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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Identification and expression analysis of WRKY transcription factor genes in canola (Brassica napus L.) in response to fungal pathogens and hormone treatments

Bo Yang1, Yuanqing Jiang2, Muhammad H Rahman1, Michael K Deyholos2 and Nat NV Kav1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2P5, Canada

2 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada

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BMC Plant Biology 2009, 9:68  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-9-68

Published: 3 June 2009

Abstract

Background

Members of plant WRKY transcription factor families are widely implicated in defense responses and various other physiological processes. For canola (Brassica napus L.), no WRKY genes have been described in detail. Because of the economic importance of this crop, and its evolutionary relationship to Arabidopsis thaliana, we sought to characterize a subset of canola WRKY genes in the context of pathogen and hormone responses.

Results

In this study, we identified 46 WRKY genes from canola by mining the expressed sequence tag (EST) database and cloned cDNA sequences of 38 BnWRKYs. A phylogenetic tree was constructed using the conserved WRKY domain amino acid sequences, which demonstrated that BnWRKYs can be divided into three major groups. We further compared BnWRKYs to the 72 WRKY genes from Arabidopsis and 91 WRKY from rice, and we identified 46 presumptive orthologs of AtWRKY genes. We examined the subcellular localization of four BnWRKY proteins using green fluorescent protein (GFP) and we observed the fluorescent green signals in the nucleus only.

The responses of 16 selected BnWRKY genes to two fungal pathogens, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and Alternaria brassicae, were analyzed by quantitative real time-PCR (qRT-PCR). Transcript abundance of 13 BnWRKY genes changed significantly following pathogen challenge: transcripts of 10 WRKYs increased in abundance, two WRKY transcripts decreased after infection, and one decreased at 12 h post-infection but increased later on (72 h). We also observed that transcript abundance of 13/16 BnWRKY genes was responsive to one or more hormones, including abscisic acid (ABA), and cytokinin (6-benzylaminopurine, BAP) and the defense signaling molecules jasmonic acid (JA), salicylic acid (SA), and ethylene (ET). We compared these transcript expression patterns to those previously described for presumptive orthologs of these genes in Arabidopsis and rice, and observed both similarities and differences in expression patterns.

Conclusion

We identified a set of 13 BnWRKY genes from among 16 BnWRKY genes assayed, that are responsive to both fungal pathogens and hormone treatments, suggesting shared signaling mechanisms for these responses. This study suggests that a large number of BnWRKY proteins are involved in the transcriptional regulation of defense-related genes in response to fungal pathogens and hormone stimuli.