Gene regulatory cascade of senescence-associated NAC transcription factors activated by ETHYLENE-INSENSITIVE2-mediated leaf senescence signalling inArabidopsis

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Leaf senescence is a finely tuned and genetically programmed degeneration process, which is critical to maximize plant fitness by remobilizing nutrients from senescing leaves to newly developing organs. Leaf senescence is a complex process that is driven by extensive reprogramming of global gene expression in a highly coordinated manner. Understanding how gene regulatory networks involved in controlling leaf senescence are organized and operated is essential to decipher the mechanisms of leaf senescence. It was previously reported that the trifurcate feed-forward pathway involvingEIN2,ORE1, andmiR164inArabidopsisregulates age-dependent leaf senescence and cell death. Here, new components of this pathway have been identified, which enhances knowledge of the gene regulatory networks governing leaf senescence. Comparative gene expression analysis revealed six senescence-associated NAC transcription factors (TFs) (ANAC019, AtNAP, ANAC047, ANAC055, ORS1, and ORE1) as candidate downstream components of ETHYLENE-INSENSITIVE2 (EIN2). EIN3, a downstream signalling molecule of EIN2, directly bound theORE1andAtNAPpromoters and induced their transcription. This suggests that EIN3 positively regulates leaf senescence by activatingORE1andAtNAP, previously reported as key regulators of leaf senescence. Genetic and gene expression analyses in theore1 atnapdouble mutant revealed that ORE1 and AtNAP act in distinct and overlapping signalling pathways. Transient transactivation assays further demonstrated that ORE1 and AtNAP could activate common as well as differential NAC TF targets. Collectively, the data provide insight into an EIN2-mediated senescence signalling pathway that coordinates global gene expression during leaf senescence via a gene regulatory network involving EIN3 and senescence-associated NAC TFs.

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