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Phosphorylation of Serine 114 of the transcription factor ABSCISIC ACID INSENSITIVE 4 is essential for activity


The transcription factor ABA-INSENSITIVE(ABI)4 has diverse roles in regulating plant growth, including inhibiting germination and reserve mobilization in response to ABA and high salinity, inhibiting seedling growth in response to high sugars, inhibiting lateral root growth, and repressing light-induced gene expression. ABI4 activity is regulated at multiple levels, including gene expression, protein stability, and activation by phosphorylation. Although ABI4 can be phosphorylated at multiple residues by MAPKs, we found that S114 is the preferred site of MPK3. To examine the possible biological role of S114 phosphorylation, we transformed abi4-1 mutant plants with ABI4pro::ABI4 constructs encoding wild type (114S), phosphorylation-null (S114A) or phosphomimetic (S114E) forms of ABI4. Phosphorylation of S114 is necessary for the response to ABA, glucose, salt stress, and lateral root development, where the abi4 phenotype could be complemented by expressing ABI4 (114S) or ABI4 (S114E) but not ABI4 (S114A). Comparison of root transcriptomes in ABA-treated roots of abi4-1 mutant plants transformed with constructs encoding the different phosphorylation-forms of S114 of ABI4 revealed that 85 % of the ABI4-regulated genes whose expression pattern could be restored by expressing ABI4 (114S) are down-regulated by ABI4. Phosphorylation of S114 was required for regulation of 35 % of repressed genes, but only 17 % of induced genes. The genes whose repression requires the phosphorylation of S114 are mainly involved in embryo and seedling development, growth and differentiation, and regulation of gene expression.

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