AREB1, AREB2, and ABF3 are master transcription factors that cooperatively regulate ABRE-dependent ABA signaling involved in drought stress tolerance and require ABA for full activation

Takuya Yoshida, Yasunari Fujita, Hiroko Sayama, Satoshi Kidokoro, Kyonoshin Maruyama, Junya Mizoi, Kazuo Shinozaki, Kazuko Yamaguchi-Shinozaki
Plant Journal 2010, 61 (4): 672-85
A myriad of drought stress-inducible genes have been reported, and many of these are activated by abscisic acid (ABA). In the promoter regions of such ABA-regulated genes, conserved cis-elements, designated ABA-responsive elements (ABREs), control gene expression via bZIP-type AREB/ABF transcription factors. Although all three members of the AREB/ABF subfamily, AREB1, AREB2, and ABF3, are upregulated by ABA and water stress, it remains unclear whether these are functional homologs. Here, we report that all three AREB/ABF transcription factors require ABA for full activation, can form hetero- or homodimers to function in nuclei, and can interact with SRK2D/SnRK2.2, an SnRK2 protein kinase that was identified as a regulator of AREB1. Along with the tissue-specific expression patterns of these genes and the subcellular localization of their encoded proteins, these findings clearly indicate that AREB1, AREB2, and ABF3 have largely overlapping functions. To elucidate the role of these AREB/ABF transcription factors, we generated an areb1 areb2 abf3 triple mutant. Large-scale transcriptome analysis, which showed that stress-responsive gene expression is remarkably impaired in the triple mutant, revealed novel AREB/ABF downstream genes in response to water stress, including many LEA class and group-Ab PP2C genes and transcription factors. The areb1 areb2 abf3 triple mutant is more resistant to ABA than are the other single and double mutants with respect to primary root growth, and it displays reduced drought tolerance. Thus, these results indicate that AREB1, AREB2, and ABF3 are master transcription factors that cooperatively regulate ABRE-dependent gene expression for ABA signaling under conditions of water stress.

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