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Plant Physiol. 2014 Dec;166(4):2195-204. doi: 10.1104/pp.114.251645. Epub 2014 Oct 24.

Tobacco nicotine uptake permease regulates the expression of a key transcription factor gene in the nicotine biosynthesis pathway.

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Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Ikoma, Nara 630-0192, Japan.
Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Ikoma, Nara 630-0192, Japan


The down-regulation of a tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plasma membrane-localized nicotine uptake permease, NUP1, was previously reported to reduce total alkaloid levels in tobacco plants. However, it was unclear how this nicotine transporter affected the biosynthesis of the alkaloid nicotine. When NUP1 expression was suppressed in cultured tobacco cells treated with jasmonate, which induces nicotine biosynthesis, the NICOTINE2-locus transcription factor gene ETHYLENE RESPONSE FACTOR189 (ERF189) and its target structural genes, which function in nicotine biosynthesis and transport, were strongly suppressed, resulting in decreased total alkaloid levels. Conversely, NUP1 overexpression had the opposite effect. In these experiments, the expression levels of the MYC2 transcription factor gene and its jasmonate-inducible target gene were not altered. Inhibiting tobacco alkaloid biosynthesis by suppressing the expression of genes encoding enzymes in the nicotine pathway did not affect the expression of ERF189 and other nicotine pathway genes, indicating that ERF189 is not regulated by cellular alkaloid levels. Suppressing the expression of jasmonate signaling components in cultured tobacco cells showed that NUP1 acts downstream of the CORONATINE INSENSITIVE1 receptor and MYC2, but upstream of ERF189. These results suggest that although jasmonate-activated expression of MYC2 induces the expression of both NUP1 and ERF189, expression of ERF189 may actually be mediated by NUP1. Furthermore, NUP1 overexpression in tobacco plants inhibited the long-range transport of nicotine from the roots to the aerial parts. Thus, NUP1 not only mediates the uptake of tobacco alkaloids into root cells, but also positively controls the expression of ERF189, a key gene in the biosynthesis of these alkaloids.

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