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1.  Roles of Arabidopsis WRKY3 and WRKY4 Transcription Factors in Plant Responses to Pathogens 
BMC Plant Biology  2008;8:68.
Plant WRKY DNA-binding transcription factors are involved in plant responses to biotic and abiotic responses. It has been previously shown that Arabidopsis WRKY3 and WRKY4, which encode two structurally similar WRKY transcription factors, are induced by pathogen infection and salicylic acid (SA). However, the role of the two WRKY transcription factors in plant disease resistance has not been directly analyzed.
Both WRKY3 and WRKY4 are nuclear-localized and specifically recognize the TTGACC W-box sequences in vitro. Expression of WRKY3 and WRKY4 was induced rapidly by stress conditions generated by liquid infiltration or spraying. Stress-induced expression of WRKY4 was further elevated by pathogen infection and SA treatment. To determine directly their role in plant disease resistance, we have isolated T-DNA insertion mutants and generated transgenic overexpression lines for WRKY3 and WRKY4. Both the loss-of-function mutants and transgenic overexpression lines were examined for responses to the biotrophic bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae and the necrotrophic fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea. The wrky3 and wrky4 single and double mutants exhibited more severe disease symptoms and support higher fungal growth than wild-type plants after Botrytis infection. Although disruption of WRKY3 and WRKY4 did not have a major effect on plant response to P. syringae, overexpression of WRKY4 greatly enhanced plant susceptibility to the bacterial pathogen and suppressed pathogen-induced PR1 gene expression.
The nuclear localization and sequence-specific DNA-binding activity support that WRKY3 and WRKY4 function as transcription factors. Functional analysis based on T-DNA insertion mutants and transgenic overexpression lines indicates that WRKY3 and WRKY4 have a positive role in plant resistance to necrotrophic pathogens and WRKY4 has a negative effect on plant resistance to biotrophic pathogens.
PMCID: PMC2464603  PMID: 18570649
2.  Identification and expression analysis of WRKY transcription factor genes in canola (Brassica napus L.) in response to fungal pathogens and hormone treatments 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:68.
Members of plant WRKY transcription factor families are widely implicated in defense responses and various other physiological processes. For canola (Brassica napus L.), no WRKY genes have been described in detail. Because of the economic importance of this crop, and its evolutionary relationship to Arabidopsis thaliana, we sought to characterize a subset of canola WRKY genes in the context of pathogen and hormone responses.
In this study, we identified 46 WRKY genes from canola by mining the expressed sequence tag (EST) database and cloned cDNA sequences of 38 BnWRKYs. A phylogenetic tree was constructed using the conserved WRKY domain amino acid sequences, which demonstrated that BnWRKYs can be divided into three major groups. We further compared BnWRKYs to the 72 WRKY genes from Arabidopsis and 91 WRKY from rice, and we identified 46 presumptive orthologs of AtWRKY genes. We examined the subcellular localization of four BnWRKY proteins using green fluorescent protein (GFP) and we observed the fluorescent green signals in the nucleus only.
The responses of 16 selected BnWRKY genes to two fungal pathogens, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and Alternaria brassicae, were analyzed by quantitative real time-PCR (qRT-PCR). Transcript abundance of 13 BnWRKY genes changed significantly following pathogen challenge: transcripts of 10 WRKYs increased in abundance, two WRKY transcripts decreased after infection, and one decreased at 12 h post-infection but increased later on (72 h). We also observed that transcript abundance of 13/16 BnWRKY genes was responsive to one or more hormones, including abscisic acid (ABA), and cytokinin (6-benzylaminopurine, BAP) and the defense signaling molecules jasmonic acid (JA), salicylic acid (SA), and ethylene (ET). We compared these transcript expression patterns to those previously described for presumptive orthologs of these genes in Arabidopsis and rice, and observed both similarities and differences in expression patterns.
We identified a set of 13 BnWRKY genes from among 16 BnWRKY genes assayed, that are responsive to both fungal pathogens and hormone treatments, suggesting shared signaling mechanisms for these responses. This study suggests that a large number of BnWRKY proteins are involved in the transcriptional regulation of defense-related genes in response to fungal pathogens and hormone stimuli.
PMCID: PMC2698848  PMID: 19493335
3.  Trichoderma-Plant Root Colonization: Escaping Early Plant Defense Responses and Activation of the Antioxidant Machinery for Saline Stress Tolerance 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(3):e1003221.
Trichoderma spp. are versatile opportunistic plant symbionts which can colonize the apoplast of plant roots. Microarrays analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana roots inoculated with Trichoderma asperelloides T203, coupled with qPCR analysis of 137 stress responsive genes and transcription factors, revealed wide gene transcript reprogramming, proceeded by a transient repression of the plant immune responses supposedly to allow root colonization. Enhancement in the expression of WRKY18 and WRKY40, which stimulate JA-signaling via suppression of JAZ repressors and negatively regulate the expression of the defense genes FMO1, PAD3 and CYP71A13, was detected in Arabidopsis roots upon Trichoderma colonization. Reduced root colonization was observed in the wrky18/wrky40 double mutant line, while partial phenotypic complementation was achieved by over-expressing WRKY40 in the wrky18 wrky40 background. On the other hand increased colonization rate was found in roots of the FMO1 knockout mutant. Trichoderma spp. stimulate plant growth and resistance to a wide range of adverse environmental conditions. Arabidopsis and cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) plants treated with Trichoderma prior to salt stress imposition show significantly improved seed germination. In addition, Trichoderma treatment affects the expression of several genes related to osmo-protection and general oxidative stress in roots of both plants. The MDAR gene coding for monodehydroascorbate reductase is significantly up-regulated and, accordingly, the pool of reduced ascorbic acid was found to be increased in Trichoderma treated plants. 1-Aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate (ACC)-deaminase silenced Trichoderma mutants were less effective in providing tolerance to salt stress, suggesting that Trichoderma, similarly to ACC deaminase producing bacteria, can ameliorate plant growth under conditions of abiotic stress, by lowering ameliorating increases in ethylene levels as well as promoting an elevated antioxidative capacity.
Author Summary
Trichoderma fungi have been developed as biocontrol agents and are applied to protect and improve crop yields. Colonization of plant roots by Trichoderma can protect plants against diseases and environmental stresses such as salinity and drought, and an improve plant growth and development. To better understand the mechanism underlining the plant-Trichoderma interaction we followed changes in global gene expression in colonized Arabidopsis roots. We associate the known gene biological function to the processes of root colonization and abiotic stress tolerance mediated by Trichoderma. Using Arabidopsis mutant lines we show the function of a subset of those genes in root colonization. We show that wrky18 and wrky40 transcription factors activate and suppress the expression of different genes in order to allow successful root colonization. We also combine the gene expression data together with the measurement of ascorbic acid level to demonstrate that salt stress tolerance offered by Trichoderma is dependent on activation of the plant antioxidant defense machinery. Using Trichoderma lines mutated in the ACC deaminase gene, we demonstrate that reduction of ethylene levels is also essential in achieving salt tolerance. This study represents an important step forward in understanding the nature of the non-pathogenic plant Trichoderma interaction, and may contribute to the efforts to improve Trichoderma biocontrol abilities.
PMCID: PMC3597500  PMID: 23516362
4.  Analyses of Catharanthus roseus and Arabidopsis thaliana WRKY transcription factors reveal involvement in jasmonate signaling 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):502.
To combat infection to biotic stress plants elicit the biosynthesis of numerous natural products, many of which are valuable pharmaceutical compounds. Jasmonate is a central regulator of defense response to pathogens and accumulation of specialized metabolites. Catharanthus roseus produces a large number of terpenoid indole alkaloids (TIAs) and is an excellent model for understanding the regulation of this class of valuable compounds. Recent work illustrates a possible role for the Catharanthus WRKY transcription factors (TFs) in regulating TIA biosynthesis. In Arabidopsis and other plants, the WRKY TF family is also shown to play important role in controlling tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses, as well as secondary metabolism.
Here, we describe the WRKY TF families in response to jasmonate in Arabidopsis and Catharanthus. Publically available Arabidopsis microarrays revealed at least 30% (22 of 72) of WRKY TFs respond to jasmonate treatments. Microarray analysis identified at least six jasmonate responsive Arabidopsis WRKY genes (AtWRKY7, AtWRKY20, AtWRKY26, AtWRKY45, AtWRKY48, and AtWRKY72) that have not been previously reported. The Catharanthus WRKY TF family is comprised of at least 48 members. Phylogenetic clustering reveals 11 group I, 32 group II, and 5 group III WRKY TFs. Furthermore, we found that at least 25% (12 of 48) were jasmonate responsive, and 75% (9 of 12) of the jasmonate responsive CrWRKYs are orthologs of AtWRKYs known to be regulated by jasmonate.
Overall, the CrWRKY family, ascertained from transcriptome sequences, contains approximately 75% of the number of WRKYs found in other sequenced asterid species (pepper, tomato, potato, and bladderwort). Microarray and transcriptomic data indicate that expression of WRKY TFs in Arabidopsis and Catharanthus are under tight spatio-temporal and developmental control, and potentially have a significant role in jasmonate signaling. Profiling of CrWRKY expression in response to jasmonate treatment revealed potential associations with secondary metabolism. This study provides a foundation for further characterization of WRKY TFs in jasmonate responses and regulation of natural product biosynthesis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-502) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4099484  PMID: 24950738
Catharanthus roseus; Terpenoid indole alkaloid; Transcriptome; Secondary metabolism; WRKY transcription factors
5.  Functional analysis of Arabidopsis WRKY25 transcription factor in plant defense against Pseudomonas syringae 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:2.
A common feature of plant defense responses is the transcriptional regulation of a large number of genes upon pathogen infection or treatment with pathogen elicitors. A large body of evidence suggests that plant WRKY transcription factors are involved in plant defense including transcriptional regulation of plant host genes in response to pathogen infection. However, there is only limited information about the roles of specific WRKY DNA-binding transcription factors in plant defense.
We analyzed the role of the WRKY25 transcription factor from Arabidopsis in plant defense against the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae. WRKY25 protein recognizes the TTGACC W-box sequences and its translational fusion with green fluorescent protein is localized to the nucleus. WRKY25 expression is responsive to general environmental stress. Analysis of stress-induced WRKY25 in the defense signaling mutants npr1, sid2, ein2 and coi1 further indicated that this gene is positively regulated by the salicylic acid (SA) signaling pathway and negatively regulated by the jasmonic acid signaling pathway. Two independent T-DNA insertion mutants for WRKY25 supported normal growth of a virulent strain of P. syringae but developed reduced disease symptoms after infection. By contrast, Arabidopsis constitutively overexpressing WRKY25 supported enhanced growth of P. syringae and displayed increased disease symptom severity as compared to wild-type plants. These WRKY25-overexpressing plants also displayed reduced expression of the SA-regulated PR1 gene after the pathogen infection, despite normal levels of free SA.
The nuclear localization and sequence-specific DNA-binding activity support that WRKY25 functions as a transcription factor. Based on analysis of both T-DNA insertion mutants and transgenic overexpression lines, stress-induced WRKY25 functions as a negative regulator of SA-mediated defense responses to P. syringae. This proposed role is consistent with the recent finding that WRKY25 is a substrate of Arabidopsis MAP kinase 4, a repressor of SA-dependent defense responses.
PMCID: PMC1780049  PMID: 17214894
6.  GhWRKY15, a member of the WRKY transcription factor family identified from cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.), is involved in disease resistance and plant development 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:144.
As a large family of regulatory proteins, WRKY transcription factors play essential roles in the processes of adaptation to diverse environmental stresses and plant growth and development. Although several studies have investigated the role of WRKY transcription factors during these processes, the mechanisms underlying the function of WRKY members need to be further explored, and research focusing on the WRKY family in cotton crops is extremely limited.
In the present study, a gene encoding a putative WRKY family member, GhWRKY15, was isolated from cotton. GhWRKY15 is present as a single copy gene, and a transient expression analysis indicated that GhWRKY15 was localised to the nucleus. Additionally, a group of cis-acting elements associated with the response to environmental stress and plant growth and development were detected in the promoter. Consistently, northern blot analysis showed that GhWRKY15 expression was significantly induced in cotton seedlings following fungal infection or treatment with salicylic acid, methyl jasmonate or methyl viologen. Furthermore, GhWRKY15-overexpressing tobacco exhibited more resistance to viral and fungal infections compared with wild-type tobacco. The GhWRKY15-overexpressing tobacco also exhibited increased RNA expression of several pathogen-related genes, NONEXPRESSOR OF PR1, and two genes that encode enzymes involved in ET biosynthesis. Importantly, increased activity of the antioxidant enzymes POD and APX during infection and enhanced expression of NtAPX1 and NtGPX in transgenic tobacco following methyl viologen treatment were observed. Moreover, GhWRKY15 transcription was greater in the roots and stems compared with the expression in the cotyledon of cotton, and the stems of transgenic plants displayed faster elongation at the earlier shooting stages compared with wide type tobacco. Additionally, exposure to abiotic stresses, including cold, wounding and drought, resulted in the accumulation of GhWRKY15 transcripts.
Overall, our data suggest that overexpression of GhWRKY15 may contribute to the alteration of defence resistance to both viral and fungal infections, probably through regulating the ROS system via multiple signalling pathways in tobacco. It is intriguing that GhWRKY15 overexpression in tobacco affects plant growth and development, especially stem elongation. This finding suggests that the role of the WRKY proteins in disease resistance may be closely related to their function in regulating plant growth and development.
PMCID: PMC3489871  PMID: 22883108
GhWRKY15; Cotton; Disease resistance; SA; ROS; Plant development
7.  OsWRKY45 alleles play different roles in abscisic acid signalling and salt stress tolerance but similar roles in drought and cold tolerance in rice 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;62(14):4863-4874.
Although allelic diversity of genes has been shown to contribute to many phenotypic variations associated with different physiological processes in plants, information on allelic diversity of abiotic stress-responsive genes is limited. Here it is shown that the alleles OsWRKY45-1 and OsWRKY45-2 play different roles in abscisic acid (ABA) signalling and salt stress adaptation in rice. The two alleles had different transcriptional responses to ABA and salt stresses. OsWRKY45-1-overexpressing lines showed reduced ABA sensitivity, whereas OsWRKY45-1-knockout lines showed increased ABA sensitivity. OsWRKY45-1 transgenic plants showed no obvious difference from negative controls in response to salt stress. In contrast, OsWRKY45-2-overexpressing lines showed increased ABA sensitivity and reduced salt stress tolerance, and OsWRKY45-2-suppressing lines showed reduced ABA sensitivity and increased salt stress tolerance. OsWRKY45-1 and OsWRKY45-2 transgenic plants showed differential expression of a set of ABA- and abiotic stress-responsive genes, but they showed similar responses to cold and drought stresses. These results suggest that OsWRKY45-1 negatively and OsWRKY45-2 positively regulates ABA signalling and, in addition, OsWRKY45-2 but not OsWRKY45-1 negatively regulates rice response to salt stress. The different roles of the two alleles in ABA signalling and salt stress may be due to their transcriptional mediation of different signalling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3193001  PMID: 21725029
Abiotic stress; biotic stress; Oryza sativa; transcription factor
8.  Arabidopsis WRKY2 transcription factor mediates seed germination and postgermination arrest of development by abscisic acid 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:96.
Plant WRKY DNA-binding transcription factors are key regulators in certain developmental programs. A number of studies have suggested that WRKY genes may mediate seed germination and postgermination growth. However, it is unclear whether WRKY genes mediate ABA-dependent seed germination and postgermination growth arrest.
To determine directly the role of Arabidopsis WRKY2 transcription factor during ABA-dependent seed germination and postgermination growth arrest, we isolated T-DNA insertion mutants. Two independent T-DNA insertion mutants for WRKY2 were hypersensitive to ABA responses only during seed germination and postgermination early growth. wrky2 mutants displayed delayed or decreased expression of ABI5 and ABI3, but increased or prolonged expression of Em1 and Em6. wrky2 mutants and wild type showed similar levels of expression for miR159 and its target genes MYB33 and MYB101. Analysis of WRKY2 expression level in ABA-insensitive and ABA-deficient mutants abi5-1, abi3-1, aba2-3 and aba3-1 further indicated that ABA-induced WRKY2 accumulation during germination and postgermination early growth requires ABI5, ABI3, ABA2 and ABA3.
ABA hypersensitivity of the wrky2 mutants during seed germination and postgermination early seedling establishment is attributable to elevated mRNA levels of ABI5, ABI3 and ABI5-induced Em1 and Em6 in the mutants. WRKY2-mediated ABA responses are independent of miR159 and its target genes MYB33 and MYB101. ABI5, ABI3, ABA2 and ABA3 are important regulators of the transcripts of WRKY2 by ABA treatment. Our results suggest that WRKY2 transcription factor mediates seed germination and postgermination developmental arrest by ABA.
PMCID: PMC2719644  PMID: 19622176
9.  Male gametophyte-specific WRKY34 transcription factor mediates cold sensitivity of mature pollen in Arabidopsis 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;61(14):3901-3914.
Mature pollen is very sensitive to cold stress in chilling-sensitive plants. Plant WRKY DNA-binding transcription factors are key regulators in plant responses to abiotic and biotic stresses. Previous studies have suggested that WRKY34 (At4g26440) gene might be involved in pollen viability, although the mechanism involved is unclear. In this study, it is shown that cold treatment increased WRKY34 expression in the wild type, and promoter-GUS analysis revealed that WRKY34 expression is pollen-specific. Enhanced green fluorescent protein-tagged WRKY34 was localized in the nuclei. Pollen harbouring the wrky34 allele showed higher viability than pollen with the WRKY34 allele after cold treatment. Further functional analysis indicated that the WRKY34 transcription factor was involved in pollen development regulated by the pollen-specific MIKC* class of MADS-domain transcription factors under cold stress, and cold-insensitivity of mature wrky34 pollen might be partly attributable to the enhanced expression of transcriptional activator CBFs in the mutants. Thus, the WRKY34 transcription factor negatively mediated cold sensitivity of mature Arabidopsis pollen and might be involved in the CBF signal cascade in mature pollen.
PMCID: PMC2935866  PMID: 20643804
Arabidopsis; cold stress; pollen; transcription factor; WRKY34
10.  Cooperation of three WRKY-domain transcription factors WRKY18, WRKY40, and WRKY60 in repressing two ABA-responsive genes ABI4 and ABI5 in Arabidopsis  
Journal of Experimental Botany  2012;63(18):6371-6392.
Three evolutionarily closely related WRKY-domain transcription factors WRKY18, WRKY40, and WRKY60 in Arabidopsis were previously identified as negative abscisic acid (ABA) signalling regulators, of which WRKY40 regulates ABI4 and ABI5 expression, but it remains unclear whether and how the three transcription factors cooperate to regulate expression of ABI4 and ABI5. In the present experiments, it was shown that WRKY18 and WRKY60, like WRKY40, interact with the W-box in the promoters of ABI4 and ABI5 genes, though the three WRKYs have their own preferential binding domains in the two promoters. WRKY18 and WRKY60, together with WRKY40, inhibit expression of the ABI5 and/or ABI4 genes, which is consistent with their negative roles in ABA signalling. Further, genetic evidence is provided that mutations of ABI4 and ABI5 genes suppress ABA-hypersensitive phenotypes of the null mutant alleles of WRKY18 and WRKY60 genes, demonstrating that ABI4 and ABI5 function downstream of these two WRKY transcription factors in ABA signalling. A working model of cooperation of the three WRKYs in repressing ABI4 and ABI5 expression is proposed, in which the three WRKYs antagonize or aid each other in a highly complex manner. These findings help to understand the complex mechanisms of WRKY-mediated ABA signal transduction.
PMCID: PMC3504491  PMID: 23095997
ABA-responsive gene; ABA signalling; ABI4; ABI5; Arabidopsis thaliana; WRKY transcription factor; WRKY18; WRKY40; WRKY60
11.  Characterization and co-expression analysis of WRKY orthologs involved in responses to multiple abiotic stresses in Pak-choi (Brassica campestris ssp. chinensis) 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:188.
The WRKY transcription factor is an important member of the stress-related transcription factors, which mediate diverse abiotic stresses in many plants. However, up until now, the number of WRKY members, and the regulatory mechanisms involved in abiotic stress responses in Pak-choi (Brassica campestris ssp. chinensis), remained unknown.
We isolated and identified 56 full-length WRKY cDNAs from a Pak-choi stress-induced cDNA library. The 56 putative BcWRKY proteins were divided into three groups based on structural and phylogenetic analyses. A subcellular localization prediction indicated that the putative BcWRKY proteins were enriched in the nuclear region. Experiments involving BcWRKY25 and BcWRKY40 confirmed the prediction. A total of 22 BcWRKYs were differentially expressed in response to at least one stress condition (abscisic acid, cold, salinity, heat, or osmosis) tested on Pak-choi leaves, and a co-expression analysis indicated stress-inducible BcWRKYs co-regulated multiple abiotic stresses. BcWRKY33, BcWRKY40, BcWRKY53, and BcWRKY70 acted as key regulators and played dominant roles within co-regulatory networks of stress-inducible BcWRKYs.
We first isolated and characterized the 56 stress-inducible WRKY transcription factor family members. A total of 22 stress-inducible BcWRKYs found in leaves can co-regulate multiple environmental stresses by integrating the potential mutual interactions of WRKYs in Pak-choi. This information will be valuable when exploring the molecular mechanisms of WRKYs in response to abiotic stresses in plants.
PMCID: PMC4222839  PMID: 24267479
WRKY transcription factor; Abiotic stress; Co-expression analysis; Subcellular localization; Pak-choi
12.  Characterization of WRKY co-regulatory networks in rice and Arabidopsis 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:120.
The WRKY transcription factor gene family has a very ancient origin and has undergone extensive duplications in the plant kingdom. Several studies have pointed out their involvement in a range of biological processes, revealing that a large number of WRKY genes are transcriptionally regulated under conditions of biotic and/or abiotic stress. To investigate the existence of WRKY co-regulatory networks in plants, a whole gene family WRKYs expression study was carried out in rice (Oryza sativa). This analysis was extended to Arabidopsis thaliana taking advantage of an extensive repository of gene expression data.
The presented results suggested that 24 members of the rice WRKY gene family (22% of the total) were differentially-regulated in response to at least one of the stress conditions tested. We defined the existence of nine OsWRKY gene clusters comprising both phylogenetically related and unrelated genes that were significantly co-expressed, suggesting that specific sets of WRKY genes might act in co-regulatory networks. This hypothesis was tested by Pearson Correlation Coefficient analysis of the Arabidopsis WRKY gene family in a large set of Affymetrix microarray experiments. AtWRKYs were found to belong to two main co-regulatory networks (COR-A, COR-B) and two smaller ones (COR-C and COR-D), all including genes belonging to distinct phylogenetic groups. The COR-A network contained several AtWRKY genes known to be involved mostly in response to pathogens, whose physical and/or genetic interaction was experimentally proven. We also showed that specific co-regulatory networks were conserved between the two model species by identifying Arabidopsis orthologs of the co-expressed OsWRKY genes.
In this work we identified sets of co-expressed WRKY genes in both rice and Arabidopsis that are functionally likely to cooperate in the same signal transduction pathways. We propose that, making use of data from co-regulatory networks, it is possible to highlight novel clusters of plant genes contributing to the same biological processes or signal transduction pathways. Our approach will contribute to unveil gene cooperation pathways not yet identified by classical genetic analyses. This information will open new routes contributing to the dissection of WRKY signal transduction pathways in plants.
PMCID: PMC2761919  PMID: 19772648
13.  Genome-wide identification of WRKY45-regulated genes that mediate benzothiadiazole-induced defense responses in rice 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:150.
The rice transcription factor WRKY45 plays a crucial role in salicylic acid (SA)/benzothiadiazole (BTH)-induced disease resistance. Its knockdown severely reduces BTH-induced resistance to the fungal pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae and the bacterial pathogen Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo). Conversely, overexpression of WRKY45 induces extremely strong resistance to both of these pathogens. To elucidate the molecular basis of WRKY45-dependent disease resistance, we analyzed WRKY45-regulated gene expression using rice transformants and a transient gene expression system.
We conducted a microarray analysis using WRKY45-knockdown (WRKY45-kd) rice plants, and identified WRKY45-dependent genes among the BTH-responsive genes. The BTH-responsiveness of 260 genes was dependent on WRKY45. Among these, 220 genes (85%), many of which encoded PR proteins and proteins associated with secondary metabolism, were upregulated by BTH. Only a small portion of these genes overlapped with those regulated by OsNPR1/NH1, supporting the idea that the rice SA pathway branches into WRKY45- regulated and OsNPR1/NH1-regulated subpathways. Dexamethazone-induced expression of myc-tagged WRKY45 in rice immediately upregulated transcription of endogenous WRKY45 and genes encoding the transcription factors WRKY62, OsNAC4, and HSF1, all of which have been reported to have defense-related functions. This was followed by upregulation of defense genes encoding PR proteins and secondary metabolic enzymes. Many of these genes were also induced after M. oryzae infection. Their temporal transcription patterns were consistent with those after dexamethazone-induced WRKY45 expression. In a transient expression system consisting of particle bombardment of rice coleoptiles, WRKY45 acted as an effector to trans-activate reporter genes in which the luciferase coding sequence was fused to upstream and intragenic sequences of WRKY62 and OsNAC4. Trans-activation of transcription occurred through a W-box-containing sequence upstream of OsNAC4 and mutations in the W-boxes abolished the trans-activation.
These data suggest a role of WRKY45 in BTH-induced disease resistance as a master regulator of the transcriptional cascade regulating defense responses in one of two branches in the rice SA pathway.
PMCID: PMC3850545  PMID: 24093634
WRKY; Salicylic acid; Benzothiadiazole; Magnaporthe oryzae; OsNPR1
14.  Exploring transcriptional signalling mediated by OsWRKY13, a potential regulator of multiple physiological processes in rice 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:74.
Rice transcription regulator OsWRKY13 influences the functioning of more than 500 genes in multiple signalling pathways, with roles in disease resistance, redox homeostasis, abiotic stress responses, and development.
To determine the putative transcriptional regulation mechanism of OsWRKY13, the putative cis-acting elements of OsWRKY13-influenced genes were analyzed using the whole genome expression profiling of OsWRKY13-activated plants generated with the Affymetrix GeneChip Rice Genome Array. At least 39 transcription factor genes were influenced by OsWRKY13, and 30 of them were downregulated. The promoters of OsWRKY13-upregulated genes were overrepresented with W-boxes for WRKY protein binding, whereas the promoters of OsWRKY13-downregulated genes were enriched with cis-elements putatively for binding of MYB and AP2/EREBP types of transcription factors. Consistent with the distinctive distribution of these cis-elements in up- and downregulated genes, nine WRKY genes were influenced by OsWRKY13 and the promoters of five of them were bound by OsWRKY13 in vitro; all seven differentially expressed AP2/EREBP genes and six of the seven differentially expressed MYB genes were suppressed by in OsWRKY13-activated plants. A subset of OsWRKY13-influenced WRKY genes were involved in host-pathogen interactions.
These results suggest that OsWRKY13-mediated signalling pathways are partitioned by different transcription factors. WRKY proteins may play important roles in the monitoring of OsWRKY13-upregulated genes and genes involved in pathogen-induced defence responses, whereas MYB and AP2/EREBP proteins may contribute most to the control of OsWRKY13-downregulated genes.
PMCID: PMC3224702  PMID: 19534828
15.  Genome-wide analysis of WRKY gene family in Cucumis sativus 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:471.
WRKY proteins are a large family of transcriptional regulators in higher plant. They are involved in many biological processes, such as plant development, metabolism, and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. Prior to the present study, only one full-length cucumber WRKY protein had been reported. The recent publication of the draft genome sequence of cucumber allowed us to conduct a genome-wide search for cucumber WRKY proteins, and to compare these positively identified proteins with their homologs in model plants, such as Arabidopsis.
We identified a total of 55 WRKY genes in the cucumber genome. According to structural features of their encoded proteins, the cucumber WRKY (CsWRKY) genes were classified into three groups (group 1-3). Analysis of expression profiles of CsWRKY genes indicated that 48 WRKY genes display differential expression either in their transcript abundance or in their expression patterns under normal growth conditions, and 23 WRKY genes were differentially expressed in response to at least one abiotic stresses (cold, drought or salinity). The expression profile of stress-inducible CsWRKY genes were correlated with those of their putative Arabidopsis WRKY (AtWRKY) orthologs, except for the group 3 WRKY genes. Interestingly, duplicated group 3 AtWRKY genes appear to have been under positive selection pressure during evolution. In contrast, there was no evidence of recent gene duplication or positive selection pressure among CsWRKY group 3 genes, which may have led to the expressional divergence of group 3 orthologs.
Fifty-five WRKY genes were identified in cucumber and the structure of their encoded proteins, their expression, and their evolution were examined. Considering that there has been extensive expansion of group 3 WRKY genes in angiosperms, the occurrence of different evolutionary events could explain the functional divergence of these genes.
PMCID: PMC3191544  PMID: 21955985
16.  Genome-wide identification of WRKY family genes and their response to cold stress in Vitis vinifera 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:103.
WRKY transcription factors are one of the largest families of transcriptional regulators in plants. WRKY genes are not only found to play significant roles in biotic and abiotic stress response, but also regulate growth and development. Grapevine (Vitis vinifera) production is largely limited by stressful climate conditions such as cold stress and the role of WRKY genes in the survival of grapevine under these conditions remains unknown.
We identified a total of 59 VvWRKYs from the V. vinifera genome, belonging to four subgroups according to conserved WRKY domains and zinc-finger structure. The majority of VvWRKYs were expressed in more than one tissue among the 7 tissues examined which included young leaves, mature leaves, tendril, stem apex, root, young fruits and ripe fruits. Publicly available microarray data suggested that a subset of VvWRKYs was activated in response to diverse stresses. Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) results demonstrated that the expression levels of 36 VvWRKYs are changed following cold exposure. Comparative analysis was performed on data from publicly available microarray experiments, previous global transcriptome analysis studies, and qRT-PCR. We identified 15 VvWRKYs in at least two of these databases which may relate to cold stress. Among them, the transcription of three genes can be induced by exogenous ABA application, suggesting that they can be involved in an ABA-dependent signaling pathway in response to cold stress.
We identified 59 VvWRKYs from the V. vinifera genome and 15 of them showed cold stress-induced expression patterns. These genes represented candidate genes for future functional analysis of VvWRKYs involved in the low temperature-related signal pathways in grape.
PMCID: PMC4021059  PMID: 24755338
WRKY transcription factor family; Grapevine; Biotic and abiotic stress; Cold stress
17.  WRKY54 and WRKY70 co-operate as negative regulators of leaf senescence in Arabidopsis thaliana 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2012;63(7):2667-2679.
The plant-specific WRKY transcription factor (TF) family with 74 members in Arabidopsis thaliana appears to be involved in the regulation of various physiological processes including plant defence and senescence. WRKY53 and WRKY70 were previously implicated as positive and negative regulators of senescence, respectively. Here the putative function of other WRKY group III proteins in Arabidopsis leaf senescence has been explored and the results suggest the involvement of two additional WRKY TFs, WRKY 54 and WRKY30, in this process. The structurally related WRKY54 and WRKY70 exhibit a similar expression pattern during leaf development and appear to have co-operative and partly redundant functions in senescence, as revealed by single and double mutant studies. These two negative senescence regulators and the positive regulator WRKY53 were shown by yeast two-hydrid analysis to interact independently with WRKY30. WRKY30 was expressed during developmental leaf senescence and consequently it is hypothesized that the corresponding protein could participate in a senescence regulatory network with the other WRKYs. Expression in wild-type and salicylic acid-deficient mutants suggests a common but not exclusive role for SA in induction of WRKY30, 53, 54, and 70 during senescence. WRKY30 and WRKY53 but not WRKY54 and WRKY70 are also responsive to additional signals such as reactive oxygen species. The results suggest that WRKY53, WRKY54, and WRKY70 may participate in a regulatory network that integrates internal and environmental cues to modulate the onset and the progression of leaf senescence, possibly through an interaction with WRKY30.
PMCID: PMC3346227  PMID: 22268143
Arabidopsis thaliana; ROS; SA; senescence; WRKY transcription factors
18.  Phosphorylation of a WRKY Transcription Factor by MAPKs Is Required for Pollen Development and Function in Arabidopsis 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(5):e1004384.
Plant male gametogenesis involves complex and dynamic changes in gene expression. At present, little is known about the transcription factors involved in this process and how their activities are regulated. Here, we show that a pollen-specific transcription factor, WRKY34, and its close homolog, WRKY2, are required for male gametogenesis in Arabidopsis thaliana. When overexpressed using LAT52, a strong pollen-specific promoter, epitope-tagged WRKY34 is temporally phosphorylated by MPK3 and MPK6, two mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs, or MPKs), at early stages in pollen development. During pollen maturation, WRKY34 is dephosphorylated and degraded. Native promoter-driven WRKY34-YFP fusion also follows the same expression pattern at the protein level. WRKY34 functions redundantly with WRKY2 in pollen development, germination, and pollen tube growth. Loss of MPK3/MPK6 phosphorylation sites in WRKY34 compromises the function of WRKY34 in vivo. Epistasis interaction analysis confirmed that MPK6 belongs to the same genetic pathway of WRKY34 and WRKY2. Our study demonstrates the importance of temporal post-translational regulation of WRKY transcription factors in the control of developmental phase transitions in plants.
Author Summary
Pollen development, or male gametogenesis, is a process by which a haploid uninucleate microspore undergoes cell division and specification to form a mature pollen grain containing two sperm cells. The highly defined cell linage makes pollen development an ideal model to understand the regulation of plant cellular development. Pollen development has multiple phases and involves dynamic changes in gene expression, which highlights the importance of transcription factors and their regulatory pathway(s). In this report, we demonstrate that WRKY34 and WRKY2, two closely related WRKY transcription factors in Arabidopsis, play important roles in pollen development. WRKY34 is phosphorylated by MPK3/MPK6, two functionally redundant mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs or MPKs), at early stages in pollen development. Utilizing a combination of genetic, biochemical, and cytological tools, we determined that this MAPK-WRKY signaling module functions at the early stage of pollen development. Loss of function of this pathway reduces pollen viability, and the surviving pollen has poor germination and reduced pollen tube growth, all of which reduce the transmission rate of the mutant pollen. This study discovers a novel stage-specific signaling pathway in pollen development.
PMCID: PMC4022456  PMID: 24830428
19.  Defense-related transcription factors WRKY70 and WRKY54 modulate osmotic stress tolerance by regulating stomatal aperture in Arabidopsis 
The New Phytologist  2013;200(2):457-472.
WRKY transcription factors (TFs) have been mainly associated with plant defense, but recent studies have suggested additional roles in the regulation of other physiological processes. Here, we explored the possible contribution of two related group III WRKY TFs, WRKY70 and WRKY54, to osmotic stress tolerance. These TFs are positive regulators of plant defense, and co-operate as negative regulators of salicylic acid (SA) biosynthesis and senescence.We employed single and double mutants of wrky54 and wrky70, as well as a WRKY70 overexpressor line, to explore the role of these TFs in osmotic stress (polyethylene glycol) responses. Their effect on gene expression was characterized by microarrays and verified by quantitative PCR. Stomatal phenotypes were assessed by water retention and stomatal conductance measurements.The wrky54wrky70 double mutants exhibited clearly enhanced tolerance to osmotic stress. However, gene expression analysis showed reduced induction of osmotic stress-responsive genes in addition to reduced accumulation of the osmoprotectant proline. By contrast, the enhanced tolerance was correlated with improved water retention and enhanced stomatal closure.These findings demonstrate that WRKY70 and WRKY54 co-operate as negative regulators of stomatal closure and, consequently, osmotic stress tolerance in Arabidopsis, suggesting that they have an important role, not only in plant defense, but also in abiotic stress signaling.
PMCID: PMC4284015  PMID: 23815736
abscisic acid (ABA); Arabidopsis; gene regulation; osmotic stress; salicylic acid (SA); stomata; WRKY transcription factor
20.  Identification and Characterization of the Grape WRKY Family 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:787680.
WRKY transcription factors have functions in plant growth and development and in response to biotic and abiotic stresses. Many studies have focused on functional identification of WRKY transcription factors, but little is known about the molecular phylogeny or global expression patterns of the complete WRKY family. In this study, we identified 80 WRKY proteins encoded in the grape genome. Based on the structural features of these proteins, the grape WRKY genes were classified into three groups (groups 1–3). Analysis of WRKY genes expression profiles indicated that 28 WRKY genes were differentially expressed in response to biotic stress caused by grape whiterot and/or salicylic acid (SA). In that 16 WRKY genes upregulated both by whiterot pathogenic bacteria and SA. The results indicated that 16 WRKY proteins participated in SA-dependent defense signal pathway. This study provides a basis for cloning genes with specific functions from grape.
PMCID: PMC4022171  PMID: 24883326
21.  Genome-wide identification and characterization of the Populus WRKY transcription factor family and analysis of their expression in response to biotic and abiotic stresses 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;65(22):6629-6644.
Highlight text
This study presents the genome-wide characterization of the Populus WRKY family under biotic and abiotic stresses. Overexpression of an SA-inducible gene, PtrWRKY89, enhanced resistance to pathogens in transgenic poplar.
WRKY proteins are a large family of regulators involved in various developmental and physiological processes, especially in coping with diverse biotic and abiotic stresses. In this study, 100 putative PtrWRKY genes encoded the proteins contained in the complete WRKY domain in Populus. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the members of this superfamily among poplar, Arabidopsis, and other species were divided into three groups with several subgroups based on the structures of the WRKY protein sequences. Various cis-acting elements related to stress and defence responses were found in the promoter regions of PtrWRKY genes by promoter analysis. High-throughput transcriptomic analyses identified that 61 of the PtrWRKY genes were induced by biotic and abiotic treatments, such as Marssonina brunnea, salicylic acid (SA), methyl jasmonate (MeJA), wounding, cold, and salinity. Among these PtrWRKY genes, transcripts of 46 selected genes were observed in different tissues, including roots, stems, and leaves. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis further confirmed the induced expression of 18 PtrWRKY genes by one or more stress treatments. The overexpression of an SA-inducible gene, PtrWRKY89, accelerated expression of PR protein genes and improved resistance to pathogens in transgenic poplar, suggesting that PtrWRKY89 is a regulator of an SA-dependent defence-signalling pathway in poplar. Taken together, our results provided significant information for improving the resistance and stress tolerance of woody plants.
PMCID: PMC4246191  PMID: 25249073
Pathogen; Populus; SA (salicylic acid); stress tolerance; transcription factor; WRKY.
22.  Evolution and expression analysis of the grape (Vitis vinifera L.) WRKY gene family 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;65(6):1513-1528.
Fifty-nine VvWRKY genes were identified. Phylogenetic tree and synteny analysis revealed the specific evolutionary relationship of these genes. Meanwhile, differential expression patterns indicated their possible roles in specific tissues and under different stresses.
WRKY proteins comprise a large family of transcription factors that play important roles in plant defence regulatory networks, including responses to various biotic and abiotic stresses. To date, no large-scale study of WRKY genes has been undertaken in grape (Vitis vinifera L.). In this study, a total of 59 putative grape WRKY genes (VvWRKY) were identified and renamed on the basis of their respective chromosome distribution. A multiple sequence alignment analysis using all predicted grape WRKY genes coding sequences, together with those from Arabidopsis thaliana and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), indicated that the 59 VvWRKY genes can be classified into three main groups (I–III). An evaluation of the duplication events suggested that several WRKY genes arose before the divergence of the grape and Arabidopsis lineages. Moreover, expression profiles derived from semiquantitative PCR and real-time quantitative PCR analyses showed distinct expression patterns in various tissues and in response to different treatments. Four VvWRKY genes showed a significantly higher expression in roots or leaves, 55 responded to varying degrees to at least one abiotic stress treatment, and the expression of 38 were altered following powdery mildew (Erysiphe necator) infection. Most VvWRKY genes were downregulated in response to abscisic acid or salicylic acid treatments, while the expression of a subset was upregulated by methyl jasmonate or ethylene treatments.
PMCID: PMC3967086  PMID: 24510937
Evolution; expression profile analysis; grape (Vitis vinifera L.); phylogenetic analysis; synteny analysis; WRKY genes.
23.  A Wheat WRKY Transcription Factor TaWRKY10 Confers Tolerance to Multiple Abiotic Stresses in Transgenic Tobacco 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65120.
WRKY transcription factors are reported to be involved in defense regulation, stress response and plant growth and development. However, the precise role of WRKY transcription factors in abiotic stress tolerance is not completely understood, especially in crops. In this study, we identified and cloned 10 WRKY genes from genome of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). TaWRKY10, a gene induced by multiple stresses, was selected for further investigation. TaWRKY10 was upregulated by treatment with polyethylene glycol, NaCl, cold and H2O2. Result of Southern blot indicates that the wheat genome contains three copies of TaWRKY10. The TaWRKY10 protein is localized in the nucleus and functions as a transcriptional activator. Overexpression of TaWRKY10 in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) resulted in enhanced drought and salt stress tolerance, mainly demonstrated by the transgenic plants exhibiting of increased germination rate, root length, survival rate, and relative water content under these stress conditions. Further investigation showed that transgenic plants also retained higher proline and soluble sugar contents, and lower reactive oxygen species and malonaldehyde contents. Moreover, overexpression of the TaWRKY10 regulated the expression of a series of stress related genes. Taken together, our results indicate that TaWRKY10 functions as a positive factor under drought and salt stresses by regulating the osmotic balance, ROS scavenging and transcription of stress related genes.
PMCID: PMC3677898  PMID: 23762295
24.  Genome-Wide Evolutionary Characterization and Expression Analyses of WRKY Family Genes in Brachypodium distachyon 
Members of plant WRKY gene family are ancient transcription factors that function in plant growth and development and respond to biotic and abiotic stresses. In our present study, we have investigated WRKY family genes in Brachypodium distachyon, a new model plant of family Poaceae. We identified a total of 86 WRKY genes from B. distachyon and explored their chromosomal distribution and evolution, domain alignment, promoter cis-elements, and expression profiles. Combining the analysis of phylogenetic tree of BdWRKY genes and the result of expression profiling, results showed that most of clustered gene pairs had higher similarities in the WRKY domain, suggesting that they might be functionally redundant. Neighbour-joining analysis of 301 WRKY domains from Oryza sativa, Arabidopsis thaliana, and B. distachyon suggested that BdWRKY domains are evolutionarily more closely related to O. sativa WRKY domains than those of A. thaliana. Moreover, tissue-specific expression profile of BdWRKY genes and their responses to phytohormones and several biotic or abiotic stresses were analysed by quantitative real-time PCR. The results showed that the expression of BdWRKY genes was rapidly regulated by stresses and phytohormones, and there was a strong correlation between promoter cis-elements and the phytohormones-induced BdWRKY gene expression.
PMCID: PMC4060952  PMID: 24453041
WRKY; Brachypodium distachyon; evolution; abiotic stresses; biotic stresses
25.  WRKY22 Transcription Factor Mediates Dark-Induced Leaf Senescence in Arabidopsis 
Molecules and Cells  2011;31(4):303-313.
Arabidopsis WRKY proteins are plant-specific transcrip-tion factors, encoded by a large gene family, which contain the highly conserved amino acid sequence WRKYGQK and the zinc-finger-like motifs, Cys2His2 or Cys2HisCys. They can recognize and bind the TTGAC(C/T) W-box cis-elements found in the promoters of target genes, and are involved in the regulation of gene expression during pathogen defense, wounding, trichome development, and senescence. Here we investigated the physiological function of the Arabidopsis WRKY22 transcription factor during dark-induced senescence. WRKY22 transcription was suppressed by light and promoted by darkness. In addi-tion, AtWRKY22 expression was markedly induced by H2O2. These results indicated that AtWRKY22 was involved in signal pathways in response to abiotic stress. Dark-treated AtWRKY22 over-expression and knockout lines showed accelerated and delayed senescence phenotypes, respectively, and senescence-associated genes exhibited increased and decreased expression levels. Mutual regulation existed between AtWRKY22 and AtWRKY6, AtWR-KY53, and AtWRKY70, respectively. Moreover, AtWRKY22 could influence their relative expression levels by feedback regulation or by other, as yet unknown mechanisms in response to dark. These results prove that AtWRKY22 participates in the dark-induced senescence signal transduction pathway.
PMCID: PMC3933965  PMID: 21359674
abiotic stress; AtWRKY22; dark; senescence

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