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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

The role of Atg16 in autophagy, anthocyanin biosynthesis, and programmed cell death in leaves of the lace plant (Aponogeton madagascariensis)

Rowarth, Nathan M.; Dauphinee, Adrian; Lacroix, Christian R.; Gunawardena, Arunika H. L. A. N.


Aponogeton madagascariensis, commonly known as the lace plant, produces leaves that form perforations by programmed cell death (PCD). Leaf development is divided into several stages beginning with "pre-perforation" furled leaves enriched with red pigmentation from anthocyanins. The leaf blade is characterized by a series of grids known as areoles bounded by veins. As leaves develop into the "window stage", anthocyanins recede from the center of the areole towards the vasculature creating a gradient of pigmentation and cell death. Cells in the middle of the areole that lack anthocyanins undergo PCD (PCD cells), while cells that retain anthocyanins (non-PCD cells) maintain homeostasis and persist in the mature leaf. Autophagy has reported roles in survival or PCD promotion across different plant cell types. However, the direct involvement of autophagy in PCD and anthocyanin levels during lace plant leaf development has not been determined. Previous RNA sequencing analysis revealed the upregulation of autophagy-related gene Atg16 transcripts in pre-perforation and window stage leaves, but how Atg16 affects PCD in lace plant leaf development is unknown. In this study, we investigated the levels of Atg16 in lace plant PCD by treating whole plants with either an autophagy promoter rapamycin or inhibitors concanamycin A (ConA) or wortmannin. Following treatments, window and mature stage leaves were harvested and analyzed using microscopy, spectrophotometry, and western blotting. Western blotting showed significantly higher Atg16 levels in rapamycin-treated window leaves, coupled with lower anthocyanin levels. Wortmannin-treated leaves had significantly lower Atg16 protein and higher anthocyanin levels compared to the control. Mature leaves from rapamycin-treated plants generated significantly fewer perforations compared to control, while wortmannin had the opposite effect. However, ConA treatment did not significantly change Atg16 levels, nor the number of perforations compared to the control, but anthocyanin levels did increase significantly in window leaves. We propose autophagy plays a dual role in promoting cell survival in NPCD cells by maintaining optimal anthocyanin levels and mediating a timely cell death in PCD cells in developing lace plant leaves. How autophagy specifically affects anthocyanin levels remained unexplained.

Published in

2023, Volume: 18, number: 2, article number: e0281668

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Cell Biology

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