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Plant Biotechnol J. 2016 Jul;14(7):1633-45. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12526. Epub 2016 Jan 23.

Overexpression of MdbHLH104 gene enhances the tolerance to iron deficiency in apple.

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National Key Laboratory of Crop Biology, National Research Center for Apple Engineering and Technology, College of Horticulture Science and Engineering, Shandong Agricultural University, Tai-An, Shandong, China.


Fe deficiency is a widespread nutritional disorder in plants. The basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors (TFs), especially Ib subgroup bHLH TFs which are involved in iron uptake, have been identified. In this study, an IVc subgroup bHLH TF MdbHLH104 was identified and characterized as a key component in the response to Fe deficiency in apple. The overexpression of the MdbHLH104 gene noticeably increased the H(+) -ATPase activity under iron limitation conditions and the tolerance to Fe deficiency in transgenic apple plants and calli. Further investigation showed that MdbHLH104 proteins bonded directly to the promoter of the MdAHA8 gene, thereby positively regulating its expression, the plasma membrane (PM) H(+) -ATPase activity and Fe uptake. Similarly, MdbHLH104 directly modulated the expression of three Fe-responsive bHLH genes, MdbHLH38, MdbHLH39 and MdPYE. In addition, MdbHLH104 interacted with 5 other IVc subgroup bHLH proteins to coregulate the expression of the MdAHA8 gene, the activity of PM H(+) -ATPase and the content of Fe in apple calli. Therefore, MdbHLH104 acts together with other apple bHLH TFs to regulate Fe uptake by modulating the expression of the MdAHA8 gene and the activity of PM H(+) -ATPase in apple.


IVc subgroup bHLH transcription factor; apple; iron deficiency; iron uptake; plasma membrane H+-ATPase

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