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Keywords:

  • Transcriptional regulation;
  • phenylalanine;
  • Myb factors;
  • ammonium assimilation;
  • conifers

Summary

During the life cycles of conifer trees, such as maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Ait.), large quantities of carbon skeletons are irreversibly immobilized in the wood. In energetic terms this is an expensive process, in which carbon from photosynthesis is channelled through the shikimate pathway for the biosynthesis of phenylpropanoids. This crucial metabolic pathway is finely regulated, primarily through transcriptional control, and because phenylalanine is the precursor for phenylpropanoid biosynthesis, the precise regulation of phenylalanine synthesis and use should occur simultaneously. The promoters of three genes encoding the enzymes prephenate aminotransferase (PAT), phenylalanine ammonia lyase (PAL) and glutamine synthetase (GS1b) contain AC elements involved in the transcriptional activation mediated by R2R3-Myb factors. We have examined the capacity of the R2R3-Myb transcription factors Myb1, Myb4 and Myb8 to co-regulate the expression of PAT, PAL and GS1b. Only Myb8 was able to activate the transcription of the three genes. Moreover, the expression of this transcription factor is higher in lignified tissues, in which a high demand for phenylpropanoids exits. In a gain-of-function experiment, we have shown that Myb8 can specifically bind a well-conserved eight-nucleotide-long AC-II element in the promoter regions of PAT, PAL and GS1b, thereby activating their expression. Our results show that Myb8 regulates the expression of these genes involved in phenylalanine metabolism, which is required for channelling photosynthetic carbon to promote wood formation. The co-localization of PAT, PAL, GS1b and MYB8 transcripts in vascular cells further supports this conclusion.