, Volume 59, Issue 5, pp 723-737

The Evolution of the Abscisic Acid-response in Land Plants: Comparative Analysis of Group 1 LEA Gene Expression in Moss and Cereals

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Abstract

The moss Physcomitrella patens possesses a single copy of a Group 1 LEA gene, designated PpLEA-1. Sequence analysis of the PpLEA-1 gene reveals the gene to contain a single intron in a position conserved in all members of the Group 1 LEA gene family, but also to contain a premature termination codon within the first exon. Nevertheless, a PpLEA-1 transcript accumulates in moss tissues in response both to the imposition of osmotic stress, and to the plant growth regulator abscisic acid (ABA). This response appears to be mediated at the transcriptional level, and observation of the pattern of gene expression, reported by histochemical staining of plants expressing a PpLea-1::GUS transgene suggests that the promoter responds preferentially to ABA in protonemal filaments, whereas osmotic stress induces gene expression primarily in the gametophores. Quantitative analysis of promoter activity by transient expression in Physcomitrella protoplasts shows the PpLEA-1 promoter to be highly active in response to ABA and osmotic stress. ABA-mediated transgene expression from the PpLea-1 promoter occurs at a level similar to that driven by the highly active promoter of the wheat Group 1 LEA gene, Em. Site-directed mutagenesis of the PpLEA-1 promoter indicates that ABA-inducibility is mediated via an ACGT-core motif similar to that seen in the ABA response elements of higher plant LEA genes. However, whereas the wheat Em promoter is active in moss tissues, the moss promoter is not reciprocally active in cereal cells: no activity, ABA-inducible or otherwise was detected in barley aleurone protoplasts transfected with the PpLEA-1::GUS construct. We propose that ABA activation of gene expression in moss cells represents an ancestral state, with only minimal requirements for promoter recognition, whereas cereal cells require the interaction of additional factors with ABA-responsive promoters.