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Mol Cell Biol. 1991 Oct;11(10):4966-72.

Light represses transcription of asparagine synthetase genes in photosynthetic and nonphotosynthetic organs of plants.

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Laboratory of Plant Molecular Biology, Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021-6399.


Asparagine synthetase (AS) mRNA in Pisum sativum accumulates preferentially in plants grown in the dark. Nuclear run-on experiments demonstrate that expression of both the AS1 and AS2 genes is negatively regulated by light at the level of transcription. A decrease in the transcriptional rate of the AS1 gene can be detected as early as 20 min after exposure to light. Time course experiments reveal that the levels of AS mRNA fluctuate dramatically during a "normal" light/dark cycle. This is due to a direct effect of light and not to changes associated with circadian rhythm. A novel finding is that the light-repressed expression of the AS1 gene is as dramatic in nonphotosynthetic organs such as roots as it is in leaves. Experiments demonstrate that the small amount of light which passes through the soil is sufficient to repress AS1 expression in roots, indicating that light has a direct effect on AS1 gene expression in roots. The negative regulation of AS gene expression by light was shown to be a general phenomenon in plants which also occurs in nonlegumes such as Nicotiana plumbaginifolia and Nicotiana tabacum. Thus, the AS genes can serve as a model with which to dissect the molecular basis for light-regulated transcriptional repression in plants.

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