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New Phytologist

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Volume 214 Issue 4 | June 2017
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New Phytologist is an international journal offering rapid publication of high quality, original research in plant science. Covering four sections - Physiology & Development, Environment, Interaction and Evolution - articles cover topics that range from intracellular processes through to global environmental change. Cross-disciplinary approaches are particularly encouraged and we recognize that techniques from molecular and cell biology, and functional genomics through to modelling and system-based approaches will be applied across the whole spectrum of plant science.


Eiserhardt et al. (2017), Figure 3

Plant phylogeny as a window on the evolution of hyperdiversity in the tropical rainforest biome

Tropical rainforest (TRF) is the most species-rich terrestrial biome on Earth, harbouring just under half of the world's plant species in c. 7% of the land surface. Phylogenetic trees provide important insights into mechanisms underpinning TRF hyperdiversity that are complementary to those obtained from the fossil record. Phylogenetic studies of TRF plant diversity have mainly focused on whether this biome is an evolutionary ‘cradle’ or ‘museum’, emphasizing speciation and extinction rates. However, other explanations, such as biome age, immigration and ecological limits, must also be considered. We present a conceptual framework for addressing the drivers of TRF diversity, and review plant studies that have tested them with phylogenetic data. Although surprisingly few in number, these studies point to old age of TRF, low extinction and high speciation rates as credible drivers of TRF hyperdiversity. There is less evidence for immigration and ecological limits, but these cannot be dismissed owing to the limited number of studies. Rapid methodological developments in DNA sequencing, macroevolutionary analysis and the integration of phylogenetics with other disciplines may improve our grasp of TRF hyperdiversity in the future. However, such advances are critically dependent on fundamental systematic research, yielding numerous, additional, well-sampled phylogenies of TRF lineages.

James et al. (2017) Figure 3

Macrocyclization by asparaginyl endopeptidases

Plant asparaginyl endopeptidases (AEPs) are important for the post-translational processing of seed storage proteins via cleavage of precursor proteins. Some AEPs also function as peptide bond-makers during the biosynthesis of several unrelated classes of cyclic peptides, namely the kalata-type cyclic peptides, PawS-Derived Peptides and cyclic knottins. These three families of gene-encoded peptides have different evolutionary origins, but all have recruited AEPs for their maturation. In the last few years, the field has advanced rapidly, with the biochemical characterization of three plant AEPs capable of peptide macrocyclization, and insights have been gained from the first AEP crystal structures, albeit mammalian ones. Although the biochemical studies have improved our understanding of the mechanism of action, the focus now is to understand what changes in AEP sequence and structure enable some plant AEPs to perform macrocyclization reactions.

Onoda et al. (2017) Figure 1

Physiological and structural tradeoffs underlying the leaf economics spectrum

  • The leaf economics spectrum (LES) represents a suite of intercorrelated leaf traits concerning construction costs per unit leaf area, nutrient concentrations, and rates of carbon fixation and tissue turnover. Although broad trade-offs among leaf structural and physiological traits have been demonstrated, we still do not have a comprehensive view of the fundamental constraints underlying the LES trade-offs.
  • Here, we investigated physiological and structural mechanisms underpinning the LES by analysing a novel data compilation incorporating rarely considered traits such as the dry mass fraction in cell walls, nitrogen allocation, mesophyll CO2 diffusion and associated anatomical traits for hundreds of species covering major growth forms.
  • The analysis demonstrates that cell wall constituents are major components of leaf dry mass (18–70%), especially in leaves with high leaf mass per unit area (LMA) and long lifespan. A greater fraction of leaf mass in cell walls is typically associated with a lower fraction of leaf nitrogen (N) invested in photosynthetic proteins; and lower within-leaf CO2 diffusion rates, as a result of thicker mesophyll cell walls.
  • The costs associated with greater investments in cell walls underpin the LES: long leaf lifespans are achieved via higher LMA and in turn by higher cell wall mass fraction, but this inevitably reduces the efficiency of photosynthesis.

Bravo et al. (2017) Figure 1

Arbuscular mycorrhiza-specific enzymes FatM and RAM2 fine-tune lipid biosynthesis to promote development of arbuscular mycorrhiza

  • During arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis (AMS), considerable amounts of lipids are generated, modified and moved within the cell to accommodate the fungus in the root, and it has also been suggested that lipids are delivered to the fungus. To determine the mechanisms by which root cells redirect lipid biosynthesis during AMS we analyzed the roles of two lipid biosynthetic enzymes (FatM and RAM2) and an ABC transporter (STR) that are required for symbiosis and conserved uniquely in plants that engage in AMS.
  • Complementation analyses indicated that the biochemical function of FatM overlaps with that of other Fat thioesterases, in particular FatB. The essential role of FatM in AMS was a consequence of timing and magnitude of its expression.
  • Lipid profiles of fatm and ram2 suggested that FatM increases the outflow of 16:0 fatty acids from the plastid, for subsequent use by RAM2 to produce 16:0 β-monoacylglycerol.
  • Thus, during AMS, high-level, specific expression of key lipid biosynthetic enzymes located in the plastid and the endoplasmic reticulum enables the root cell to fine-tune lipid biosynthesis to increase the production of β-monoacylglycerols. We propose a model in which β-monoacylglycerols, or a derivative thereof, are exported out of the root cell across the periarbuscular membrane for ultimate use by the fungus.