&emdash; Senior Research Associate
Our research program is focused on elucidating key questions related to auxin synthesis, translocation and the nature of auxin-regulated signaling networks during fruit development, using tomato as a model system.
During fruit set, the growth of an otherwise static ovary is stimulated after successful pollination and fertilization. After fertilization, tomato fruit growth is due primarily to cell division and later fruit growth continues mostly by cell expansion. At the end of the cell expansion period, the fruit has reached its final size and will start to ripen.
Auxin homeostasis during tomato fruit growth and development
Despite major advances made in recent years in many aspects of auxin metabolism, transport and signaling in vegetative tissues, the information about the nature and importance of these processes in fruit development and ripening of crop fruit species is very scarce. Moreover a recurring theme that emerges from all these studies is the lack of knowledge about the sources of auxin in fruit tissues, its biosynthetic pathway(s) and how auxin becomes distributed to fruit target tissues. Our research goal is to better understand the mechanisms by which auxin is produced and transported in tomato fruit and how these mechanisms are regulated to mediate cell and tissue specific growth and differentiation.
Expression of the DR5rev::mRFP auxin-responsive promoter in tomato ovaries and fruit. DR5 is a widely used auxin-responsive promoter and red fluorescence protein (RFP) signal therefore indirectly reflects auxin concentration. The top images correspond to flower buds six days before fertilization and show RFP fluorescence in the ovules confined to the micropylar pole of the embryo sac. Lower images correspond to six-day old fruit showing strong localized fluorescence in the seed funiculus.
Analysis of auxin levels or activity in different tomato tissues have revealed a dynamic pattern of tissue specific auxin accumulation throughout fruit development likely to be regulated by components of the auxin polar transport pathway. Critical components of auxin transport systems are the PIN and AUX/LAX protein families, which control cellular auxin efflux and influx respectively. Our studies have provided a transcriptional map for the PIN and AUX/LAX gene families of auxin transport facilitators in the tomato fruit, an important first step towards unraveling the complex network controlling auxin transport routes during fruit set and growth. Multiple PIN and AUX/LAX genes show both overlapping, and tissue-specific patterns of expression suggesting that the coordinated action of PIN and AUX proteins is required for establishing the adequate auxin pools and gradients controlling growth and differentiation in fruit tissues. We also seek to elucidate the mechanisms of IAA biosynthesis in tomato fruit and we are focusing on the tomato orthologs of the tryptophan aminotransferase of Arabidopsis (TAA1) which converts tryptophan into the IAA precursor indole-pyruvic acid and is a key enzyme contributing to IAA production in vivo.
The hypothesis underlying our research is that a tightly regulated spatial and temporal control of auxin levels during tomato fruit development is necessary to activate ovary growth upon fertilization and to coordinate cell expansion and differentiation during exponential fruit growth. We are testing this hypothesis by manipulating the gene expression of specific auxin transporters and auxin biosynthetic genes using fruit-specific promoters and analyzing the effect on fruit development and the dynamics of auxin distribution.
Cell-specific analysis of the tomato fruit transcriptome for the discovery of genes and networks regulating fruit development
One of the first objectives of this research, funded by the NSF Plant Genome Program, is to generate a comprehensive assessment of the cell specific transcript landscape of the developing tomato fruit using Laser Capture Microdissection (LCM) coupled with mRNA profiling by the Illumina platform.
We are mining the tissue-specific transcript datasets for genes associated with hormone signaling, synthesis and transport and with cell wall biosynthesis and modification processes. This non-targeted approach has the potential to dramatically increase the discovery of rare and cell-type specific transcripts and will help identify regulatory hormonal networks controlling auxin homeostasis, as well as new/novel components in the auxin biosynthetic, transport and response pathways. We are using this information to build a model integrating hormone regulated cell expansion and tissue growth and to identify pathways potentially critical to fruit set and growth.
Comprehensive Tissue-Specific Transcriptome Analysis Reveals Distinct Regulatory Programs during Early Tomato Fruit Development 2016Pattison, R.J., Csukasi, F., Zheng, Y., Fei, Z., van der Knaap, E., Catala, CPlant Physiology 10.1104, pp.15.00287
Mechanisms regulating auxin action during fruit development 2014Pattison, R. J., Csukasi, F., and Catalá, C.Physiologia Plantarum 151, 62-72
Evaluating auxin distribution in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) through an analysis of the PIN and AUX/LAX gene families 2012Pattison, R.J., and Catala, C.Plant J. 70, 585-598
Towards characterization of the glycoproteome of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruit using Concanavalin A lectin affinity chromatography and LC-MALDI-MS/MS analysis 2011Catala, C., Howe, K.J., Hucko, S., Rose, J.K.C., and Thannhauser, T.W.Proteomics 11, 1530-1544
A Tomato Endo-Β-1,4-glucanase, SlCel9C1, Represents a Distinct Subclass with a New Family of Carbohydrate Binding Modules (CBM49) 2007Urbanowicz, B.R., and Catala, C.J. Biol. Chem. 282, 12066-12074
Sample extraction techniques for enhanced proteomic analysis of plant tissues 2006Isaacson, T., Damasceno, C.M.B., Saravanan, R.S., He, Y., and Catala, C.Nature Protocols 1, 769-774
Characterization of a new xyloglucan endotransglucosylase/hydrolase (XTH) from ripening tomato fruit and implications for the diverse modes of enzymic action 2006Saladi, M., Rose, J.K.C., Cosgrove, D.J., and Catala, C.Plant J. 47, 282-295
The plot thickens: new perspectives of primary cell wall modification 2004Rose J.K., Saladi, M., and Catala, C.Curr. Opin. Plant Biol. 7, 296-301
Plant cell wall disassembly. 2003Rose J.K.C., and Catala, C.In The Plant Cell Wall. Annual Plant Reviews Series (Ed. J.K.C. Rose, Pub). Blackwell Publishing 264-324
Characterization of a tomato xyloglucan endotransglycosylase gene that is down-regulated by auxin in etiolated hypocotyls. Plant Physiol., 127, 1180-1192 2001Catala, C., Rose, J.K.C., York, W.S., Albersheim, P., Darvill, A.G., and Bennett, A.B.Plant Physiol. 127, 1180-1192
Auxin-regulated genes encoding cell wall modifying proteins are expressed during early tomato fruit growth 2000Catala, C., Rose, J.K.C., and Bennett, A.B.Plant Physiol. 122, 527-534
Cloning and sequence analysis of TomCel8; a new plant endo-1,4-Β-d-glucanase gene, encoding a protein with a putative carbohydrate binding domain (Accession No. AF098292) 1998Catala, C.Plant Physiol. 118, 1535
Auxin-induction and spatial localization of a novel endo-1,4-Β-d-glucanase and a xyloglucan endotransglycosylase in tomato hypocotyls 1997Catala, C., Rose, J.K.C., and Bennett, A.B.Plant J. 12, 417-426
Investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying fruit set and development
Fruit development is a crucial process in the sexual reproduction of flowering plants and of critical importance for seed dispersal, plant fitness and agricultural yield. Fruit are complex organs which arise from the coordinated growth and development of floral tissues following pollination. Research in the Catala lab focuses on the molecular regulation of fruit formation and early development using tomato as a model system. We use molecular and genetic techniques to investigate the complex interplay of gene expression changes, signaling events, and hormonal activity, controlling fruit development. The lab also studies the effect of drought stress, an increasing problem in crop production, on tomato fruit set and growth. We are taking advantage of the genetic diversity of wild tomato species, to examine the molecular basis of adaptations to water stress as well as of other fruit quality traits.
The successful initiation and development of fruit is a critical component of plant fitness and a strong determinant of crop yield. Fruit formation follows successful pollination and fertilization, which activates the rapid enlargement of the ovary, first by cell division and later via cell enlargement and culminates in ripening to facilitate seed dispersal. The process of fruit initiation is under the control of environmental factors and endogenous signals such as phytohormones. The plant hormone auxin controls many aspects of fruit development, including fruit set and growth, ripening, and abscission. For example the dependence of fruit set on pollination and fertilization can be bypassed by exogenous auxin application or by expression in the ovary of bacterial auxin biosynthetic genes. This leads to the formation of fertilization-independent or parthenocarpic (seedless) fruit. However, the molecular mechanisms by which auxin regulates fruit development remain mostly unknown.
Research in the Catalá lab addresses the molecular and genetic mechanisms of fruit formation using tomato, an economically important crop, and a model system for studies of fleshy fruits. The knowledge generated through our research will help develop strategies to enhance plant productivity and crop yield through improved fruit set that can have wide application in other crop species.
There are two main focus areas in the lab:
Developing a comprehensive understanding of auxin homeostasis during fruit development. The precise spatial and temporal synthesis and action of auxin are required for proper fruit development. However, the dynamics of auxin biosynthesis and the mechanisms for its distribution to fruit tissues remain mostly unknown. We monitor the levels and distribution of auxin and related metabolites and the temporal and cell-specific expression of auxin transporters and auxin biosynthetic genes, and test their function by manipulating their expression in transgenic plants. Many of these genes have the potential to control the formation of fruit without seeds as well as to influence other fruit quality traits such as size, weight and ripening characteristics.
Tissue-specific transcript profiling using laser capture microdissection (LCM) coupled to next generation mRNA sequencing to uncover genes and transcriptional networks regulating fruit set and development. LCM is a powerful tool to isolate specific tissues or cell types which can be combined with RNA-seq to generate high-resolution expression maps of a plant organ through its development. This approach dramatically increases the discovery of rare and cell-type specific transcripts and can lead to the discovery of novel regulators of fruit set and development.
Collaboration and Consulting Opportunities
- Improving fruit set under unfavorable climatic conditions by regulating auxin homeostasis and signaling.
- Discovery of genes and transcriptional networks regulating fruit set and development.
Collaborations and Consulting
- Technology Area: Yield Inputs
- Research Area: Role of auxin in fruit development
In the News
Many BTI researchers will present their latest research at the 13th annual SolGenomics Conference, Sept. 12-16 in Davis, California. Read more »
BTI Researchers pinpointed which genes are important at different stages of tomato fruit development by monitoring how gene expression changed in the first four days after a flower becomes pollinated. Read more »
Jocelyn Rose, professor of plant biology and director of Cornell’s Institute of Biotechnology, with BTI co-PI's Carmen Catala, Zhangjun Fei, James Giovannoni, and Lukas Mueller will research ripening mechanisms & drought tolerance. Read more »