Recognizing featured Plant Cell first authors, February 2017

Masanori Izumi, featured first author of Entire Photodamaged Chloroplasts Are Transported to the Central Vacuole by Autophagy

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences, Tohoku University.

Education: Ph.D. (2012), Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences, Tohoku University, Japan.

Non-scientific Interests: Playing tennis, Travel to Japanese hot springs.

When I was an undergraduate student, I joined Dr. Hiroyuki Ishida’s research group, which is working to identify the degradation mechanism of chloroplast proteins during leaf senescence. This gave me a chance to realize the interesting nature of chloroplasts. I performed research demonstrating that chloroplasts are partially degraded via a type of autophagic vesicles known as Rubisco-containing bodies (RCBs). This included two collaborative works with Prof. Yoshinori Ohsumi, a winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In my Ph.D. research, I revealed the physiological importance of RCB pathway under energy-limited conditions. As a post-doc, I was awarded a grant for young scientists from the Japanese government as a hosted researcher in Dr. Jun Hidema’s Lab, in which the members are focused on plant response to ultraviolet-B (UVB) damage. I exposed Arabidopsis autophagy-deficient mutants to UVB and found that they showed a UVB-sensitive phenotype. Because I then expected that the RCB pathway was specifically activated by UVB damage, I carried out detailed imaging analysis with confocal microscopy. Although this original expectation was not true, I noticed that chlorophagy, the vacuolar transport and destruction of entire chloroplasts by autophagy, occurs in UVB-damaged leaves. This is the topic of our current article. During this work, I became an assistant professor as an independent researcher. Our small group still has many questions about chlorophagy such as how photodamaged chloroplasts are recognized and recruited for autophagy. We are attempting to elucidate these and other interesting questions.

Qiong Nan and Dong Qian, featured first authors of Plant Actin-depolymerizing Factors Possess Opposing Biochemical Properties Arising From Key Amino Acid Changes Throughout Evolution.

Qiong Nan

Current Position: Ph.D. student at the School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, China.

Education: B.S. (2011) in Biology, College of Bioengineering and Biotechnology, Tianshui Normal University, China.

Non-scientific Interests: Reading, playing football and listening to music.

I spent most of my childhood on farms, where I had ample opportunity to learn about various plants. While growing up, the wide variety of plants present in farms and other places created enough curiosity in my mind to lead me to choose Biology as my major at Tianshui Normal University. After earning my B.S., I had the opportunity to join Dr. Xiang’s lab at Lanzhou University as a graduate student. I was accepted as a Ph.D. candidate under the guidance of Dr. Yun Xiang and Dr. Lizhe An, once I finished my Master’s course work. My research has focused on investigating the functions of Actin-depolymerizing factors (ADFs) and other actin binding proteins in plants. When I joined the lab, Jingen Zhu, a graduate student in the lab, had found that the F-actin bundling activity of AtADF5 differed from that of other conserved ADFs. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to investigate the functional evolution of ADF family members across various plant lineages. As reported in this paper, the evolution of these N-terminal extensions, arising from intron sliding events and several conserved mutations, have produced the diverse biochemical functions of plant ADFs from a putative ancestor. I hope the key findings of this project contribute to our understanding of ADFs and their co-evolution with actin.

Dong Qian

Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, China.

Education: Ph.D. (2016) in Plant Biology and B.S. (2009) in Biology, School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, China.

Non-scientific Interests: Reading, running and playing table tennis.

During my studies at Lanzhou University, I was fascinated to learn how plants make developmental decisions by perceiving and responding to environmental signaling. I was fortunate to begin my studies in plant science as an M.S. student under the guidance of Dr. Yun Xiang. After two years of my master course, I was honored to work with Dr. Yun Xiang and Dr. Lizhe An as a Ph.D. candidate. During my research, I worked on the molecular mechanisms underlying remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton and the mechanisms of plant responses to abiotic stress through regulating and remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton. In due course, I developed a solid foundation in biological research through theoretical and practical training. At present, I am working as a postdoctoral researcher under the supervision of Dr. Yun Xiang. Here, we investigate the mechanisms of functional divergence among Actin-depolymerizing factors (ADFs) and identify key sites associated with their diverse biochemical functions. We hope this work provides new insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the evolution of ADF family members across plant lineages and will be valuable for researchers working on ADFs.

Yan Zhu, Liang Rong and Qiang Luo, featured first authors of The Histone Chaperone NRP1 Interacts With WEREWOLF to Activate GLABRA2 in Arabidopsis Root Hair Development

Yan Zhu

Current Position: Associate Professor in State Key Laboratory of Genetic Engineering, Department of Biochemistry, Institute of Plant Biology, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.

Education: Ph.D. (2006) in IBMP-CNRS, France.

Non-scientific Interests: Walking and table tennis.

My academic research started from the cDNA cloning of one rice histone chaperone, OsNAP1, which is a conserved factor binding histones and facilitating their incorporation into nucleosomes. Since then, I have become interested in and focused on the machineries and mechanisms involved in the dynamic nucleosome assembly and disassembly in plants. I work on plant histone chaperones and chromatin remodeling factors, and characterize their roles in plant growth and development, in genome stability, and in the interplay with the environment. By using a wide range of techniques, we found that histone chaperone NRP1 specifically interacts with the transcription factor WER, mediates the downstream activation of GL2, and further affects cell fate determination in the root epidermis.

Liang Rong

Current Position: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dept. of Pharmacology & Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Southern California.

Education: Ph.D. (2015) in Biochemistry and Molecular biology, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, P. R. China.

Non-scientific Interests: Basketball, table tennis, travelling, literature, and music.

After I got my bachelor’s degree at University of Science and Technology in Beijing, I changed my major from mineral resources engineering to life sciences. I pursued my interest in biochemistry and molecular biology and got my master’s degree at Anhui Agricultural University in 2011. Then I continued to my Ph.D. study in Dr. Jinbiao Ma’s lab at Fudan University and my research area is X-ray crystallography. I collaborated with Dr. Yan Zhu in Dr. Aiwu Dong’s lab to examine AtNRP1 function in root hair development. I was attracted by the idea that a histone chaperone can interact with a transcription factor to promote gene expression. First, I expressed recombinant AtH2A/H2B, AtH3/H4, AtNRP1, and WER in E. coli. Then I resolved the crystal structure of AtNPR1, conducted biochemical assays, and tried to propose a model to explain the mechanism how AtNRP1/NRP2 regulate GL2 expression. This project gave me the opportunity to learn many techniques in biochemistry, molecular biology and structural biology. I started my postdoc research in school of pharmacy at the University of Southern California in 2015.

Qiang Luo

Current Position: Ph.D. student in State Key Laboratory of Genetic Engineering, Department of Biochemistry, Institute of Plant Biology, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.

Education: B.S (2014) in Biology Engineering at Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China.

Non-scientific Interests: Camping, playing table tennis, and watching movies.

I was born in a small village in Sichun province of China. When I was in my high school, I found that biology is full of mysteries, which is really attractive and amazing to me. So I chose biology as my major in Lanzhou University. Later I continued my biological research at Fudan University in the labs of Dr. Aiwu Dong, Dr. Wen-Hui Shen, and Dr. Jinbiao Ma. We are very interested in molecular mechanisms of epigenetic regulation, especially the function of histone chaperones and histone modifications. I mainly worked on biochemical experiments to explore the interactions among the histone chaperone NRP1, the transcription factor WER, and the GL2 promoter. I will continue to explore the complex structures of histone chaperones with histones and with transcription factors in the future.