Protein–Protein Interactions in the Regulation of WRKY Transcription Factors

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It has been almost 20 years since the first report of a WRKY transcription factor, SPF1, from sweet potato. Great progress has been made since then in establishing the diverse biological roles of WRKY transcription factors in plant growth, development, and responses to biotic and abiotic stress. Despite the functional diversity, almost all analyzed WRKY proteins recognize the TTGACC/T W-box sequences and, therefore, mechanisms other than mere recognition of the core W-box promoter elements are necessary to achieve the regulatory specificity of WRKY transcription factors. Research over the past several years has revealed that WRKY transcription factors physically interact with a wide range of proteins with roles in signaling, transcription, and chromatin remodeling. Studies of WRKY-interacting proteins have provided important insights into the regulation and mode of action of members of the important family of transcription factors. It has also emerged that the slightly varied WRKY domains and other protein motifs conserved within each of the seven WRKY subfamilies participate in protein–protein interactions and mediate complex functional interactions between WRKY proteins and between WRKY and other regulatory proteins in the modulation of important biological processes. In this review, we summarize studies of protein–protein interactions for WRKY transcription factors and discuss how the interacting partners contribute, at different levels, to the establishment of the complex regulatory and functional network of WRKY transcription factors.

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