LSU-peptiden en hun cruciale rol als regulatorische hubs tijdens de stressrespons van Arabidopsis thaliana

Hanne Claessen Barbara De Coninck
Deze masterthesis zet verdere stappen in het onderzoek naar de functie van de LSU-peptiden in Arabidopsis thaliana. Deze genen hebben een mogelijke rol in de immuunrespons van planten of het energiemetabolisme en zouden belangrijke toepassingen kunnen bieden in de gewasverbetering.

Het Ontrafelen van de Functie van Vier Kleine LSU-Genen

DNA, genomen en genen spreken al sinds hun ontdekking tot de verbeelding. De huidige genetica staat al verbazend ver. Hoewel er nog veel is dat we nog niet weten, heeft de combinatie van kennis uit de biochemie en de genetica ervoor gezorgd dat we de functie van vele genen hebben kunnen linken aan essentiële biochemische processen zoals fotosynthese of immuunrespons in planten en dieren. Maar heeft u zich ooit al eens afgevraagd hoe onderzoekers dit voor elkaar krijgen? Hoe wordt de functie van een gen eigenlijk achterhaald? De thesis van Hanne Claessen, geschreven in het kader van de masteropleiding Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen aan de KU Leuven, beschrijft zo’n genetisch onderzoek. Het is een zoektocht naar de functie van vier kleine genen, namelijk LSU1, LSU2, LSU3 en LSU4 in Arabidopsis thaliana, een klein onkruidplantje dat ook wel Zandraket genoemd wordt en vaak gebruikt wordt in genetisch onderzoek in planten. De afkorting “LSU” staat voor “response to Low Sulfur”, wat betekent dat ze voor het eerst ontdekt werden als genen die verhoogd tot expressie komen wanneer de plant een tekort heeft aan zwavel in zijn voedingsoplossing. De LSU-genen worden vertaald in LSU-peptiden (peptiden zijn hele kleine proteïnen), maar hun functie in de cel is nog grotendeels onbekend.  

De zoektocht naar de functie van de LSU-peptiden moest gelukkig niet van nul beginnen. Voor de aanvang van het onderzoek was reeds geweten dat LSU1, LSU2 en LSU3 interageren met GBFP (Guanylate Binding Family Protein), een proteïne dat in de mens betrokken is bij de verdediging van het lichaam tegen bacteriën en virussen, en FSD2 (Fe Superoxide Dismutase 2) een proteïne dat in planten instaat voor de afbraak van zuurstofradicalen die vrijkomen bij stress of ziekte en zeer schadelijk kunnen zijn voor de cel. De interactie met deze proteïnen wijst erop dat de LSU-peptiden mogelijks betrokken zijn bij de immuunrespons van de plant tegen ziekten en stress. Anderzijds was het ook al bekend dat LSU4 voornamelijk betrokken is bij de bloemontwikkeling. Dit waren de eerste aanwijzingen voor de mogelijke functies van de verschillende LSU-peptiden en op basis daarvan moest het thesisonderzoek meer informatie verzamelen. Het was niet de bedoeling om werkelijk de exacte moleculaire functie van de LSU-peptiden te vinden, aangezien dit een veel te ambitieuze doelstelling zou zijn, maar eerder om het begrip van de LSU-peptiden te vergroten zodat andere onderzoekers hierop verder kunnen bouwen.

De LSU-peptiden werden op drie manieren onderzocht. Ten eerste werd er gekeken in welk plantenweefsel het gen actief is (bloemen, stengel, bladeren…) en waar het proteïne zich in de plantencel bevindt (kern, cytoplasma, mitochondriën…). Deze lokalisatiestudies werden uitgevoerd aan de hand van respectievelijk GUS-kleuring en GFP-kleuring. De eerste techniek zorgt ervoor dat het plantenweefsel waar het LSU-gen actief is blauw kleurt, de tweede techniek hangt een fluorescerende staart aan het LSU-proteïne waardoor het fluoresceert en er met een speciale microscoop gekeken kan worden waar het zich in de plantencel bevindt. Deze lokalisatiestudies zijn belangrijk aangezien de plaats waar het proteïne actief is een duidelijke aanwijzing kan geven over zijn functie. De LSU-genen bleken zeer actief in het vasculair weefsel (de “aders”) van de plant en de LSU-peptiden bleken zich voornamelijk in de kern te bevinden. Ten tweede werden genexpressieanalyses uitgevoerd, waarbij gemeten werd hoe actief het LSU-gen vertaald werd naar het overeenkomstige LSU-peptide naargelang de omgevingsomstandigheden die werden opgelegd. Er was een sterk verhoogde expressie van LSU1 en LSU3 wanneer de plant blootgesteld werd aan hoge concentraties van tafelsuiker (sucrose) in het medium. Sucrose is de belangrijkste vorm waarin glucose, de energiebron van de plant, getransporteerd wordt doorheen het vasculair weefsel. Dit zou erop kunnen wijzen dat de LSU-peptiden betrokken zijn in het energiemetabolisme van planten. Tenslotte werden fenotypische ziektetesten uitgevoerd waarbij mutante plantjes werden aangemaakt met een sterk verlaagde of zelfs helemaal geen expressie van de verschillende LSU-genen. Hierna werd gekeken hoe goed deze mutante plantjes overleven wanneer ze blootgesteld worden aan ziekte of stress. Het klinkt tegenstrijdig, maar een van de beste manieren om de functie van een gen te onderzoeken is om na te gaan wat er gebeurt met het plantje als het gen volledig wordt uitgeschakeld. Deze techniek, die ook wel aangeduid wordt als de “knock-out” techniek, is daarom een standaardmethode geworden om genenfunctie te onderzoeken. De mutanten werden blootgesteld aan schimmel- en bacterieziekten en zoutstress en de hevigheid van de ziektesymptomen werden nauwgezet bijgehouden. Echter, er konden in dit thesisonderdeel nog geen eenduidige conclusies getrokken worden uit de resultaten en deze ziektetesten zullen in een volgend onderzoek best herhaald worden.

De thesis bracht verschillende interessante conclusies naar voren, maar er is nog veel onderzoek nodig om duidelijkheid te vinden over de moleculaire functie van de LSU-peptiden. Net als bij vele andere disciplines in fundamenteel onderzoek is het achterhalen van de functie van genen een werk van lange adem en vaak zijn er verschillende onafhankelijke onderzoekers bezig met een sterk gelijkaardig onderzoek, maar komen ze tot schijnbaar tegengestelde resultaten. Het werk is gecompliceerd en vaak is het niet meteen duidelijk hoe het onderzoek in de praktijk toegepast kan worden. Deze eigenschappen van fundamenteel onderzoek maken dat het onderzoek vaak te vaag of te complex is om de interesse van leken te wekken. Toch is het een onontbeerlijke stap in het hedendaags onderzoek aangezien het de basis levert voor toegepast onderzoek dat vervolgens concrete toepassingen in de praktijk teweeg kan brengen. Indien bevestigd wordt dat LSU-peptiden betrokken zijn bij de plantverdediging tegen ziekten, kan deze kennis gebruikt worden in het praktijkgericht onderzoek om onze landbouwgewassen resistenter te maken tegen ziekten en plagen. Voor zij die geïnteresseerd zijn om te weten te komen hoe fundamenteel onderzoek te werk gaat en hoe men precies de specifieke functies van genen achterhaalt, is deze thesis zeker interessante literatuur.

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen Major Gewasproductie Minor Voeding en Gezondheid
Publicatiejaar
2016
Promotor(en)
prof. Cammue
Kernwoorden
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