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Plant J. 2013 Mar;73(6):993-1005. doi: 10.1111/tpj.12091. Epub 2013 Jan 18.

ABI4 downregulates expression of the sodium transporter HKT1;1 in Arabidopsis roots and affects salt tolerance.

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Department of Life Sciences and Doris, Bertie Center for Bioenergetics in Life Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, 84105, Israel.


A plant's ability to cope with salt stress is highly correlated with their ability to reduce the accumulation of sodium ions in the shoot. Arabidopsis mutants affected in the ABSCISIC ACID INSENSITIVE (ABI) 4 gene display increased salt tolerance, whereas ABI4-overexpressors are hypersensitive to salinity from seed germination to late vegetative developmental stages. In this study we demonstrate that abi4 mutant plants accumulate lower levels of sodium ions and higher levels of proline than wild-type plants following salt stress. We show higher HKT1;1 expression in abi4 mutant plants and lower levels of expression in ABI4-overexpressing plants, resulting in reduced accumulation of sodium ions in the shoot of abi4 mutants. HKT1;1 encodes a sodium transporter which is known to unload sodium ions from the root xylem stream into the xylem parenchyma stele cells. We have shown recently that ABI4 is expressed in the root stele at various developmental stages and that it plays a key role in determining root architecture. Thus ABI4 and HKT1;1 are expressed in the same cells, which suggests the possibility of direct binding of ABI4 to the HKT1;1 promoter. In planta chromatin immunoprecipitation and in vitro electrophoresis mobility shift assays demonstrated that ABI4 binds two highly related sites within the HKT1;1 promoter. These sites, GC(C/G)GCTT(T), termed ABI4-binding element (ABE), have also been identified in other ABI4-repressed genes. We therefore suggest that ABI4 is a major modulator of root development and function.

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