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Phytochrome signaling in green Arabidopsis seedlings: impact assessment of a mutually negative phyB-PIF feedback loop

Pablo Leivar, Elena Monte, Megan M Cohn, Peter H Quail
Molecular Plant 2012, 5 (3): 734-49
22492120
The reversibly red (R)/far-red (FR)-light-responsive phytochrome (phy) photosensory system initiates both the deetiolation process in dark-germinated seedlings upon first exposure to light, and the shade-avoidance process in fully deetiolated seedlings upon exposure to vegetational shade. The intracellular signaling pathway from the light-activated photoreceptor conformer (Pfr) to the transcriptional network that drives these responses involves direct, physical interaction of Pfr with a small subfamily of bHLH transcription factors, termed Phy-Interacting Factors (PIFs), which induces rapid PIF proteolytic degradation. In addition, there is evidence of further complexity in light-grown seedlings, whereby phyB-PIF interaction reciprocally induces phyB degradation, in a mutually-negative, feedback-loop configuration. Here, to assess the relative contributions of these antagonistic activities to the net phenotypic readout in light-grown seedlings, we have examined the magnitude of the light- and simulated-shade-induced responses of a pentuple phyBpif1pif3pif4pif5 (phyBpifq) mutant and various multiple pif-mutant combinations. The data (1) reaffirm that phyB is the predominant, if not exclusive, photoreceptor imposing the inhibition of hypocotyl elongation in deetiolating seedlings in response to prolonged continuous R irradiation and (2) show that the PIF quartet (PIF1, PIF3, PIF4, and PIF5) retain and exert a dual capacity to modulate hypocotyl elongation under these conditions, by concomitantly promoting cell elongation through intrinsic transcriptional-regulatory activity, and reducing phyB-inhibitory capacity through feedback-loop-induced phyB degradation. In shade-exposed seedlings, immunoblot analysis shows that the shade-imposed reduction in Pfr levels induces increases in the abundance of PIF3, and mutant analysis indicates that PIF3 acts, in conjunction with PIF4 and PIF5, to promote the known shade-induced acceleration of hypocotyl elongation. Conversely, although the quadruple pifq mutant displays clearly reduced hypocotyl elongation compared to wild-type in response to prolonged shade, immunoblot analysis detects no elevation in phyB levels in the mutant seedlings compared to the wild-type during the majority of the shade-induced growth period, and phyB levels are not robustly correlated with the growth phenotype across the pif-mutant combinations compared. These results suggest that PIF feedback modulation of phyB abundance does not play a dominant role in modulating the magnitude of the PIF-promoted, shade-responsive phenotype under these conditions. In seedlings grown under diurnal light-dark cycles, the data show that FR-pulse-induced removal of Pfr at the beginning of the dark period (End-of-Day-FR (EOD-FR) treatment) results in longer hypocotyls relative to no EOD-FR treatment and that this effect is attenuated in the pif-mutant combinations tested. This result similarly indicates that the PIF quartet members are capable of intrinsically promoting hypocotyl cell elongation in light-grown plants, independently of the effects of PIF feedback modulation of photoactivated-phyB abundance.

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