, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 863-876

Differential regulation of small heat-shock genes in plants: analysis of a water-stress-inducible and developmentally activated sunflower promoter

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We have isolated two sunflower genes, Ha hsp 18.6 G2 and Ha hsp 17.7 G4, that encode small heat shock proteins (sHSPs). RNAse A protection experiments, carried out with RNA probes transcribed from each gene and hybridized to sunflower total RNA, allowed us to distinguish their mRNA accumulation patterns. In sunflower, Ha hsp 17.7 G4 mRNAs accumulated during zygotic embryogenesis at 25°C. In vegetative tissues, these mRNAs accumulated in response to either heat shock (42°C), abscisic acid (ABA), or mild water stress treatments. In all cases, the mRNAs were transcribed from the same initiation site. In contrast, Ha hsp 18.6 G2 mRNAs accumulated only in response to heat-shock. This result demonstrates differential regulation of these two sHSP genes. The complex regulation depicted by the Ha hsp 17.7 G4 promoter has been further analyzed in transgenic tobacco, using G4::GUS translational fusions. Developmental induction of Ha hsp 17.7 G4 during zygotic embryogenesis was faithfully reproduced in the transgenic plants. 5′-distal sequences (between -1132 and -395) were required to confer a preferential spatial expression of GUS activity in the cotyledons. More proximal sequences (from -83 to +163) conferred to the chimeric genes most of the developmental regulation, and the responses to ABA and heat shock characteristic of the Ha hsp 17.7 G4 promoter. The water stress response of this gene was not reproduced in transgenic tobacco and, thus, could be uncoupled from its regulation during embryogenesis.