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Plant J. 2007 Apr;50(1):54-69. Epub 2007 Mar 5.

Regulation and functional analysis of ZmDREB2A in response to drought and heat stresses in Zea mays L.

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Biological Resources Division, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), 1-1 Ohwashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8686, Japan.


DREB1/CBFs and DREB2s are transcription factors that specifically interact with a cis-acting element, DRE/CRT, which is involved in the expression of genes responsive to cold and drought stress in Arabidopsis thaliana. The function of DREB1/CBFs has been precisely analyzed and it has been found to activate the expression of many genes responsive to cold stress containing a DRE/CRT sequence in their promoters. However, the regulation and function of DREB2-type transcription factors remained to be elucidated. In this research, we report the cloning of a DREB2 homolog from maize, ZmDREB2A, whose transcripts were accumulated by cold, dehydration, salt and heat stresses in maize seedlings. Unlike Arabidopsis DREB2A, ZmDREB2A produced two forms of transcripts, and quantitative real-time PCR analyses demonstrated that only the functional transcription form of ZmDREB2A was significantly induced by stresses. Moreover, the ZmDREB2A protein exhibited considerably high transactivation activity compared with DREB2A in Arabidopsis protoplasts, suggesting that protein modification is not necessary for ZmDREB2A to be active. Constitutive or stress-inducible expression of ZmDREB2A resulted in an improved drought stress tolerance in plants. Microarray analyses of transgenic plants overexpressing ZmDREB2A revealed that in addition to genes encoding late embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins, some genes related to heat shock and detoxification were also upregulated. Furthermore, overexpression of ZmDREB2A also enhanced thermotolerance in transgenic plants, implying that ZmDREB2A may play a dual functional role in mediating the expression of genes responsive to both water stress and heat stress.

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