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Plant Mol Biol. 2008 Jan;66(1-2):151-64. Epub 2007 Nov 28.

Distinct heat-shock element arrangements that mediate the heat shock, but not the late-embryogenesis induction of small heat-shock proteins, correlate with promoter activation in root-knot nematode feeding cells.

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  • 1Facultad de Ciencias del Medio Ambiente, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Campus de la Real Fábrica de Armas, 45071 Toledo, Spain.


Genes coding small heat-shock proteins (sHSPs) show distinct behaviours with respect to environmental and developmental signals. Their transcriptional regulation depends on particular combinations of heat stress cis-elements (heat-shock elements; HSEs) but many aspects regarding their regulation remain unclear. Cyst and root-knot nematodes induce, in the roots of infected plants, the differentiation of special feeding cells with high metabolic activity (syncytia and giant cells, respectively), a process accompanied by extensive gene expression changes. The Hahsp17.7G4 (G4) promoter was active in giant cells and its HSE arrangements were crucial for this activation. In the present work, we provide further basis to associate giant cell expression with the heat-shock response of this gene class, by analysing additional promoters. The Hahsp17.6G1 (G1) promoter, not induced by heat shock, was silent in giant cells, while Hahsp18.6G2 (G2), which responds to heat shock, was specifically induced in giant cells. In addition, a mutated Hahsp17.7G4 promoter version (G4MutP) with a strong heat-shock induction was also induced in giant cells. The responses of the different promoters correlated with distinct HSE configurations, which might have implications on differential trans-activation. Furthermore, the shortest giant cell and heat-shock-inducible sHSP promoter version analysed in tobacco (-83pb Hahsp17.7G4) fully maintained its expression profile in Arabidopsis. Cyst nematodes did not induce the Hahsp17.7G4 promoter, revealing additional specificity in the nematode response. These findings, together with the fact that the class I sHSP products of endogenous genes accumulated specifically in tobacco giant cells, support the idea that these nematode-induced giant cells represent a transcriptional state very similar to that produced by heat shock regarding this class of genes. The high metabolic rate of giant cells may result in unfolded proteins requiring class I sHSPs as chaperones, which might, somehow, mimic heat-shock and/or other stress responses.

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