Igor A. Yakovlev

Research Professor

(+47) 902 46 975
igor.yakovlev@nibio.no

Place
Ås H8

Visiting address
Høgskoleveien 8, 1433 Ås

Abstract

Epigenetic memory in Norway spruce affects the timing of bud burst and bud set, vitally important adaptive traits for this long-lived forest species. Epigenetic memory is established in response to the temperature conditions during embryogenesis. Somatic embryogenesis at different epitype inducing (EpI) temperatures closely mimics the natural processes of epigenetic memory formation in seeds, giving rise to epigenetically different clonal plants in a reproducible and predictable manner, with respect to altered bud phenology. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) and other small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) play an essential role in the regulation of plant gene expression and may affect this epigenetic mechanism. We used NGS sequencing and computational in silico methods to identify and profile conserved and novel miRNAs among small RNAs in embryogenic tissues of Norway spruce at three EpI temperatures (18, 23 and 28◦C). We detected three predominant classes of sRNAs related to a length of 24 nt, followed by a 21–22 nt class and a third 31 nt class of sRNAs. More than 2100 different miRNAs within the prevailing length 21–22 nt were identified. Profiling these putative miRNAs allowed identification of 1053 highly expressed miRNAs, including 523 conserved and 530 novels. 654 of these miRNAs were found to be differentially expressed (DEM) depending on EpI temperature. For most DEMs, we defined their putative mRNA targets. The targets represented mostly by transcripts of multiple-repeats proteins, like TIR, NBS-LRR, PPR and TPR repeat, Clathrin/VPS proteins, Myb-like, AP2, etc. Notably, 124 DE miRNAs targeted 203 differentially expressed epigenetic regulators. Developing Norway spruce embryos possess a more complex sRNA structure than that reported for somatic tissues. A variety of the predicted miRNAs showed distinct EpI temperature dependent expression patterns. These putative EpI miRNAs target spruce genes with a wide range of functions, including genes known to be involved in epigenetic regulation, which in turn could provide a feedback process leading to the formation of epigenetic marks. We suggest that TIR, NBS and LRR domain containing proteins could fulfill more general functions for signal transduction from external environmental stimuli and conversion them into molecular response. Fine-tuning of the miRNA production likely participates in both developmental regulation and epigenetic memory formation in Norway spruce.

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Abstract

Main conclusion: Epigenetic memory affects the timing of bud burst phenology and the expression of bud burstrelated genes in genetically identical Norway spruce epitypes in a manner usually associated with ecotypes. In Norway spruce, a temperature-dependent epigenetic memory established during embryogenesis affects the timing of bud burst and bud set in a reproducible and predictable manner. We hypothesize that the clinal variation in these phenological traits, which is associated with adaptation to growth under frost-free conditions, has an epigenetic component. In Norway spruce, dehydrins (DHNs) have been associated with extreme frost tolerance. DHN transcript levels decrease gradually prior to flushing, a time when trees are highly sensitive to frost. Furthermore, EARLY BUD BREAK 1 genes (EBB1) and the FT-TFL1- LIKE 2-gene (PaFTL2) were previously suggested to be implied in control of bud phenology. Here we report an analysis of transcript levels of 12 DHNs, 3 EBB1 genes and FTL2 in epitypes of the same genotype generated at different epitype-inducing temperatures, before and during spring bud burst. Earlier flushing of epitypes originating from embryos developed at 18 C as compared to 28 C, was associated with differential expression of these genes between epitypes and between buds and last year’s needles. The majority of these genes showed significantly different expressions between epitypes in at least one time point. The general trend in DHN expression pattern in buds showed the expected reduction in transcript levels when approaching flushing, whereas, surprisingly, transcript levels peaked later in needles, mainly at the moment of bud burst. Collectively, our results demonstrate that the epigenetic memory of temperature during embryogenesis affects bud burst phenology and expression of the bud burst-related DHN, EBB1 and FTL2 genes in genetically identical Norway spruce epitypes.

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Abstract

Epigenetic memory formed in the Norway spruce embryos permanently affect the timing of bud burst and bud set in the progenies, vitally important adaptive traits in this long-lived forest species. Epigenetic memory marks are established in response to the temperature conditions prevailing during embryogenesis; the epitype is fixed by the time the embryo is fully developed and is mitotically propagated throughout the tree’s life span. Somatic embryogenesis closely mimics the natural zygotic embryo formation and results in epigenetically different plants in a predictable temperature-dependent manner with respect to altered phenology. Using RNAseq transcriptome analysis of mRNA and noncodingRNA (ncRNA) changes were monitored in somatic embryos under different temperatures. We found distinct differences in mRNA and ncRNA transcriptomes between the genetically identical embryogenic tissues grown under the epitype-inducing temperatures suggesting temperature-dependent canalizing of gene expression during embryo formation, putatively based on chromatin modifications.

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Abstract

Embryogenesis is the initial stage of plant life, when the basics of body plan and the post-embryonic development are laid down. Epigenetic memory formed in the Norway spruce embryos permanently affect the timing of bud burst and bud set in progenies, vitally important adaptive traits in this long-lived forest species. The epigenetic memory marks are established in response to the temperature conditions prevailing during zygotic and somatic embryogenesis; the epitype is fixed by the time the embryo is fully developed and is mitotically propagated throughout the tree’s life span. Somatic embryogenesis closely mimics the natural zygotic embryo formation and results in epigenetically different plants in a predictable temperature-dependent manner with respect to altered phenology. Using Illumina-based Massive Analysis of cDNA Ends, the transcriptome changes were monitored in somatic embryos during morphogenesis stage under two different temperatures (18 vs. 30 °C). We found distinct differences in transcriptomes between the genetically identical embryogenic tissues grown under the two epitype-inducing temperatures suggesting temperature-dependent canalizing of gene expression during embryo formation, putatively based on chromatin modifications. From 448 transcripts of genes coding for proteins involved in epigenetic machinery, we found 35 of these to be differentially expressed at high level under the epitype-inducing conditions. Therefore, temperature conditions during embryogenesis significantly alter transcriptional profiles including numerous orthologs of transcriptional regulators, epigenetic-related genes, and large sets of unknown and uncharacterized transcripts.

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Abstract

To investigate the role of dehydrins (DHNs) in extreme low-temperature (LT) tolerance, we sampled needle tissue of Siberian spruce (Picea obovata Ledeb.) from trees growing in an arboretum in Trondheim, Norway from August 2006 to April 2007 and tracked changes in LT tolerance via relative electrolyte leakage. We used western blotting to estimate relative amounts of proteins binding a DHN K-segment antibody, measured relative amounts of nine transcripts for small (<25 kDa) DHNs by quantitative reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using primers developed for DHN transcripts in a closely related species, Picea abies (L.) Karsten, and isolated and sequenced PCR products for five P. obovata DHNs. Three protein bands of 53, 35 and 33 kDa were detected on western blots of SDS–PAGE-separated protein extracts. The 53-kDa DHN was already present late in the growing season, but accumulated during acclimation, and levels decreased rapidly during deacclimation. The 33- and 35-kDa proteins, identified as Picg5 class DHNs by mass spectrometry, first appeared in detectable amounts late in the acclimation process and remained at detectable levels throughout the period of maximum LT tolerance. Levels of the 53-kDa DHN correlated with two LT tolerance parameters, while results for the 33- and 35-kDa proteins were equivocal due to limited sample size and variation in LT tolerance during the mid-winter period. Three additional bands of 30, 28 and 26 kDa were detected in extracts from needles collected in November 2010 using an immunity-purified antibody. Immunoblotting of two-dimensional gel electrophoresis gels loaded with proteins extracted from October and November samples corroborated the results obtained by SDS–PAGE western blots. One large spot in the 53 kDa range and two trains of spots in the same size range as the 33 and 35 kDa DHNs were detected using the K-segment antibody. Eight of the nine DHN transcripts closely tracked LT tolerance parameters, whereas the ninth DHN transcripts followed a reverse pattern, decreasing during winter and increasing again during deacclimation. Multiple regression models using principal components of the transcripts to predict two different LT tolerance parameters suggest separate but overlapping functions for different DHNs in establishing and maintaining extreme LT tolerance.

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Abstract

The pathogenic white-rot basidiomycete Heterobasidion irregulare is able to remove lignin and hemicellulose prior to cellulose during the colonization of root and stem xylem of conifer and broadleaf trees. We identified and followed the regulation of expression of genes belonging to families encoding ligninolytic enzymes. In comparison with typical white-rot fungi, the H. irregulare genome has exclusively the short-manganese peroxidase type encoding genes (6 short-MnPs) and thereby a slight contraction in the pool of class II heme-containing peroxidases, but an expansion of the MCO laccases with 17 gene models. Furthermore, the genome shows a versatile set of other oxidoreductase genes putatively involved in lignin oxidation and conversion, including 5 glyoxal oxidases, 19 quinone-oxidoreductases and 12 aryl-alcohol oxidases. Their genetic multiplicity and gene-specific regulation patterns on cultures based on defined lignin, cellulose or Norway spruce lignocellulose substrates suggest divergent specificities and physiological roles for these enzymes. While the short-MnP encoding genes showed similar transcript levels upon fungal growth on heartwood and reaction zone (RZ), a xylem defense tissue rich in phenolic compounds unique to trees, a subset of laccases showed higher gene expression in the RZ cultures. In contrast, other oxidoreductases depending on initial MnP activity showed generally lower transcript levels on RZ than on heartwood. These data suggest that the rate of fungal oxidative conversion of xylem lignin differs between spruce RZ and heartwood. It is conceivable that in RZ part of the oxidoreductase activities of laccases are related to the detoxification of phenolic compounds involved in host-defense. Expression of the several short-MnP enzymes indicated an important role for these enzymes in effective delignification of wood by H. irregulare.

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Abstract

Conifers are evolutionarily more ancient than their angiosperm counterparts, and thus some adaptive mechanisms and features influenced by epigenetic mechanisms appear more highly displayed in these woody gymnosperms. Conifers such as Norway spruce have very long generation times and long life spans, as well as large genome sizes. This seemingly excessive amount of genomic DNA without apparent duplications could be a rich source of sites for epigenetic regulation and modifications. In Norway spruce, an important adaptive mechanism has been identified, called epigenetic memory. This affects the growth cycle of these trees living in environments with mild summers and cold winters, allowing them to adapt rapidly to new and/or changing environments. The temperature during post-meiotic megagametogenesis and seed maturation epigenetically shifts the growth cycle programme of the embryos. This results in significant and long-lasting phenotypic change in the progeny, such as advance or delay of vital phenological processes of high adaptive value, like bud break and bud set. This phenomenon is not only of important evolutionary significance but has clear practical implications for forest seed production and conservation of forest genetic resources. The underlying molecular mechanism that causes the ‘memory’ in long-lived woody species is currently under investigation. Here we summarize the information related to epigenetic memory regulation in gymnosperms, with special emphasis on conifers. The molecular mechanism behind this is still unknown but transcriptional changes are clearly involved. Epigenetic regulation may be realized through several mechanisms, including DNA methylation, histone modification, chromatin remodelling, small non-coding RNAs and transposable element regulation, of which non-coding RNAs might be one of the most important determinants.

Abstract

We compared gene expression in Norway spruce secondary phloem (bark) and developing xylem (sapwood) in response to the necrotrophic pathogen Heterobasidion parviporum, wounding and methyl jasmonate (MeJ). The pathogen induced systemic and local up-regulation of PaPX3, PaPX2 and PaChi4 in both bark and sapwood that returned to constitutive levels as the plants recovered from the infection, whereas the local responses to MeJ were similar in both tissues but was longer lasting for PaPX3 and PaChi4. Genes involved in lignin biosynthesis (PaPAL1, PaPAL2, PaC4H3/5 and PaHCT1) were up-regulated locally in the bark in response to pathogen and wounding whereas MeJ induced a similar but stronger local response. The ethylene biosynthesis related transcripts PaACO and PaACS did not increase in response to MeJ treatment or the pathogen, however it increased both locally and systemically as a response to wounding in the sapwood. These results demonstrate that the local and systemic host responses to pathogen infection and wounding largely correspond and reveal striking similarities between the local response to a necrotroph, wounding and MeJ treatment in both bark and living wood.

Abstract

Epigenetic memory marks establishment in Norway spruce occur exclusively during embryogenesis in response to environmental impact, and the epitype is fixated by the time the embryo is fully developed without a change in the DNA sequence. We started large scale studies aimed on identifying and characterizing of genes and regulatory elements involved in the initiation, maintenance, and heritability of epigenetic memory using candidate genes and next generation sequencing approaches. Molecular mechanisms of formation of epigenetic memory were studied on the same full-sibs family zygotic embryo in vitro cultures developed in cold (18°C) and warm (30°C) environmental conditions from proliferation till mature embryo stages. Initially we had found large set (64) of Arabidopsis epigenetic regulator gene homologs in spruce. In general, known epigenetic related genes are very well represented among spruce ESTs. Analysis of the transcription patterns of these genes using RT-PCR in epigenetically different embryogenic samples reveal specific transcription patterns on different stages of embryogenic development dependent on epitype. We are expecting to determine certain stages during embryogenesis when epigenetic memory marks are forming. At the same time, nearly no differences in transcription levels of studied genes had been found in seedlings (4 month old), originated from full-sib families clearly differed in epigenetic response. Using MACE (massive cDNA 3-end sequencing) deep mRNA sequencing on the Illumina GSII platform, we analyzed P. abies transcriptomes by comparison warm and cold originated “embryonic epitypes” developed in cold and warm environmental conditions. Significant differences in transcriptomes between epitypes revealed by high-throughput sequencing will be discussed.

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Abstract

Purpose: Drought-induced tree susceptibility is a major risk associated with climate change. Here we report how an 11-week drought affected tracheid structure, gene expression, and above- and belowground growth in 5-year-old Norway spruce trees (Picea abies) under controlled conditions. Results: The canopy of trees subjected to severe drought had significantly less current-year needle biomass, and fewer tracheids and tracheid rows in current-year shoots compared to fully watered control trees. Belowground tissues were more strongly affected by drought than aboveground tissues. In fine roots (<2 mm diameter) severe drought significantly reduced root biomass, root diameter, root length density and root surface area per soil volume compared to the control. Tracheid diameter and hydraulic conductivity in fine roots were significantly lower and tracheid flatness higher in trees subjected to severe drought than in control trees, both for long and short roots. Transcripts of the drought-related dehydrins PaDhn1 and PaDhn6 were strongly upregulated in stem bark and current-year needles in response to drought, whereas PaDhn4.5 was down-regulated. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that drought reduces biomass and hydraulic conductivity in fine roots and needles. We suggest that the ratio between PaDhn6 and PaDhn4.5 may be a sensitive marker of drought stress in Norway spruce.

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Abstract

• Parasitism and saprotrophic wood decay are two fungal strategies fundamental for succession and nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems. An opportunity to assess the trade-off between these strategies is provided by the forest pathogen and wood decayer Heterobasidion annosum sensu lato. • We report the annotated genome sequence and transcript profiling, as well as the quantitative trait loci mapping, of one member of the species complex: H. irregulare. Quantitative trait loci critical for pathogenicity, and rich in transposable elements, orphan and secreted genes, were identified. • A wide range of cellulose-degrading enzymes are expressed during wood decay. By contrast, pathogenic interaction between H. irregulare and pine engages fewer carbohydrate-active enzymes, but involves an increase in pectinolytic enzymes, transcription modules for oxidative stress and secondary metabolite production. • Our results show a trade-off in terms of constrained carbohydrate decomposition and membrane transport capacity during interaction with living hosts. Our findings establish that saprotrophic wood decay and necrotrophic parasitism involve two distinct, yet overlapping, processes.

Abstract

Background: NB-LRR resistance proteins are involved in recognizing pathogens and other exogenous stressors in plants. Resistance proteins are the first step in induced defence responses and a better understanding of their regulation is important to understand the mechanisms of plant defence. Much of the post-transcriptional regulation in plants is controlled by microRNAs (miRNA). We examined the expression of five Norway spruce miRNA that may regulate NB-LRR related transcripts in secondary phloem (bark) of resistant Norway spruce after wounding and inoculation with the necrotrophic blue stain fungus Ceratocystis polonica. Results: The plants of this clone recovered from both the pathogen inoculations and wounding alone. We found local and systemic induction of the resistance marker genes PaChi4, PaPAL and PaPX3 indicative of an effective induced host defence response. There were minor local and systemic changes in the expression of five miRNAs and 21 NB-LRRs between healthy and treated plants. Only five putative NB-LRRs (PaLRR1, PaLRR3, PaLRR14, PaLRR15 and PaLRR16) showed significant increases greater than two-fold as a local response to C. polonica. Of all NB-LRRs only PaLRR3, the most highly differentially regulated NB-LRR, showed a significant increase also due to wounding. The five miRNAs showed indications of an initial local and systemic down-regulation at day 1, followed by a later increase up to and beyond the constitutive levels at day 6. However, the initial down-regulation was significant only for miR3693 and miR3705. Conclusions: Overall, local and systemic expression changes were evident only for the established resistance marker genes and PaLRR3. The minor expression changes observed both for the followed miRNAs and their predicted NB-LRR targets suggest that the expression of most NB-LRR genes are maintained close to their constitutive levels in stressed and healthy Norway spruce plants.

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Abstract

In Norway spruce, the temperature during zygotic embryogenesis appears to adjust an adaptive epigenetic memory in the progeny that may regulate bud phenology and cold acclimation. Conditions colder than normal advance the timing whilst temperatures above normal delay the onset of these processes and altered performance is long lasting in progeny with identical genetic background. As a step toward unraveling the molecular mechanism behind an epigenetic memory, transcriptional analysis was performed on seedlings from seeds of six full-sib families produced at different embryogenesis temperature?cold (CE) vs warm (WE) under long and short day conditions. We prepared two suppressive subtractedcDNAlibraries, forward and reverse, representing genes predominantly expressed in plants from seeds obtained after CE and WE embryogenesis following short day treatment (inducing bud set). Sequencing and annotation revealed considerable differences in the transcriptome of WE versus CE originated plants. By using qRT-PCR we studied the expression patterns of 32 selected candidate genes chosen from subtractive cDNA libraries analysis and nine siRNA pathways genes by a direct candidate approach. Eight genes, two transposons related genes, three with no match to Databases sequences and three genes from siRNA pathways (PaDCL1 and 2, PaSGS3) showed differential expression in progeny from CE andWEcorrelated with the family phenotypic differences. These findingsmaycontribute to our understanding of the epigenetic mechanisms underlying adaptive changes acquired during embryogenesis.

Abstract

Experimental evidence shows that Norway spruce can adjust adaptive traits by a kind of long-term memory of temperature and day length present at the time of its early seed development. This mechanism is termed epigenetics; changes in gene activity not based on differences in the genetic code and yet transferable from one generation to the next. This is a rapidly growing research field in human, animal and plant genetics.

Abstract

We have recently found that Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) can rapidly adjust its adaptive performance, probably through an epigenetic mechanism. This appears to employ a kind of long-term memory of temperature sum and (probably) photoperiod from the time of its embryo development. In our research we made identical controlled crosses and produced seed lots under controlled temperature and day-length conditions and later observed phenology, growth and hardiness traits in the progenies. It was repeatedly found that temperature conditions during seed set, in particular, influence the phenotypes of the offspring; seedlings from seeds produced under warm conditions have later terminal bud set and reduced autumn frost hardiness than those from seed produced under colder conditions, and thus perform like a more southern provenance. When embryonic clones were derived from mature zygotic embryos and were cultured at different temperatures, the plants cultured under warm in vitro temperature were the last to set bud and grew taller than those cultured at lower temperatures. Progenies produced in Norway by Central European mother trees had a bud set curve skewed towards that of the local Norwegian performance. A comparison of the performance of seedlings from seeds collected in the same provenance regions in 1970 and 2006 shows that the more recent seed lots consistently produce taller seedlings with a later bud set, probably due to higher temperatures during seed production in 2006. The effect of reproductive environment has been shown to persist for years. It mimics the variation between provenances from different latitudes and altitudes and may explain much of the observed variability in bud set and early height growth between natural populations of Norway spruce. The observed phenomenon suggests an epigenetic mechanism in the developing embryo, either zygotic or somatic, that senses environmental signals such as temperature and influences adaptive traits. Research is underway to understand the molecular basis of this mechanism. We will discuss the implications of this epigenetic phenomenon for the interpretation of provenance differences, for tree breeding and for its possible role in adaptation to climate change.

Abstract

Norway spruce expresses a temperature-dependent epigenetic memory from the time of embryo development, which thereafter influences the timing bud phenology. MicroRNAs (miRNAs)are endogenous small RNAs, exerting epigenetic gene regulatory impacts. We have tested for their presence and differential expression. We prepared concatemerized small RNA libraries from seedlings of two full-sib families, originated from seeds developed in a cold and warm environment. One family expressed distinct epigenetic effects while the other not. We used available plant miRNA query sequences to search for conserved miRNAs and from the sequencing we found novel ones; the miRNAs were monitored using relative real time-PCR. Sequencing identified 24 novel and four conserved miRNAs. Further screening of the conserved miRNAs confirmed the presence of 16 additional miRNAs. Most of the miRNAs were targeted to unknown genes. The expression of seven conserved and nine novel miRNAs showed significant differences in transcript levels in the full-sib family showing distinct epigenetic difference in bud set, but not in the nonresponding full-sib family. Putative miRNA targets were studied. Norway spruce contains a set of conserved miRNAs as well as a large proportion of novel nonconserved miRNAs. The differentially expression of specific miRNAs indicate their putative participation in the epigenetic regulation.