Heat-stressed crops suffer dehydration, depressed growth, and a consequent decline in water productivity, which is the yield of harvestable product as a function of lifetime water consumption and is a trait associated with plant growth and development. Heat shock transcription factor (HSF) genes have been implicated not only in thermotolerance but also in plant growth and development, and therefore could influence water productivity. Here it is demonstrated that Arabidopsis thaliana plants with increased HSFA1b expression showed increased water productivity and harvest index under water-replete and water-limiting conditions. In non-stressed HSFA1b-overexpressing (HSFA1bOx) plants, 509 genes showed altered expression, and these genes were not over-represented for development-associated genes but were for response to biotic stress. This confirmed an additional role for HSFA1b in maintaining basal disease resistance, which was stress hormone independent but involved H₂O₂ signalling. Fifty-five of the 509 genes harbour a variant of the heat shock element (HSE) in their promoters, here named HSE1b. Chromatin immunoprecipitation-PCR confirmed binding of HSFA1b to HSE1b in vivo, including in seven transcription factor genes. One of these is MULTIPROTEIN BRIDGING FACTOR1c (MBF1c). Plants overexpressing MBF1c showed enhanced basal resistance but not water productivity, thus partially phenocopying HSFA1bOx plants. A comparison of genes responsive to HSFA1b and MBF1c overexpression revealed a common group, none of which harbours a HSE1b motif. From this example, it is suggested that HSFA1b directly regulates 55 HSE1b-containing genes, which control the remaining 454 genes, collectively accounting for the stress defence and developmental phenotypes of HSFA1bOx.
In Arabidopsis thaliana, HEAT SHOCK TRANSCRIPTION FACTORA1b (HSFA1b) controls resistance to environmental stress and is a determinant of reproductive fitness by influencing seed yield. To understand how HSFA1bachieves this, we surveyed its genome-wide targets (ChIP-seq) and its impact on the transcriptome (RNA-seq) under non-stress (NS), heat stress (HS) in the wild type, and in HSFA1b-overexpressing plants under NS. A total of 952 differentially expressed HSFA1b-targeted genes were identified, of which at least 85 are development associated and were bound predominantly under NS. A further 1780 genes were differentially expressed but not bound by HSFA1b, of which 281 were classified as having development-associated functions. These genes are indirectly regulated through a hierarchical network of 27 transcription factors (TFs). Furthermore, we identified 480 natural antisense non-coding RNA (cisNAT) genes bound by HSFA1b, defining a further mode of indirect regulation. Finally, HSFA1b-targeted genomic features not only harboured heat shock elements, but also MADS box, LEAFY, and G-Box promoter motifs. This revealed that HSFA1b is one of eight TFs that target a common group of stress defence and developmental genes. We propose that HSFA1b transduces environmental cues to many stress tolerance and developmental genes to allow plants to adjust their growth and development continually in a varying environment.
The RNA‐binding proteins play essential roles in the post‐transcriptional regulation of gene expression. While hundreds of RNA‐binding proteins can be predicted computationally, the recent introduction of proteome‐wide approaches has dramatically expanded the repertoire of proteins interacting with RNA. Besides canonical RNA‐binding proteins that contain characteristic RNA‐binding domains, many proteins that lack such domains but have other well‐characterized cellular functions were identified; including metabolic enzymes, heat shock proteins, kinases, as well as transcription factors and chromatin‐associated proteins. In the context of these recently published RNA–protein interactome datasets obtained from yeast, nematodes, flies, plants and mammalian cells, we discuss examples for seemingly evolutionary conserved ‘unconventional’ RNA‐binding proteins that act in central carbon metabolism, stress response or regulation of transcription.