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Deciphering the regulatory network controlling flavonoid biosynthesis by MYB-bHLH-WDR complexes in Arabidopsis seed

  • Xu, Wenjia
Publication Date
Sep 15, 2014
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The combinatorial control of gene expression is a key feature of the spatio-temporal pattern of flavonoid accumulation in plants. Previous results have shown that the regulation of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins (PAs or tannins) pigmentation relies on the transcriptional activity of R2R3-MYB and bHLH proteins that form “MBW” ternary complexes with TTG1 (WD-Repeats), in Arabidopsis thaliana. The purpose of the thesis was to figure out the nature and spatio-temporal activity of these MBW complexes and to identify their direct targets, which were essential steps toward a comprehensive understanding of the transcriptional mechanisms that control flavonoid biosynthesis. Using different molecular and genetic approaches this thesis has demonstrated that only late biosynthetic genes (namely DFR, LDOX, BAN, TT19, TT12 and AHA10) are direct targets of the MBW complexes. Interestingly, although the TT2-TT8-TTG1 complex was shown to play the major role in regulating the expression of these structural genes in developing seeds, three additional MBW complexes that contain MYB5, GL3 or EGL3 are also involved, in a tissue-specific manner. Because the expression of TT8 is largely involved in these regulations, a functional dissection of its promoter was carried out. Two modules drive the tissue-specific activity of the TT8 promoter in PA- and anthocyanin-accumulating cells, and a third module is responsible for the strength of the promoter. Interestingly, this regulation involves at least six different MBW complexes. Our results also suggest that some putative new regulators remain to be discovered. Last, use of a newly developed fast and sensitive transient expression system that relies on protoplasts of the moss Physcomitrella patens has allowed the identification of both, specific cis-regulatory elements through which TT8 expression is regulated and the minimal promoter for each of the genes that are targeted by the MBW complexes.Altogether, by answering fundamental questions and by demonstrating or invalidating previously made hypotheses, we have provided a new and comprehensive view of the regulatory mechanisms controlling PA and anthocyanin biosynthesis in Arabidopsis, as well as new clues and tools for further investigation of this pathway in Arabidopsis and other plant species.

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