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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 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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  MusaWRKY71 Overexpression in Banana Plants Leads to Altered Abiotic and Biotic Stress Responses 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75506.
WRKY transcription factors are specifically involved in the transcriptional reprogramming following incidence of abiotic or biotic stress on plants. We have previously documented a novel WRKY gene from banana, MusaWRKY71, which was inducible in response to a wide array of abiotic or biotic stress stimuli. The present work details the effects of MusaWRKY71 overexpression in transgenic banana plants. Stable integration and overexpression of MusaWRKY71 in transgenic banana plants was proved by Southern blot analysis and quantitative real time PCR. Transgenic banana plants overexpressing MusaWRKY71 displayed enhanced tolerance towards oxidative and salt stress as indicated by better photosynthesis efficiency (Fv/Fm) and lower membrane damage of the assayed leaves. Further, differential regulation of putative downstream genes of MusaWRKY71 was investigated using real-time RT-PCR expression analysis. Out of a total of 122 genes belonging to WRKY, pathogenesis-related (PR) protein genes, non-expressor of pathogenesis-related genes 1 (NPR1) and chitinase families analyzed, 10 genes (six belonging to WRKY family, three belonging to PR proteins family and one belonging to chitinase family) showed significant differential regulation in MusaWRKY71 overexpressing lines. These results indicate that MusaWRKY71 is an important constituent in the transcriptional reprogramming involved in diverse stress responses in banana.
PMCID: PMC3792942  PMID: 24116051
7.  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
8.  The WRKY transcription factor superfamily: its origin in eukaryotes and expansion in plants 
WRKY proteins are newly identified transcription factors involved in many plant processes including plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. To date, genes encoding WRKY proteins have been identified only from plants. Comprehensive search for WRKY genes in non-plant organisms and phylogenetic analysis would provide invaluable information about the origin and expansion of the WRKY family.
We searched all publicly available sequence data for WRKY genes. A single copy of the WRKY gene encoding two WRKY domains was identified from Giardia lamblia, a primitive eukaryote, Dictyostelium discoideum, a slime mold closely related to the lineage of animals and fungi, and the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, an early branching of plants. This ancestral WRKY gene seems to have duplicated many times during the evolution of plants, resulting in a large family in evolutionarily advanced flowering plants. In rice, the WRKY gene family consists of over 100 members. Analyses suggest that the C-terminal domain of the two-WRKY-domain encoding gene appears to be the ancestor of the single-WRKY-domain encoding genes, and that the WRKY domains may be phylogenetically classified into five groups. We propose a model to explain the WRKY family's origin in eukaryotes and expansion in plants.
WRKY genes seem to have originated in early eukaryotes and greatly expanded in plants. The elucidation of the evolution and duplicative expansion of the WRKY genes should provide valuable information on their functions.
PMCID: PMC544883  PMID: 15629062
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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.
13.  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
14.  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
15.  DNA binding mechanism revealed by high resolution crystal structure of Arabidopsis thaliana WRKY1 protein 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(4):1145-1154.
WRKY proteins, defined by the conserved WRKYGQK sequence, are comprised of a large superfamily of transcription factors identified specifically from the plant kingdom. This superfamily plays important roles in plant disease resistance, abiotic stress, senescence as well as in some developmental processes. In this study, the Arabidopsis WRKY1 was shown to be involved in the salicylic acid signaling pathway and partially dependent on NPR1; a C-terminal domain of WRKY1, AtWRKY1-C, was constructed for structural studies. Previous investigations showed that DNA binding of the WRKY proteins was localized at the WRKY domains and these domains may define novel zinc-binding motifs. The crystal structure of the AtWRKY1-C determined at 1.6 Å resolution has revealed that this domain is composed of a globular structure with five β strands, forming an antiparallel β-sheet. A novel zinc-binding site is situated at one end of the β-sheet, between strands β4 and β5. Based on this high-resolution crystal structure and site-directed mutagenesis, we have defined and confirmed that the DNA-binding residues of AtWRKY1-C are located at β2 and β3 strands. These results provided us with structural information to understand the mechanism of transcriptional control and signal transduction events of the WRKY proteins.
PMCID: PMC1851648  PMID: 17264121
16.  OsWRKY IIa Transcription Factors Modulate Rice Innate Immunity 
Rice (New York, N.y.)  2010;3(1):36-42.
WRKY transcription factors regulate diverse plant processes including responses to biotic stresses. Our previous studies indicate that OsWRKY62, an OsWRKY IIa subfamily member, functions as a negative regulator of the rice defense against Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae. Here, we report that a large inverted repeat construct designed to knock down the expression of the four OsWRKY IIa subfamily members (OsWRKY62, OsWRKY28, OsWRKY71, and OsWRKY76) leads to overexpression of all four genes and disease resistance in some transgenic plants. These phenotypes are stably inherited as reflected by progeny analysis. A pathogenesis-related gene, PR10, is up-regulated in plants overexpressing the OsWRKY IIa genes. These results suggest that OsWRKY IIa proteins interact functionally to modulate plant innate immunity.
PMCID: PMC3175632  PMID: 21961049
Rice; OsWRKY IIa; Xoo; Innate immunity
17.  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
18.  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
19.  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
20.  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
21.  Identification and expression of the WRKY transcription factors of Carica papaya in response to abiotic and biotic stresses 
Molecular Biology Reports  2014;41:1215-1225.
The WRKY transcription factor (TF) plays a very important role in the response of plants to various abiotic and biotic stresses. A local papaya database was built according to the GenBank expressed sequence tag database using the BioEdit software. Fifty-two coding sequences of Carica papaya WRKY TFs were predicted using the tBLASTn tool. The phylogenetic tree of the WRKY proteins was classified. The expression profiles of 13 selected C. papaya WRKY TF genes under stress induction were constructed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. The expression levels of these WRKY genes in response to 3 abiotic and 2 biotic stresses were evaluated. TF807.3 and TF72.14 are upregulated by low temperature; TF807.3, TF43.76, TF12.199 and TF12.62 are involved in the response to drought stress; TF9.35, TF18.51, TF72.14 and TF12.199 is involved in response to wound; TF12.199, TF807.3, TF21.156 and TF18.51 was induced by PRSV pathogen; TF72.14 and TF43.76 are upregulated by SA. The regulated expression levels of above eight genes normalized against housekeeping gene actin were significant at probability of 0.01 levels. These WRKY TFs could be related to corresponding stress resistance and selected as the candidate genes, especially, the two genes TF807.3 and TF12.199, which were regulated notably by four stresses respectively. This study may provide useful information and candidate genes for the development of transgenic stress tolerant papaya varieties.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11033-013-2966-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3933750  PMID: 24390238
Carica papaya L.; WRKY transcription factor; Quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR); Biotic stress; Abiotic stress; Papaya ringspot virus (PRSV)
22.  ABO3, a WRKY transcription factor, mediates plant responses to abscisic acid and drought tolerance in Arabidopsis 
The Plant journal : for cell and molecular biology  2010;10.1111/j.1365-313X.2010.04248.x.
The biological functions of WRKY transcription factors in plants have been widely studied, but their roles in abiotic stress are still not well understood. We isolated an ABA overly sensitive mutant, abo3, which is disrupted by a T-DNA insertion in At1g66600 encoding a WRKY transcription factor AtWRKY63. The mutant was hypersensitive to ABA in both seedling establishment and seedling growth. However, stomatal closure was less sensitive to ABA, and the abo3 mutant was less drought tolerant than the wild type. Northern blot analysis indicated that the expression of the ABA-responsive transcription factor ABF2/AREB1 was markedly lower in the abo3 mutant than in the wild type. The abo3 mutation also reduced the expression of stress-inducible genes RD29A and COR47, especially early during ABA treatment. ABO3 is able to bind the W-box in the promoter of ABF2 in vitro. These results uncover an important role for a WRKY transcription factor in plant responses to ABA and drought stress.
PMCID: PMC3117930  PMID: 20487379
WRKY transcription factor; abscisic acid; Arabidopsis; drought stress
23.  GhWRKY40, a Multiple Stress-Responsive Cotton WRKY Gene, Plays an Important Role in the Wounding Response and Enhances Susceptibility to Ralstonia solanacearum Infection in Transgenic Nicotiana benthamiana 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93577.
WRKY transcription factors form one of the largest transcription factor families and function as important components in the complex signaling processes that occur during plant stress responses. However, relative to the research progress in model plants, far less information is available on the function of WRKY proteins in cotton. In the present study, we identified the GhWRKY40 gene in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) and determined that the GhWRKY40 protein is targeted to the nucleus and is a stress-inducible transcription factor. The GhWRKY40 transcript level was increased upon wounding and infection with the bacterial pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum. The overexpression of GhWRKY40 down-regulated most of the defense-related genes, enhanced the wounding tolerance and increased the susceptibility to R. solanacearum. Consistent with a role in multiple stress responses, we found that the GhWRKY40 transcript level was increased by the stress hormones salicylic acid (SA), methyl jasmonate (MeJA) and ethylene (ET). Moreover, GhWRKY40 interacted with the MAPK kinase GhMPK20, as shown using yeast two-hybrid and bimolecular fluorescence complementation systems. Collectively, these results suggest that GhWRKY40 is regulated by SA, MeJA and ET signaling and coordinates responses to wounding and R. solanacearum attack. These findings highlight the importance of WRKYs in regulating wounding- and pathogen-induced responses.
PMCID: PMC3991585  PMID: 24747610
24.  Light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding proteins, positively involved in abscisic acid signalling, require a transcription repressor, WRKY40, to balance their function 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;64(18):5443-5456.
The light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding (LHCB) proteins are the apoproteins of the light-harvesting complex of photosystem II. In the present study, we observed that downregulation of any of the six LHCB genes resulted in abscisic acid (ABA)-insensitive phenotypes in seed germination and post-germination growth, demonstrating that LHCB proteins are positively involved in these developmental processes in response to ABA. ABA was required for full expression of different LHCB members and physiologically high levels of ABA enhanced LHCB expression. The LHCB members were shown to be targets of an ABA-responsive WRKY-domain transcription factor, WRKY40, which represses LHCB expression to balance the positive function of the LHCBs in ABA signalling. These findings revealed that ABA is an inducer that fine-tunes LHCB expression at least partly through repressing the WRKY40 transcription repressor in stressful conditions in co-operation with light, which allows plants to adapt to environmental challenges.
PMCID: PMC3871805  PMID: 24078667
Abscisic acid signalling; Arabidopsis thaliana; light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding protein; post-germination growth; seed germination; WRKY40 transcription factor.
25.  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

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