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More info for Liron Shalom:
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I’m mainly interested in plant responses to endogenous and environmental cues. My PhD study focused on alternate bearing in fruit trees, a process by which cycles of heavy yield one year are followed by low yield the next year. As a postdoctoral researcher in the Maloof lab, I’m utilizing quantitative genetics to identify chilling tolerance mechanisms in tomato plants.
Molecular characterization of SQUAMOSA PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE (SPL) gene family from Citrus and the effect of fruit load on their expression.
We recently identified a Citrus gene encoding SQUAMOSA PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE (SPL) transcription factor that contained a sequence complementary to miR156. Genes of the SPL family are known to play a role in flowering regulation and phase transition. In Citrus, the mRNA levels of the gene were significantly altered by fruit load in buds; under heavy fruit load (ON-Crop trees), known to suppress next year flowering, the mRNA levels were down-regulated, while fruit removal (de-fruiting), inducing next-year flowering, resulted in its up-regulation. In the current work, we set on to study the function of the gene. We showed that the Citrus SPL was able promote flowering independently of photoperiod in Arabidopsis, while miR156 repressed its flowering-promoting activity. In order to find out if fruit load affected the expression of additional genes of the SPL family, we identified and classified all SPL members in the Citrus genome, and studied their seasonal expression patterns in buds and leaves, and in response to de-fruiting. Results showed that two additional SPL-like genes and miR172, known to be induced by SPLs in Arabidopsis, were altered by fruit load. The relationships between these factors in relation to the fruit-load effect on Citrus flowering are discussed.
Fruit load induces changes in global gene expression and in abscisic acid (ABA) and indole acetic acid (IAA) homeostasis in citrus buds.
Many fruit trees undergo cycles of heavy fruit load (ON-Crop) in one year, followed by low fruit load (OFF-Crop) the following year, a phenomenon known as alternate bearing (AB). The mechanism by which fruit load affects flowering induction during the following year (return bloom) is still unclear. Although not proven, it is commonly accepted that the fruit or an organ which senses fruit presence generates an inhibitory signal that moves into the bud and inhibits apical meristem transition. Indeed, fruit removal from ON-Crop trees (de-fruiting) induces return bloom. Identification of regulatory or metabolic processes modified in the bud in association with altered fruit load might shed light on the nature of the AB signalling process. The bud transcriptome of de-fruited citrus trees was compared with those of ON- and OFF-Crop trees. Fruit removal resulted in relatively rapid changes in global gene expression, including induction of photosynthetic genes and proteins. Altered regulatory mechanisms included abscisic acid (ABA) metabolism and auxin polar transport. Genes of ABA biosynthesis were induced; however, hormone analyses showed that the ABA level was reduced in OFF-Crop buds and in buds shortly following fruit removal. Additionally, genes associated with Ca(2+)-dependent auxin polar transport were remarkably induced in buds of OFF-Crop and de-fruited trees. Hormone analyses showed that auxin levels were reduced in these buds as compared with ON-Crop buds. In view of the auxin transport autoinhibition theory, the possibility that auxin distribution plays a role in determining bud fate is discussed.
Effects of gibberellin treatment during flowering induction period on global gene expression and the transcription of flowering-control genes in Citrus buds.
Gibberellins (GAs) affect flowering in a species-dependent manner: in long-day and biennial plants they promote flowering, whereas in other plants, including fruit trees, they inhibit it. The mechanism by which GAs promote flowering in Arabidopsis is not fully understood, although there is increasing evidence that they may act through more than one pathway. In citrus, GA treatment during the flowering induction period reduces the number of flowers; the mechanism of flowering inhibition is not clear; the hormone may act directly in the bud to determine its fate toward vegetative growth, generate a mobile signal, or both. However, bud metabolic and regulatory pathways are expected to be altered upon GA treatment. We investigated the effect of GA treatments on global gene expression in the bud during the induction period, and on the expression of key flowering genes. Overall, about 2000 unigenes showed altered expression, with about 300 showing at least a two-fold change. Changes in flavonoids and trehalose metabolic pathways were validated, and among other altered pathways, such as cell-wall components, were discussed in light of GA's inhibition of flowering. Among flowering-control genes, GA treatment resulted in reduced mRNA levels of FT, AP1 and a few flower-organ-identity genes. mRNA levels of FLC-like and SOC1 were not altered by the treatment, whereas LEAFY mRNA was induced in GA-treated buds. Surprisingly, FT expression was higher in buds than leaves. Overall, our results shed light on changes taking place in the bud during flowering induction in response to GA treatment.
Alternate bearing in citrus: changes in the expression of flowering control genes and in global gene expression in ON- versus OFF-crop trees.
Alternate bearing (AB) is the process in fruit trees by which cycles of heavy yield (ON crop) one year are followed by a light yield (OFF crop) the next. Heavy yield usually reduces flowering intensity the following year. Despite its agricultural importance, how the developing crop influences the following year's return bloom and yield is not fully understood. It might be assumed that an 'AB signal' is generated in the fruit, or in another organ that senses fruit presence, and moves into the bud to determine its fate-flowering or vegetative growth. The bud then responds to fruit presence by altering regulatory and metabolic pathways. Determining these pathways, and when they are altered, might indicate the nature of this putative AB signal. We studied bud morphology, the expression of flowering control genes, and global gene expression in ON- and OFF-crop buds. In May, shortly after flowering and fruit set, OFF-crop buds were already significantly longer than ON-crop buds. The number of differentially expressed genes was higher in May than at the other tested time points. Processes differentially expressed between ON- and OFF-crop trees included key metabolic and regulatory pathways, such as photosynthesis and secondary metabolism. The expression of genes of trehalose metabolism and flavonoid metabolism was validated by nCounter technology, and the latter was confirmed by metabolomic analysis. Among genes induced in OFF-crop trees was one homologous to SQUAMOSA PROMOTER BINDING-LIKE (SPL), which controls juvenile-to-adult and annual phase transitions, regulated by miR156. The expression pattern of SPL-like, miR156 and other flowering control genes suggested that fruit load affects bud fate, and therefore development and metabolism, a relatively long time before the flowering induction period. Results shed light on some of the metabolic and regulatory processes that are altered in ON and OFF buds.