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Plant Cell. 2017 Dec;29(12):3269-3285. doi: 10.1105/tpc.17.00282. Epub 2017 Dec 4.

Mediator Complex Subunits MED2, MED5, MED16, and MED23 Genetically Interact in the Regulation of Phenylpropanoid Biosynthesis.

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Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907.
Purdue Center for Plant Biology, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907.
Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907


The phenylpropanoid pathway is a major global carbon sink and is important for plant fitness and the engineering of bioenergy feedstocks. In Arabidopsis thaliana, disruption of two subunits of the transcriptional regulatory Mediator complex, MED5a and MED5b, results in an increase in phenylpropanoid accumulation. By contrast, the semidominant MED5b mutation reduced epidermal fluorescence4-3 (ref4-3) results in dwarfism and constitutively repressed phenylpropanoid accumulation. Here, we report the results of a forward genetic screen for suppressors of ref4-3. We identified 13 independent lines that restore growth and/or phenylpropanoid accumulation in the ref4-3 background. Two of the suppressors restore growth without restoring soluble phenylpropanoid accumulation, indicating that the growth and metabolic phenotypes of the ref4-3 mutant can be genetically disentangled. Whole-genome sequencing revealed that all but one of the suppressors carry mutations in MED5b or other Mediator subunits. RNA-seq analysis showed that the ref4-3 mutation causes widespread changes in gene expression, including the upregulation of negative regulators of the phenylpropanoid pathway, and that the suppressors reverse many of these changes. Together, our data highlight the interdependence of individual Mediator subunits and provide greater insight into the transcriptional regulation of phenylpropanoid biosynthesis by the Mediator complex.

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