Mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinases (MAPKKKs; MAP3Ks) are important components of MAPK cascades, which are highly conserved signal transduction pathways in animals, yeast and plants, play important roles in plant growth and development. MAPKKKs have been investigated on their evolution and expression patterns in limited plants including Arabidopsis, rice and maize.
In this study, we performed a genome-wide survey and identified 45 MAPKKK genes in the grapevine genome. Chromosome location, phylogeny, gene structure and conserved protein motifs of MAPKKK family in grapevine have been analyzed to support the prediction of these genes. In the phylogenetic analysis, MAPKKK genes of grapevine have been classified into three subgroups as described for Arabidopsis, named MEKK, ZIK and RAF, also confirmed in grapevine by the analysis of conserved motifs and exon-intron organizations. By analyzing expression profiles of MAPKKK genes in grapevine microarray databases, we highlighted the modulation of different MAPKKKs in different organs and distinct developmental stages. Furthermore, we experimentally investigated the expression profiles of 45 grape MAPKKK genes in response to biotic (powdery mildew) and abiotic stress (drought), as well as to hormone (salicylic acid, ethylene) and hydrogen peroxide treatments, and identified several candidate MAPKKK genes that might play an important role in biotic and abiotic responses in grapevine, for further functional characterization.
This is the first comprehensive experimental survey of the grapevine MAPKKK gene family, which provides insights into their potential roles in regulating responses to biotic and abiotic stresses, and the evolutionary expansion of MAPKKKs is associated with the diverse requirement in transducing external and internal signals into intracellular actions in MAPK cascade in grapevine.
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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0219-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.