Open Access Research article

Co-expression and promoter content analyses assign a role in biotic and abiotic stress responses to plant natriuretic peptides

Stuart Meier13, René Bastian1, Lara Donaldson2, Shane Murray1, Vladimir Bajic3 and Chris Gehring1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biotechnology, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Cape Town - Bellville 7535, South Africa

2 Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa

3 South African National Bioinformatics Institute, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Cape Town - Bellville 7535, South Africa

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:24  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-24

Published: 29 February 2008

Abstract

Background

Plant natriuretic peptides (PNPs) are a class of systemically mobile molecules distantly related to expansins. While several physiological responses to PNPs have been reported, their biological role has remained elusive. Here we use a combination of expression correlation analysis, meta-analysis of gene expression profiles in response to specific stimuli and in selected mutants, and promoter content analysis to infer the biological role of the Arabidopsis thaliana PNP, AtPNP-A.

Results

A gene ontology analysis of AtPNP-A and the 25 most expression correlated genes revealed a significant over representation of genes annotated as part of the systemic acquired resistance (SAR) pathway. Transcription of these genes is strongly induced in response to salicylic acid (SA) and its functional synthetic analogue benzothiadiazole S-methylester (BTH), a number of biotic and abiotic stresses including many SA-mediated SAR-inducing conditions, as well as in the constitutive SAR expressing mutants cpr5 and mpk4 which have elevated SA levels. Furthermore, the expression of AtPNP-A was determined to be significantly correlated with the SAR annotated transcription factor, WRKY 70, and the promoters of AtPNP-A and the correlated genes contain an enrichment in the core WRKY binding W-box cis-elements. In constitutively expressing WRKY 70 lines the expression of AtPNP-A and the correlated genes, including the SAR marker genes, PR-2 and PR-5, were determined to be strongly induced.

Conclusion

The co-expression analyses, both in wild type and mutants, provides compelling evidence that suggests AtPNP-A may function as a component of plant defence responses and SAR in particular. The presented evidence also suggests that the expression of AtPNP-A is controlled by WRKY transcription factors and WRKY 70 in particular. AtPNP-A shares many characteristics with PR proteins in that its transcription is strongly induced in response to pathogen challenges, it contains an N-terminal signalling peptide and is secreted into the extracellular space and along with PR-1, PR-2 and PR-5 proteins it has been isolated from the Arabidopsis apoplast. Based on these findings we suggest that AtPNP-A could be classified as a newly identified PR protein.