In plants, osmotic stress-responsive transcriptional regulation depends mainly on two major classes of cis-acting elements found in the promoter regions of stress-inducible genes: ABA-responsive elements (ABREs) and dehydration-responsive elements (DREs). ABRE has been shown to perceive ABA-mediated osmotic stress signals, whereas DRE is known to be involved in an ABA-independent pathway. Previously, we reported that the transcription factor DRE-BINDING PROTEIN 2A (DREB2A) regulates DRE-mediated transcription of target genes under osmotic stress conditions in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). However, the transcriptional regulation of DREB2A itself remains largely uncharacterized. To elucidate the transcriptional mechanism associated with the DREB2A gene under osmotic stress conditions, we generated a series of truncated and base-substituted variants of the DREB2A promoter and evaluated their transcriptional activities individually. We found that both ABRE and coupling element 3 (CE3)-like sequences located approximately-100 bp from the transcriptional initiation site are necessary for the dehydration-responsive expression of DREB2A. Coupling our transient expression analyses with yeast one-hybrid and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays indicated that the ABRE-BINDING PROTEIN 1 (AREB1), AREB2 and ABRE-BINDING FACTOR 3 (ABF3) bZIP transcription factors can bind to and activate the DREB2A promoter in an ABRE-dependent manner. Exogenous ABA application induced only a modest accumulation of the DREB2A transcript when compared with the osmotic stress treatment. However, the osmotic stress-induced DREB2A expression was found to be markedly impaired in several ABA-deficient and ABA-insensitive mutants. These results suggest that in addition to an ABA-independent pathway, the ABA-dependent pathway plays a positive role in the osmotic stress-responsive expression of DREB2A.
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