Plant Molecular Biology

, Volume 96, Issue 6, pp 543–561 | Cite as

The wheat TabZIP2 transcription factor is activated by the nutrient starvation-responsive SnRK3/CIPK protein kinase

  • Sukanya Luang
  • Pradeep Sornaraj
  • Natalia Bazanova
  • Wei Jia
  • Omid Eini
  • Syed Sarfraz Hussain
  • Nataliya Kovalchuk
  • Pradeep K. Agarwal
  • Maria Hrmova
  • Sergiy Lopato


Key message

The understanding of roles of bZIP factors in biological processes during plant development and under abiotic stresses requires the detailed mechanistic knowledge of behaviour of TFs.


Basic leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factors (TFs) play key roles in the regulation of grain development and plant responses to abiotic stresses. We investigated the role and molecular mechanisms of function of the TabZIP2 gene isolated from drought-stressed wheat plants. Molecular characterisation of TabZIP2 and derived protein included analyses of gene expression and its target promoter, and the influence of interacting partners on the target promoter activation. Two interacting partners of TabZIP2, the 14-3-3 protein, TaWIN1 and the bZIP transcription factor TaABI5L, were identified in a Y2H screen. We established that under elevated ABA levels the activity of TabZIP2 was negatively regulated by the TaWIN1 protein and positively regulated by the SnRK3/CIPK protein kinase WPK4, reported previously to be responsive to nutrient starvation. The physical interaction between the TaWIN1 and the WPK4 was detected. We also compared the influence of homo- and hetero-dimerisation of TabZIP2 and TaABI5L on DNA binding. TabZIP2 gene functional analyses were performed using drought-inducible overexpression of TabZIP2 in transgenic wheat. Transgenic plants grown under moderate drought during flowering, were smaller than control plants, and had fewer spikes and seeds per plant. However, a single seed weight was increased compared to single seed weights of control plants in three of four evaluated transgenic lines. The observed phenotypes of transgenic plants and the regulation of TabZIP2 activity by nutrient starvation-responsive WPK4, suggest that the TabZIP2 could be the part of a signalling pathway, which controls the rearrangement of carbohydrate and nutrient flows in plant organs in response to drought.


14-3-3 protein 3D protein molecular modelling Drought Homo- and hetero-dimerisation SnRK3/CIPK protein kinase Wheat 





Abscisic acid


Cold responsive


Discrete optimised protein energy




Green fluorescent protein

HD-Zip I

Homeodomain-leucine zipper class I


International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium


Late embryogenesis abundant


Modeller objective function


Quantitative RT-PCR


Triticum aestivum


Transcription factor(s)







The plant transformation contribution of Ainur Ismagul is acknowledged. We also thank Ursula Langridge, Larissa Chirkova and Yagnesh Nagarajan for technical assistance, and Julie Hayes and Carl Simmons for critically reading the manuscript. Pradeep K. Agarwal is grateful to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of India (Raman Research Fellowship) and Syed Sarfraz Hussain to DuPont Pioneer for funding their fellowships. This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (LP120100201 to MH and SL), the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation, the Government of South Australia, and DuPont Pioneer, as part of LP120100201.

Author contributions

Conceived, designed experiments and analysed data: SLu, PS, MH and SLo. Plant growth and transformation: PS, NK, OE and PKA. Cloning, Y1H, pull-down and transient expression assays, Q-PCR experiments: WJ, NBa and SLo. Protein–protein interactions: SH and MH. 3D molecular modelling: SLu and MH. Discussed the data and contributed to writing: SLu and PS. Writing of the manuscript: SLo and MH.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11103_2018_713_MOESM1_ESM.docx (106 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 105 KB)
11103_2018_713_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (5.4 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 5501 KB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sukanya Luang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Pradeep Sornaraj
    • 1
  • Natalia Bazanova
    • 1
    • 4
  • Wei Jia
    • 1
  • Omid Eini
    • 1
    • 5
  • Syed Sarfraz Hussain
    • 1
    • 6
  • Nataliya Kovalchuk
    • 1
  • Pradeep K. Agarwal
    • 2
  • Maria Hrmova
    • 1
  • Sergiy Lopato
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Agriculture, Food and WineUniversity of AdelaideGlen OsmondAustralia
  2. 2.CSIR-Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research InstituteBhavnagarIndia
  3. 3.Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of MedicineKhon Kaen UniversityKhon KaenThailand
  4. 4.Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research OrganisationGlen OsmondAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Plant Protection, School of AgricultureUniversity of ZanjanZanjanIran
  6. 6.Forman Christian CollegeLahorePakistan

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