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Front. Plant Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fpls.2017.02027

Abiotic Stress Phenotypes are Associated with Conserved Genes Derived from Transposable Elements

 Zoé Joly-Lopez1, 2, Ewa Forczek2,  Emilio Vello2, Douglas R. Hoen2, Akiko Tomita2, 3 and  Thomas E. Bureau2*
  • 1Biology, New York University, United States
  • 2Biology, McGill University, Canada
  • 3University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Plant phenomics offers unique opportunities to accelerate our understanding of gene function and plant response to different environments, and may be particularly useful for studying previously uncharacterized genes. One important type of poorly characterized genes is those derived from transposable elements (TEs), which have departed from a mobility-driven lifestyle to attain new adaptive roles for the host (exapted TEs). We used phenomics approaches, coupled with reverse genetics, to analyze T-DNA insertion mutants of both previously reported and novel protein-coding exapted TEs in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We show that mutations in most of these exapted TEs result in phenotypes, particularly when challenged by abiotic stress. We built statistical multi-dimensional phenotypic profiles and compared them to wild-type and known stress responsive mutant lines for each particular stress condition. We found that these exapted TEs may play roles in responses to phosphate limitation, tolerance to high salt concentration, freezing temperatures, and arsenic toxicity. These results not only experimentally validate a large set of putative functional exapted TEs recently discovered through computational analysis, but also uncover additional novel phenotypes for previously well-characterized exapted TEs in A. thaliana.

Keywords: transposable elements, Phenomics, abiotic stress, Exaptation, Molecular domestication, high-throughput screen assays, Reverse Genetics, multiple trait analyses

Received: 04 Sep 2017; Accepted: 14 Nov 2017.

Edited by:

Alejandra A. Covarrubias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico

Reviewed by:

Damon Lisch, Purdue University, United States
Dongying Gao, University of Georgia, United States  

Copyright: © 2017 Joly-Lopez, Forczek, Vello, Hoen, Tomita and Bureau. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Thomas E. Bureau, McGill University, Biology, Montreal, Canada, thomas.bureau@mcgill.ca