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Mol Genet Genomics. 2002 Mar;267(1):16-26. Epub 2002 Feb 12.

The tobacco bZIP transcription factor BZI-1 binds to G-box elements in the promoters of phenylpropanoid pathway genes in vitro, but it is not involved in their regulation in vivo.

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Albrecht-von-Haller Institut, Universität Göttingen, Untere Karspüle 2, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany.


Screening of a tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) cDNA library resulted in the isolation of a clone encoding the bZIP transcription factor BZI-1. With respect to amino acid sequence, conservation of protein domains, genomic exon-intron structure and expression pattern, BZI-1 is closely related to CPRF2, OHP1/2, BLZ1 and REB, a group of bZIP proteins which have been described in a number of dicot and monocot species. BZI-1 exhibits the characteristics of a transcription factor. It binds to G-box and C-box cis-elements in vitro, it is localised in the nucleus, and the N-terminal region of BZI-1 functions as an activation domain in both yeast and plant cells. Since BZI-1-related transcription factors have been isolated from dicots by in vitro binding to G-box elements in the chalcone synthase ( CHS) promoter, it has been suggested that phenylpropanoid pathway genes, such as CHS and PAL (phenylalanine ammonia-lyase), are targets of these proteins in vivo. However, after infection with Pseudomonas syringae or Tobacco Mosaic Virus, no changes in pathogen-induced PAL expression were observed in transgenic plants expressing increased levels of BZI-1 or a dominant negative form of the protein, BZI-1-DeltaN. In contrast to the tissue-specific expression of CHS and PAL, BZI-1 was found to be ubiquitously expressed in tobacco plants. Furthermore, no changes in the tissue-specific expression of PAL or CHS were observed in plants that were transgenic for BZI-1-DeltaN. Expression of a VP16-BZI-1 fusion protein would be expected to result in constitutive activation of the BZI-1 target genes. However, tetracycline-dependent expression of a VP16-BZI-1 protein in tobacco plants did not result in activation of CHS or PAL. On the basis of these data, we conclude that the phenylpropanoid pathway genes analysed are not targets of BZI-1 in vivo. Thus, the pattern of in vitro DNA binding of transcription factors need not always reflect their in vivo function.

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