, Volume 235, Issue 2, pp 253-266
Date: 25 Aug 2011

Cloning and characterization of a maize bZIP transcription factor, ZmbZIP72, confers drought and salt tolerance in transgenic Arabidopsis

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Abstract

In plants, the bZIP (basic leucine zipper) transcription factors regulate diverse functions, including processes such as plant development and stress response. However, few have been functionally characterized in maize (Zea mays). In this study, we cloned ZmbZIP72, a bZIP transcription factor gene from maize, which had only one copy in the maize genome and harbored three introns. Analysis of the amino acid sequence of ZmbZIP72 revealed a highly conserved bZIP DNA-binding domain in its C-terminal region, and four conserved sequences distributed in N- or C-terminal region. The ZmbZIP72 gene expressed differentially in various organs of maize plants and was induced by abscisic acid, high salinity, and drought treatment in seedlings. Subcellular localization analysis in onion epidermal cells indicated that ZmbZIP72 was a nuclear protein. Transactivation assay in yeast demonstrated that ZmbZIP72 functioned as a transcriptional activator and its N terminus (amino acids 23–63) was necessary for the transactivation activity. Heterologous overexpression of ZmbZIP72 improved drought and partial salt tolerance of transgenic Arabidopsis plants, as determined by physiological analyses of leaf water loss, electrolyte leakage, proline content, and survival rate under stress. In addition, the seeds of ZmbZIP72-overexpressing transgenic plants were hypersensitive to ABA and osmotic stress. Moreover, overexpression of ZmbZIP72 enhanced the expression of ABA-inducible genes such as RD29B, RAB18, and HIS1-3. These results suggest that the ZmbZIP72 protein functions as an ABA-dependent transcription factor in positive modulation of abiotic stress tolerance and may be a candidate gene with potential application in molecular breeding to enhance stress tolerance in crops.