Iron is an essential element for all organisms, and plants have developed sophisticated systems to acquire iron and maintain iron homeostasis. We found that an Arabidopsis thaliana ABA-hypersensitive mutant, aba hypersensitive germination2-1 (ahg2-1), that is known to be defective in mitochondrial mRNA regulation, had increased expression of iron deficiency response genes. The ahg2-1 mutant had lower heme levels than the wild type. Transcriptome data further revealed that novel genes encoding short polypeptides were highly expressed in this mutant. The expression of one of these genes, which we named FE-UPTAKE-INDUCING PEPTIDE 1 (FEP1), was induced under iron-deficient conditions and was observed in the vascular tissues of the leaves and roots, as well as in leaf mesophyll cells. Notably, deletion or insertion mutations of FEP1 exhibited impaired iron accumulation in shoots but normal iron levels in roots. Artificially induced expression of FEP1 was sufficient to induce iron deficiency response genes, such as basic HELIX-LOOP-HELIX 38 (bHLH38), bHLH39, IRON-REGULATED TRANSPORTER1 (IRT1) and FERRIC REDUCTION OXIDASE2 (FRO2), and led to iron accumulation in planta. Further analysis confirmed that the encoded peptide, but not the FEP1 RNA, was responsible for this activity. Remarkably, the activation of bHLH39 by FEP1 was independent of FER-LIKE IRON DEFICIENCY INDUCED (FIT), a key transcription factor in the iron deficiency response. Taken together, our results indicate that FEP1 functions in iron homeostasis through a previously undescribed regulatory mechanism for iron acquisition in Arabidopsis.
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