TT8 controls its own expression in a feedback regulation involving TTG1 and homologous MYB and bHLH factors, allowing a strong and cell-specific accumulation of flavonoids in Arabidopsis thaliana

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(fax +33 1 30 83 30 99; e-mail lepiniec@versailles.inra.fr).

Summary

The control of TT8 expression was investigated in this study, and it was demonstrated that it constitutes a major regulatory step in the specific activation of the expression of flavonoid structural genes. First, the GUS activity generated in planta from a TT8::uidA construct revealed cell-specific activation of the TT8 promoter consistent with the known involvement of the TT8 bHLH factor in proanthocyanidin, anthocyanin and mucilage biosynthesis. Moreover, the activity of this reporter construct was strongly affected in ttg1, TT2 overexpressers (OE), and PAP1-OE, suggesting interplay between TT2, PAP1, TTG1 and the activation of the TT8 promoter in planta. To further investigate the mechanisms involved, we used 35S::TT2-GR and 35S::TTG1-GR transgenic plants (expressing fusion proteins with the glucocorticoid receptor), as well as one-hybrid experiments, to determine the direct effect of these factors on TT8 expression. Interestingly, in vivo binding of TT2 and PAP1 to the TT8 promoter was dependent on the simultaneous expression of TT8 or the homologous bHLH factors GL3 and EGL3. Consistent with these results, the activity of the TT8::uidA reporter was strongly affected in the seed endothelium of a tt8 mutant. Similarly, a strong decrease in the level of TT8 mRNA was detected in the siliques of a gl3 × egl3 mutant and in plants that express a dominant negative form of the PAP1 protein, suggesting that TT8 expression is controlled by different combinations of MYB and bHLH factors in planta. The importance of this positive feedback mechanism in the strong and specific induction of proanthocyanidin biosynthesis in the seed coat of Arabidopsis thaliana is discussed.

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