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Capsella: a robust system for plant stress biology research

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Study of plant stress response leads to deeper understanding of how plants grow and survive seasonal or local environmental stresses and creates optimized approaches for improvement of crop breeding. In addition to the widely used “model” plant Arabidopsis, the inclusion of other organisms in stress biology ...

Study of plant stress response leads to deeper understanding of how plants grow and survive seasonal or local environmental stresses and creates optimized approaches for improvement of crop breeding. In addition to the widely used “model” plant Arabidopsis, the inclusion of other organisms in stress biology investigations will provide novel systems of molecular research, which can add new insights to the field of gene functional analysis and genetic engineering. Capsella, a kind of ubiquitous weed, has in certain regions also been promoted as an edible herb. This plant is easy to cultivate and propagate, and its fairly short life cycle allows it to produce two to three generations per year. Capsella is a genus within the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Due to its close relationship to Arabidopsis, numerous experimental tools are available for the study of Capsella, and more are being developed. The similar orientation and sequence of genes between Capsella and Arabidopsis will help to identify genes from Capsella and reveal novel regulatory and evolutionary modes through interspecific comparison.

The Capsella genus may consist of three species: two diploids of C. rubella (2n = 2x = 16) and C. grandiflora (2n = 2x = 16), and one tetraploid of C. bursa-pastoris (2n = 4x = 32). These three species show remarkably different habitat ranges. Reproductive studies and evolutionary research suggest that C. grandiflora represents the most ancestral while C. bursa-pastoris shows the most derived character states, respectively. C. bursa-pastoris is well adapted to different environments and is considered to be one of the most thriving and widespread flowering plants on the earth. It is a competitive system for investigation of stress response and adaption as well as an attractive resource of useful genes in molecular breeding. For the other two species, natural variation study and systematic analysis in stress biology will be further facilitated considering their ploidy level and the sequenced whole genome information of C. rubella.

The goal of this research topic is to reveal the advanced acclimation and tolerance strategies allowing Capsella to be cosmopolitan in the face of environmental challenges. Investigation of key modulators of stress response with the emphasis on genes from Capsella bursa-pastoris will help us to gain novel insights into the identification of target genes and proteins that can be used in molecular approaches of crop engineering. We also seek to collect studies addressing the comparative analysis of crucial differentially expressed genes with respect to stress acclimation or adaption among ecotypes. The comparison of adaptive traits among all three species using Arabidopsis as the reference model will be of great interest. We enthusiastically encourage the submission of original research articles, reviews, mini-reviews, perspectives and opinions related to biotic and abiotic stress resistance of Capsella. Reports about newly developed techniques associated with Capsella are also most welcome.


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