14-3-3 proteins are found in all eukaryotes where they act as regulators of diverse signalling pathways associated with a wide range of biological processes. In this study the functional characterization of the ZmGF14-6 gene encoding a maize 14-3-3 protein is reported. Gene expression analyses indicated that ZmGF14-6 is up-regulated by fungal infection and salt treatment in maize plants, whereas its expression is down-regulated by drought stress. It is reported that rice plants constitutively expressing ZmGF14-6 displayed enhanced tolerance to drought stress which was accompanied by a stronger induction of drought-associated rice genes. However, rice plants expressing ZmGF14-6 either in a constitutive or under a pathogen-inducible regime showed a higher susceptibility to infection by the fungal pathogens Fusarium verticillioides and Magnaporthe oryzae. Under infection conditions, a lower intensity in the expression of defence-related genes occurred in ZmGF14-6 rice plants. These findings support that ZmGF14-6 positively regulates drought tolerance in transgenic rice while negatively modulating the plant defence response to pathogen infection. Transient expression assays of fluorescently labelled ZmGF14-6 protein in onion epidermal cells revealed a widespread distribution of ZmGF14-6 in the cytoplasm and nucleus. Additionally, colocalization experiments of fluorescently labelled ZmGF14-6 with organelle markers, in combination with cell labelling with the endocytic tracer FM4-64, revealed a subcellular localization of ZmGF14-6 in the early endosomes. Taken together, these results improve our understanding of the role of ZmGF14-6 in stress signalling pathways, while indicating that ZmGF14-6 inversely regulates the plant response to biotic and abiotic stresses.
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