Hahb-4, a sunflower homeobox-leucine zipper gene, is a developmental regulator and confers drought tolerance to Arabidopsis thaliana plants
Homeodomain-leucine zipper proteins constitute a family of transcription factors found only in plants. Hahb-4 is a member of Helianthus annuus (sunflower) subfamily I. It is regulated at the transcriptional level by water availability and abscisic acid. In order to establish if this gene plays a functional role in drought responses, transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana plants that overexpress Hahb-4 under the control of the 35S Cauliflower Mosaic Virus promoter were obtained. Transformed plants show a specific phenotype: they develop shorter stems and internodes, rounder leaves and more compact inflorescences than their non-transformed counterparts. Shorter stems and internodes are due to a lower rate in cell elongation rather than to a cell division. Transgenic plants were more tolerant to water stress conditions, showing improved development, a healthier appearance and higher survival rates than wild-type plants. Indeed, either under normal or drought conditions, they produce approximately the same seed weight per plant as wild-type plants under normal growth conditions. Plants transformed with a construct that bears the Hahb-4 promoter fused to gusA show reporter gene expression in defined cell-types and developmental stages and are induced by drought and abscisic acid. Since Hahb-4 is a transcription factor, we propose that it may participate in the regulation of the expression of genes involved in developmental responses of plants to desiccation.
Keywordsdrought tolerance HD-Zip homeodomain-leucine zipper inducible promoter plant homeodomain sunflower transcription factor water stress
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