Soybean DREB1/CBF-type transcription factors function in heat and drought as well as cold stress-responsive gene expression

Satoshi Kidokoro, Keitaro Watanabe, Teppei Ohori, Takashi Moriwaki, Kyonoshin Maruyama, Junya Mizoi, Nang Myint Phyu Sin Htwe, Yasunari Fujita, Sachiko Sekita, Kazuo Shinozaki, Kazuko Yamaguchi-Shinozaki
Plant Journal 2015, 81 (3): 505-18
Soybean (Glycine max) is a globally important crop, and its growth and yield are severely reduced by abiotic stresses, such as drought, heat, and cold. The cis-acting element DRE (dehydration-responsive element)/CRT plays an important role in activating gene expression in response to these stresses. The Arabidopsis DREB1/CBF genes that encode DRE-binding proteins function as transcriptional activators in the cold stress responsive gene expression. In this study, we identified 14 DREB1-type transcription factors (GmDREB1s) from a soybean genome database. The expression of most GmDREB1 genes in soybean was strongly induced by a variety of abiotic stresses, such as cold, drought, high salt, and heat. The GmDREB1 proteins activated transcription via DREs (dehydration-responsive element) in Arabidopsis and soybean protoplasts. Transcriptome analyses using transgenic Arabidopsis plants overexpressing GmDREB1s indicated that many of the downstream genes are cold-inducible and overlap with those of Arabidopsis DREB1A. We then comprehensively analyzed the downstream genes of GmDREB1B;1, which is closely related to DREB1A, using a transient expression system in soybean protoplasts. The expression of numerous genes induced by various abiotic stresses were increased by overexpressing GmDREB1B;1 in soybean, and DREs were the most conserved element in the promoters of these genes. The downstream genes of GmDREB1B;1 included numerous soybean-specific stress-inducible genes that encode an ABA receptor family protein, GmPYL21, and translation-related genes, such as ribosomal proteins. We confirmed that GmDREB1B;1 directly activates GmPYL21 expression and enhances ABRE-mediated gene expression in an ABA-independent manner. These results suggest that GmDREB1 proteins activate the expression of numerous soybean-specific stress-responsive genes under diverse abiotic stress conditions.

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