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Tnt1 Retrotransposon Expression And Ethylene Phytohormone Interplay Mediates Tobacco (Nicotiana Tabacum) Defense Responses

D. Quintanilha
Published 2014 · Biology

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Tnt1 retrotransposon expression and ethylene phytohormone interplay mediates tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) defense responses Tnt1 is a transcriptionally active LTR-retrotransposon, present in over 600 copies in the Nicotiana tabacum genome. Under normal growth conditions, Tnt1 expression is limited to basal levels, but its expression is further induced under biotic and abiotic stresses. Transgenic tobacco plants (HP plants) expressing a Tnt1 reverse transcriptase hairpin were generated. These showed pleiotropic phenotypes such as cell death spots on the leaves and callose deposition and other severe abnormal development in aerial and underground portions. RNA sequencing of leaves with cell death spots revealed a rewiring of transcriptional regulatory networks related to stress responses exclusive to HPs. Among the positively modulated genes were ethylene synthesis and response cascade genes. The objective of the present work was to unravel the relation observed between Tnt1 and ethylene, generating a model. The results obtained suggest that HP seedlings and plants have increased ethylene synthesis when compared to the wildtype. Folding prediction of Tnt1 messenger RNA allowed the identification of ethylene-responsive sequences in putative stem loop locations. Thus it is possible that Tnt1 expression can produce small RNAs targeted to sequences present in the Tnt1 retrotransposon itself as well as at the promoter region of other ethylene responsive genes. Quantification of the expression of Tnt1 and ethylene related genes revealed “phase opposition” expression kinetics in the HPs, which led us to hypothesize that there might be an antagonistic relationship between the expression of Tnt1 and the expression of ethylene responsive genes involved in plant defense responses. Our findings suggest that Tnt1 could generate sRNAs that exerts transcriptional control over itself as well as other genes. Our model establishes a completely new biological role for a retrotransposon: Tnt1 would provide feedback control to ethylene-mediated gene regulation in tobacco defense responses, bringing the system back to a homeostatic condition and turning the defense responses down.
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