Characterization of the tomato ARF gene family uncovers a multi-levels post-transcriptional regulation including alternative splicing

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Background: The phytohormone auxin is involved in a wide range of developmental processes and auxin signaling is known to modulate the expression of target genes via two types of transcriptional regulators, namely, Aux/IAA and Auxin Response Factors (ARF). ARFs play a major role in transcriptional activation or repression through direct binding to the promoter of auxin-responsive genes. The present study aims at gaining better insight on distinctive structural and functional features among ARF proteins. Results: Building on the most updated tomato (Solanum lycopersicon) reference genome sequence, a comprehensive set of ARF genes was identified, extending the total number of family members to 22. Upon correction of structural annotation inconsistencies, renaming the tomato ARF family members provided a consensus nomenclature for all ARF genes across plant species. In silico search predicted the presence of putative target site for small interfering RNAs within twelve Sl-ARFs while sequence analysis of the 5′-leader sequences revealed the presence of potential small uORF regulatory elements. Functional characterization carried out by transactivation assay partitioned tomato ARFs into repressors and activators of auxin-dependent gene transcription. Expression studies identified tomato ARFs potentially involved in the fruit set process. Genome-wide expression profiling using RNA-seq revealed that at least one third of the gene family members display alternative splicing mode of regulation during the flower to fruit transition. Moreover, the regulation of several tomato ARF genes by both ethylene and auxin, suggests their potential contribution to the convergence mechanism between the signaling pathways of these two hormones. Conclusion: All together, the data bring new insight on the complexity of the expression control of Sl-ARF genes at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels supporting the hypothesis that these transcriptional mediators might represent one of the main components that enable auxin to regulate a wide range of physiological processes in a highly specific and coordinated manner. © 2014 Zouine et al.




Zouine, M., Fu, Y., Chateigner-Boutin, A. L., Mila, I., Frasse, P., Wang, H., … Bouzayen, M. (2014). Characterization of the tomato ARF gene family uncovers a multi-levels post-transcriptional regulation including alternative splicing. PLoS ONE, 9(1).

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