounting for wood density gradients is likely to improve the accuracy of estimates of stem biomass and carbon in tropical trees.
An Interspecific Nicotiana Hybrid as a Useful and Cost-Effective Platform for Production of Animal Vaccines
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2012-04-23)
The use of transgenic plants to produce novel products has great biotechnological potential as the relatively inexpensive inputs of light, water, and nutrients are utilised in return for potentially valuable bioactive metabolites, diagnostic proteins and vaccines. Extensive research is ongoing in this area internationally with the aim of producing plant-made vaccines of importance for both animals and humans. Vaccine purification is generally regarded as being integral to the preparation of safe and effective vaccines for use in humans. However, the use of crude plant extracts for animal immunisation may enable plant-made vaccines to become a cost-effective and efficacious approach to safely immunise large numbers of farm animals against diseases such as avian influenza. Since the technology associated with genetic transformation and large-scale propagation is very well established in Nicotiana, the genus has attributes well-suited for the production of plant-made vaccines. However the presence of potentially toxic alkaloids in Nicotiana extracts impedes their use as crude vaccine preparations. In the current study we describe a Nicotiana tabacum and N. glauca hybrid that expresses the HA glycoprotein of influenza A in its leaves but does not synthesize alkaloids. We demonstrate that injection with crude leaf extracts from these interspecific hybrid plants is a safe and effective approach for immunising mice. Moreover, this antigen-producing alkaloid-free, transgenic interspecific hybrid is vigorous, with a high capacity for vegetative shoot regeneration after harvesting. These plants are easily propagated by vegetative cuttings and have the added benefit of not producing viable pollen, thus reducing potential problems associated with bio-containment. Hence, these Nicotiana hybrids provide an advantageous production platform for partially purified, plant-made vaccines which may be particularly well suited for use in veterinary immunization programs.
SND2, a NAC transcription factor gene, regulates genes involved in secondary cell wall development in Arabidopsis fibres and increases fibre cell area in Eucalyptus
BACKGROUND: NAC domain transcription factors initiate secondary cell wall biosynthesis in Arabidopsis fibres and vessels by activating numerous transcriptional regulators and biosynthetic genes. NAC family member SND2 is an indirect target of a principal regulator of fibre secondary cell wall formation, SND1. A previous study showed that overexpression of SND2 produced a fibre cell-specific increase in secondary cell wall thickness in Arabidopsis stems, and that the protein was able to transactivate the cellulose synthase8 (CesA8) promoter. However, the full repertoire of genes regulated by SND2 is unknown, and the effect of its overexpression on cell wall chemistry remains unexplored. RESULTS: We overexpressed SND2 in Arabidopsis and analyzed homozygous lines with regards to stem chemistry, biomass and fibre secondary cell wall thickness. A line showing upregulation of CesA8 was selected for transcriptome-wide gene expression profiling. We found evidence for upregulation of biosynthetic genes associated with cellulose, xylan, mannan and lignin polymerization in this line, in agreement with significant co-expression of these genes with native SND2 transcripts according to public microarray repositories. Only minor alterations in cell wall chemistry were detected. Transcription factor MYB103, in addition to SND1, was upregulated in SND2-overexpressing plants, and we detected upregulation of genes encoding components of a signal transduction machinery recently proposed to initiate secondary cell wall formation. Several homozygous T4 and hemizygous T1 transgenic lines with pronounced SND2 overexpression levels revealed a negative impact on fibre wall deposition, which may be indirectly attributable to excessive overexpression rather than co-suppression. Conversely, overexpression of SND2 in Eucalyptus stems led to increased fibre cross-sectional cell area. CONCLUSIONS: This study supports a function for SND2 in the regulation of cellulose and hemicellulose biosynthetic genes in addition of those involved in lignin polymerization and signalling. SND2 seems to occupy a subordinate but central tier in the secondary cell wall transcriptional network. Our results reveal phenotypic differences in the effect of SND2 overexpression between woody and herbaceous stems and emphasize the importance of expression thresholds in transcription factor studies.
Influence of Landscape Structure and Human Modifications on Insect Biomass and Bat Foraging Activity in an Urban Landscape
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2012-06-07)
Urban landscapes are often located in biologically diverse, productive regions. As such, urbanization may have dramatic consequences for this diversity, largely due to changes in the structure and function of urban communities. We examined the influence of landscape productivity (indexed by geology), housing density and vegetation clearing on the spatial distribution of nocturnal insect biomass and the foraging activity of insectivorous bats in the urban landscape of Sydney, Australia. Nocturnal insect biomass (g) and bat foraging activity were sampled from 113 sites representing backyard, open space, bushland and riparian landscape elements, across urban, suburban and vegetated landscapes within 60 km of Sydney's Central Business District. We found that insect biomass was at least an order of magnitude greater within suburban landscapes in bushland and backyard elements located on the most fertile shale influenced geologies (both p<0.001) compared to nutrient poor sandstone landscapes. Similarly, the feeding activity of bats was greatest in bushland, and riparian elements within suburbs on fertile geologies (p = 0.039). Regression tree analysis indicated that the same three variables explained the major proportion of the variation in insect biomass and bat foraging activity. These were ambient temperature (positive), housing density (negative) and the percent of fertile shale geologies (positive) in the landscape; however variation in insect biomass did not directly explain bat foraging activity. We suggest that prey may be unavailable to bats in highly urbanized areas if these areas are avoided by many species, suggesting that reduced feeding activity may reflect under-use of urban habitats by bats. Restoration activities to improve ecological function and maintain the activity of a diversity of bat species should focus on maintaining and restoring bushland and riparian habitat, particularly in areas with fertile geology as these were key bat foraging habitats.
Localization of Oleuropeyl Glucose Esters and a Flavanone to Secretory Cavities of Myrtaceae
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2012-07-20)
We report the widespread occurrence of structurally diverse oleuropeyl glucose esters, including the new diester eucaglobulin B, localized specifically to the essential oil secretory cavities of myrtaceous species. Clear taxonomic patterns in the composition of cavity extracts within the genus Eucalyptus are shown with species from subgenus Symphyomyrtus dominated by oleuropeyl glucose esters and species from subgenus Eucalyptus dominated instead by the flavanone, pinocembrin. We also examined the intra-species occurrence of oleuropeyl glucose esters by quantifying the abundant constituents cuniloside B and froggattiside A in trees from two populations of Eucalyptus polybractea R.T. Baker. All trees contained both compounds, which were positively correlated with total essential oil concentration. This apparent ubiquity of oleuropeyl glucose esters at both intra- and inter-specific levels in Eucalyptus is indicative of important physiological or ecological functions. The significance of their prevalence and the sequestration of these esters and also pinocembrin to the extracellular domain of secretory cavities is discussed in light of their potential biological activities and our findings that they are spatially segregated to the exterior of cavity lumina. The localization of oleuropeyl glucose esters to a specific and isolatable tissue type has the potential to aid in future elucidation of function and biosynthesis.
Urban Stormwater Runoff: A New Class of Environmental Flow Problem
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2012-09-19)
Environmental flow assessment frameworks have begun to consider changes to flow regimes resulting from land-use change. Urban stormwater runoff, which degrades streams through altered volume, pattern and quality of flow, presents a problem that challenges dominant approaches to stormwater and water resource management, and to environmental flow assessment. We used evidence of ecological response to different stormwater drainage systems to develop methods for input to environmental flow assessment. We identified the nature of hydrologic change resulting from conventional urban stormwater runoff, and the mechanisms by which such hydrologic change is prevented in streams where ecological condition has been protected. We also quantified the increase in total volume resulting from urban stormwater runoff, by comparing annual streamflow volumes from undeveloped catchments with the volumes that would run off impervious surfaces under the same rainfall regimes. In catchments with as little as 5-10% total imperviousness, conventional stormwater drainage, associated with poor in-stream ecological condition, reduces contributions to baseflows and increases the frequency and magnitude of storm flows, but in similarly impervious catchments in which streams retain good ecological condition, informal drainage to forested hillslopes, without a direct piped discharge to the stream, results in little such hydrologic change. In urbanized catchments, dispersed urban stormwater retention measures can potentially protect urban stream ecosystems by mimicking the hydrologic effects of informal drainage, if sufficient water is harvested and kept out of the stream, and if discharged water is treated to a suitable quality. Urban stormwater is a new class of environmental flow problem: one that requires reduction of a large excess volume of water to maintain riverine ecological integrity. It is the best type of problem, because solving it provides an opportunity to solve other problems such as the provision of water for human use.
Isolation of intact sub-dermal secretory cavities from Eucalyptus
(BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2010-09-01)
BACKGROUND: The biosynthesis of plant natural products in sub-dermal secretory cavities is poorly understood at the molecular level, largely due to the difficulty of physically isolating these structures for study. Our aim was to develop a protocol for isolating live and intact sub-dermal secretory cavities, and to do this, we used leaves from three species of Eucalyptus with cavities that are relatively large and rich in essential oils. RESULTS: Leaves were digested using a variety of commercially available enzymes. A pectinase from Aspergillus niger was found to allow isolation of intact cavities after a relatively short incubation (12 h), with no visible artifacts from digestion and no loss of cellular integrity or cavity contents. Several measurements indicated the potential of the isolated cavities for further functional studies. First, the cavities were found to consume oxygen at a rate that is comparable to that estimated from leaf respiratory rates. Second, mRNA was extracted from cavities, and it was used to amplify a cDNA fragment with high similarity to that of a monoterpene synthase. Third, the contents of the cavity lumen were extracted, showing an unexpectedly low abundance of volatile essential oils and a sizeable amount of non-volatile material, which is contrary to the widely accepted role of secretory cavities as predominantly essential oil repositories. CONCLUSIONS: The protocol described herein is likely to be adaptable to a range of Eucalyptus species with sub-dermal secretory cavities, and should find wide application in studies of the developmental and functional biology of these structures, and the biosynthesis of the plant natural products they contain.