Arabidopsis ETHYLENE RESPONSE FACTOR 8 (ERF8) has dual functions in ABA signaling and immunity Cao, Feng Y.; DeFalco, Thomas A.; Moeder, Wolfgang; Li, Bo; Gong, Yunchen; Liu, Xiao-Min; Taniguchi, Masatoshi; Lumba, Shelley; Toh, Shigeo; Shan, Libo; Ellis, Brian; Desveaux, Darrell; Yoshioka, Keiko
Background: ETHYLENE RESPONSE FACTOR (ERF) 8 is a member of one of the largest transcription factor families in plants, the APETALA2/ETHYLENE RESPONSIVE FACTOR (AP2/ERF) superfamily. Members of this superfamily have been implicated in a wide variety of processes such as development and environmental stress responses. Results: In this study we demonstrated that ERF8 is involved in both ABA and immune signaling. ERF8 overexpression induced programmed cell death (PCD) in Arabidopsis and Nicotiana benthamiana. This PCD was salicylic acid (SA)-independent, suggesting that ERF8 acts downstream or independent of SA. ERF8-induced PCD was abolished by mutations within the ERF-associated amphiphilic repression (EAR) motif, indicating ERF8 induces cell death through its transcriptional repression activity. Two immunity-related mitogen-activated protein kinases, MITOGEN-ACTIVATED PROTEIN KINASE 4 (MPK4) and MPK11, were identified as ERF8-interacting proteins and directly phosphorylated ERF8 in vitro. Four putative MPK phosphorylation sites were identified in ERF8, one of which (Ser103) was determined to be the predominantly phosphorylated residue in vitro, while mutation of all four putative phosphorylation sites partially suppressed ERF8-induced cell death in N. benthamiana. Genome-wide transcriptomic analysis and pathogen growth assays confirmed a positive role of ERF8 in mediating immunity, as ERF8 knockdown or overexpression lines conferred compromised or enhanced resistance against the hemibiotrophic bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae, respectively. Conclusions: Together these data reveal that the ABA-inducible transcriptional repressor ERF8 has dual roles in ABA signaling and pathogen defense, and further highlight the complex influence of ABA on plant-microbe interactions.
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