The cis-acting CTTC–P1BS module is indicative for gene function of LjVTI12, a Qb-SNARE protein gene that is required for arbuscule formation in Lotus japonicus


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The majority of land plants live in symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi from the phylum Glomeromycota. This symbiosis improves acquisition of phosphorus (P) by the host plant in exchange for carbohydrates, especially under low-P availability. The symbiosome, constituted by root cortex cells accommodating arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal hyphae, is the site at which bi-directional exchange of nutrients and metabolites takes place. Uptake of orthophosphate (Pi) in the symbiosome is facilitated by mycorrhiza-specific plant Pi transporters. Modifications of the potato Pi transporter 3 (StPT3) promoter were analysed in transgenic mycorrhizal roots, and it was found that the CTTC cis-regulatory element is necessary and sufficient for a transcriptional response to fungal colonization under low-Pi conditions. Phylogenetic footprinting also revealed binary combination of the CTTC element with the Pi starvation response-associated PHR1-binding site (P1BS) in the promoters of several mycorrhiza-specific Pi transporter genes. Scanning of the Lotus japonicus genome for gene promoters containing both cis-regulatory elements revealed a strong over-representation of genes involved in transport processes. One of these, LjVTI12, encoding a member of the SNARE family of proteins involved in membrane transport, exhibited enhanced transcript levels in Lotus roots colonized with the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus Glomus intraradices. Down-regulation of LjVTI12 by RNA interference resulted in a mycorrhiza-specific phenotype characterized by distorted arbuscule morphology. The results highlight cooperative cis-regulation which integrates mycorrhiza and Pi starvation signaling with vesicle trafficking in symbiosome development.