A novel basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor, ZjICE2 from Zoysia japonica confers abiotic stress tolerance to transgenic plants via activating the DREB/CBF regulon and enhancing ROS scavenging
Zuo, Z.-F.; Kang, H.-G.; Hong, Q.-C.; Park, M.-Y.; Sun, H.-J.; Kim, J.; Song, P.-S.; Lee, H.-Y.
Plant Molecular Biology 102(4-5): 447-462
ZjICE2 works as a positive regulator in abiotic stress responses and ZjICE2 is a valuable genetic resource to improve abiotic stress tolerance in the molecular breeding program of Zoysia japonica. The basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family transcription factors (TFs) play an important role in response to biotic or abiotic stresses in plants. However, the functions of bHLH TFs in Zoysia japonica, one of the warm-season turfgrasses, remain poorly understood. Here, we identified ZjICE2 from Z. japonica, a novel MYC-type bHLH transcription factor that was closely related to ICE homologs in the phylogenetic tree, and its expression was regulated by various abiotic stresses. Transient expression of ZjICE2-GFP in onion epidermal cells revealed that ZjICE2 was a nuclear-localized protein. Also, ZjICE2 bound the MYC cis-element in the promoter of dehydration responsive element binding 1 of Z. japonica (ZjDREB1) using yeast one-hybrid assay. A phenotypic analysis showed that overexpression of the ZjICE2 in Arabidopsis enhanced tolerance to cold, drought, and salt stresses. The transgenic Arabidopsis and Z. japonica accumulated more transcripts of cold-responsive DREB/CBFs and their downstream genes than the wild type (WT) after cold treatment. Furthermore, the transgenic plants exhibited an enhanced Reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging ability, which resulted in an efficient maintenance of oxidant-antioxidant homeostasis. In addition, overexpression of the ZjICE2 in Z. japonica displayed intensive cold tolerance with increases in chlorophyll contents and photosynthetic efficiency. Our study suggests that ZjICE2 works as a positive regulator in abiotic stress responses and the ICE-DREB/CBFs response pathway involved in cold stress tolerance is also conserved in Z. japonica. These results provide a valuable genetic resource for the molecular breeding program especially for warm-season grasses as well as other leaf crop plants.