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1.  Arabidopsis AtHB7 and AtHB12 evolved divergently to fine tune processes associated with growth and responses to water stress 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:150.
Arabidopsis AtHB7 and AtHB12 transcription factors (TFs) belong to the homeodomain-leucine zipper subfamily I (HD-Zip I) and present 62% amino acid identity. These TFs have been associated with the control of plant development and abiotic stress responses; however, at present it is not completely understood how AtHB7 and AtHB12 regulate these processes.
By using different expression analysis approaches, we found that AtHB12 is expressed at higher levels during early Arabidopsis thaliana development whereas AtHB7 during later developmental stages. Moreover, by analysing gene expression in single and double Arabidopsis mutants and in transgenic plants ectopically expressing these TFs, we discovered a complex mechanism dependent on the plant developmental stage and in which AtHB7 and AtHB12 affect the expression of each other. Phenotypic analysis of transgenic plants revealed that AtHB12 induces root elongation and leaf development in young plants under standard growth conditions, and seed production in water-stressed plants. In contrast, AtHB7 promotes leaf development, chlorophyll levels and photosynthesis and reduces stomatal conductance in mature plants. Moreover AtHB7 delays senescence processes in standard growth conditions.
We demonstrate that AtHB7 and AtHB12 have overlapping yet specific roles in several processes related to development and water stress responses. The analysis of mutant and transgenic plants indicated that the expression of AtHB7 and AtHB12 is regulated in a coordinated manner, depending on the plant developmental stage and the environmental conditions. The results suggested that AtHB7 and AtHB12 evolved divergently to fine tune processes associated with development and responses to mild water stress.
PMCID: PMC4064807  PMID: 24884528
AtHB7; AtHB12; Homeodomain-leucine zipper (HD-Zip I); Moderate water stress; Yield; Plant growth
2.  RNAi-mediated silencing of the HD-Zip gene HD20 in Nicotiana attenuata affects benzyl acetone emission from corollas via ABA levels and the expression of metabolic genes 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:60.
The N. attenuata HD20 gene belongs to the homeodomain-leucine zipper (HD-Zip) type I family of transcription factors and it has been previously associated with the regulation of ABA accumulation in leaves and the emission of benzyl acetone (BA; 4-phenyl-2-butanone) from night flowers. In this study, N. attenuata plants stably reduced in the expression of HD20 (ir-hd20) were generated to investigate the mechanisms controlling the emission of BA from night flowers.
The expression of HD20 in corollas of ir-hd20 plants was reduced by 85 to 90% compared to wild-type plants (WT) without affecting flower morphology and development. Total BA emitted from flowers of ir-hd20 plants was reduced on average by 60%. This reduction occurred mainly at the late phase of BA emission and it was correlated with 2-fold higher levels of ABA in the corollas of ir-hd20 plants. When a 2-fold decline in ABA corolla levels of these plants was induced by salt stress, BA emissions recovered to WT levels. Supplying ABA to WT flowers either through the cuticle or by pedicle feeding reduced the total BA emissions by 25 to 50%; this reduction occurred primarily at the late phase of emission (similar to the reduction observed in corollas of ir-hd20 plants). Gene expression profiling of corollas collected at 12 pm (six hours before the start of BA emission) revealed that 274 genes changed expression levels significantly in ir-hd20 plants compared to WT. Among these genes, more than 35% were associated with metabolism and the most prominent group was associated with the metabolism of aromatic compounds and phenylpropanoid derivatives.
The results indicated that regulation of ABA levels in corollas is associated with the late phase of BA emission in N. attenuata plants and that HD20 affects this latter process by mediating changes in both ABA levels and metabolic gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3413612  PMID: 22548747
3.  The LOB-like transcription factor Mt LBD1 controls Medicago truncatula root architecture under salt stress 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(12):1666-1668.
Lateral root (LR) formation and emergence are influenced by the environment and determines the architecture of the root system in the soil. Whereas auxins appear as the main hormone controlling LR initiation, patterning and emergence, abscisic acid (ABA) is the key hormone mediating the effect of the environment on root architecture. Hormone signaling act through transcription factors (TFs) and the Medicago truncatula LOB-like TF LBD1 was shown to be auxin-inducible but repressed by the HD-Zip I TF MtHB1 in response to salt stress and ABA during LR formation. Here, we demonstrate that the constitutive expression of Mt LBD1 in Medicago roots alters their global architecture when the plant is subjected to salt stress. Hence, LBD1 may control the final form of the root system in the soil environment.
PMCID: PMC3115130  PMID: 21150260
LBD; LOB-like; root architecture; lateral roots; Medicago truncatula; salt stress
4.  Uncharacterized conserved motifs outside the HD-Zip domain in HD-Zip subfamily I transcription factors; a potential source of functional diversity 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:42.
Plant HD-Zip transcription factors are modular proteins in which a homeodomain is associated to a leucine zipper. Of the four subfamilies in which they are divided, the tested members from subfamily I bind in vitro the same pseudopalindromic sequence CAAT(A/T)ATTG and among them, several exhibit similar expression patterns. However, most experiments in which HD-Zip I proteins were over or ectopically expressed under the control of the constitutive promoter 35S CaMV resulted in transgenic plants with clearly different phenotypes. Aiming to elucidate the structural mechanisms underlying such observation and taking advantage of the increasing information in databases of sequences from diverse plant species, an in silico analysis was performed. In addition, some of the results were also experimentally supported.
A phylogenetic tree of 178 HD-Zip I proteins together with the sequence conservation presented outside the HD-Zip domains allowed the distinction of six groups of proteins. A motif-discovery approach enabled the recognition of an activation domain in the carboxy-terminal regions (CTRs) and some putative regulatory mechanisms acting in the amino-terminal regions (NTRs) and CTRs involving sumoylation and phosphorylation. A yeast one-hybrid experiment demonstrated that the activation activity of ATHB1, a member of one of the groups, is located in its CTR. Chimerical constructs were performed combining the HD-Zip domain of one member with the CTR of another and transgenic plants were obtained with these constructs. The phenotype of the chimerical transgenic plants was similar to the observed in transgenic plants bearing the CTR of the donor protein, revealing the importance of this module inside the whole protein.
The bioinformatical results and the experiments conducted in yeast and transgenic plants strongly suggest that the previously poorly analyzed NTRs and CTRs of HD-Zip I proteins play an important role in their function, hence potentially constituting a major source of functional diversity among members of this subfamily.
PMCID: PMC3060862  PMID: 21371298
5.  Nicotiana attenuata NaHD20 plays a role in leaf ABA accumulation during water stress, benzylacetone emission from flowers, and the timing of bolting and flower transitions 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;62(1):155-166.
Homeodomain-leucine zipper type I (HD-Zip I) proteins are plant-specific transcription factors associated with the regulation of growth and development in response to changes in the environment. Nicotiana attenuata NaHD20 was identified as an HD-Zip I-coding gene whose expression was induced by multiple stress-associated stimuli including drought and wounding. To study the role of NaHD20 in the integration of stress responses with changes in growth and development, its expression was silenced by virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS), and control and silenced plants were metabolically and developmentally characterized. Phytohormone profiling showed that NaHD20 plays a positive role in abscisic acid (ABA) accumulation in leaves during water stress and in the expression of some dehydration-responsive genes including ABA biosynthetic genes. Moreover, consistent with the high levels of NaHD20 expression in corollas, the emission of benzylacetone from flowers was reduced in NaHD20-silenced plants. Additionally, bolting time and the opening of the inflorescence buds was decelerated in these plants in a specific developmental stage without affecting the total number of flowers produced. Water stress potentiated these effects; however, after plants recovered from this condition, the opening of the inflorescence buds was accelerated in NaHD20-silenced plants. In summary, NaHD20 plays multiple roles in N. attenuata and among these are the coordination of responses to dehydration and its integration with changes in flower transitions.
PMCID: PMC2993906  PMID: 20713465
ABA; benzylacetone; corolla; HD-Zip; Nicotiana
6.  Combinatorial interactions of two amino acids with a single base pair define target site specificity in plant dimeric homeodomain proteins 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(23):4866-4872.
Four groups of plant homeodomain proteins contain a dimerization motif closely linked to the homeodomain. We here show that two sunflower homeodomain proteins, Hahb-4 and HAHR1, which belong to the Hd-Zip I and GL2/Hd-Zip IV groups, respectively, show different binding preferences at a defined position of a pseudopalindromic DNA-binding site used as a target. HAHR1 shows a preference for the sequence 5′-CATT(A/T)AATG-3′, rather than 5′-CAAT(A/T)ATTG-3′, recognized by Hahb-4. To analyze the molecular basis of this behavior, we have constructed a set of mutants with exchanged residues (Phe→Ile and Ile→Phe) at position 47 of the homeodomain, together with chimeric proteins between HAHR1 and Hahb-4. The results obtained indicate that Phe47, but not Ile47, allows binding to 5′-CATT(A/T)AATG-3′. However, the preference for this sequence is determined, in addition, by amino acids located C-terminal to residue 53 of the HAHR1 homeodomain. A double mutant of Hahb-4 (Ile47→Phe/Ala54→Thr) shows the same binding behavior as HAHR1, suggesting that combinatorial interactions of amino acid residues at positions 47 and 54 of the homeodomain are involved in establishing the affinity and selectivity of plant dimeric homeodomain proteins with different DNA target sequences.
PMCID: PMC96693  PMID: 11726696

Results 1-6 (6)