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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Dec 18;104(51):20623-8. Epub 2007 Dec 12.

Functional analysis of AHK1/ATHK1 and cytokinin receptor histidine kinases in response to abscisic acid, drought, and salt stress in Arabidopsis.

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Biological Resources Division, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8686, Japan.


In plants, multistep component systems play important roles in signal transduction in response to environmental stimuli and plant growth regulators. Arabidopsis contains six nonethylene receptor histidine kinases, and, among them, AHK1/ATHK1, AHK2, AHK3, and CRE1 were shown to be stress-responsive, suggesting their roles in the regulation of plant response to abiotic stress. Gain- and loss-of-function studies in Arabidopsis indicated that AHK1 is a positive regulator of drought and salt stress responses and abscisic acid (ABA) signaling. Microarray analysis of the ahk1 mutant revealed a down-regulation of many stress- and/or ABA-inducible genes, including AREB1, ANAC, and DREB2A transcription factors and their downstream genes. These data suggest that AHK1 functions upstream of AREB1, ANAC, and DREB2A and positively controls stress responses through both ABA-dependent and ABA-independent signaling pathways. In addition, AHK1 plays important roles in plant growth because the ahk1 ahk2 ahk3 triple mutant showed further reduced growth. Unlike AHK1, loss-of-function analysis of ahk2, ahk3, and cre1 implied that the stress-responsive AHK2, AHK3, and CRE1 act as negative regulators in ABA signaling. AHK2 and AHK3 also negatively control osmotic stress responses in Arabidopsis because ahk2, ahk3, and ahk2 ahk3 mutants were strongly tolerant to drought and salt stress due to up-regulation of many stress- and/or ABA-inducible genes. Last, cytokinin clearly mediates stress responses because it was required for CRE1 to function as a negative regulator of osmotic stress.

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