Characterisation of the TaNF-Y family of transcription factors in wheat

Stephenson, Troy James (2011) Characterisation of the TaNF-Y family of transcription factors in wheat. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Light plays a unique role for plants as it is both a source of energy for growth and a signal for development. Light captured by the pigments in the light harvesting complexes is used to drive the synthesis of the chemical energy required for carbon assimilation. The light perceived by photoreceptors activates effectors, such as transcription factors (TFs), which modulate the expression of light-responsive genes. Recently, it has been speculated that increasing the photosynthetic rate could further improve the yield potential of three carbon (C3) crops such as wheat. However, little is currently known about the transcriptional regulation of photosynthesis genes, particularly in crop species. Nuclear factor Y (NF-Y) TF is a functionally diverse regulator of growth and development in the model plant species, with demonstrated roles in embryo development, stress response, flowering time and chloroplast biogenesis. Furthermore, a light-responsive NF-Y binding site (CCAAT-box) is present in the promoter of a spinach photosynthesis gene. As photosynthesis genes are co-regulated by light and co-regulated genes typically have similar regulatory elements in their promoters, it seems likely that other photosynthesis genes would also have light-responsive CCAAT-boxes. This provided the impetus to investigate the NF-Y TF in bread wheat. This thesis is focussed on wheat NF-Y members that have roles in light-mediated gene regulation with an emphasis on their involvement in the regulation of photosynthesis genes. NF-Y is a heterotrimeric complex, comprised of the three subunits NF-YA, NF-YB and NF-YC. Unlike the mammalian and yeast counterparts, each of the three subunits is encoded by multiple genes in Arabidopsis. The initial step taken in this study was the identification of the wheat NF-Y family (Chapter 3). A search of the current wheat nucleotide sequence databases identified 37 NF-Y genes (10 NF-YA, 11 NF-YB, 14 NF-YC & 2 Dr1). Phylogenetic analysis revealed that each of the three wheat NF-Y (TaNF-Y) subunit families could be divided into 4-5 clades based on their conserved core regions. Outside of the core regions, eleven motifs were identified to be conserved between Arabidopsis, rice and wheat NF-Y subunit members. The expression profiles of TaNF-Y genes were constructed using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Some TaNF-Y subunit members had little variation in their transcript levels among the organs, while others displayed organ-predominant expression profiles, including those expressed mainly in the photosynthetic organs. To investigate their potential role in light-mediated gene regulation, the light responsiveness of the TaNF-Y genes were examined (Chapters 4 and 5). Two TaNF-YB and five TaNF-YC members were markedly upregulated by light in both the wheat leaves and seedling shoots. To identify the potential target genes of the light-upregulated NF-Y subunit members, a gene expression correlation analysis was conducted using publically available Affymetrix Wheat Genome Array datasets. This analysis revealed that the transcript expression levels of TaNF-YB3 and TaNF-YC11 were significantly correlated with those of photosynthesis genes. These correlated express profiles were also observed in the quantitative RT-PCR dataset from wheat plants grown under light and dark conditions. Sequence analysis of the promoters of these wheat photosynthesis genes revealed that they were enriched with potential NF-Y binding sites (CCAAT-box). The potential role of TaNF-YB3 in the regulation of photosynthetic genes was further investigated using a transgenic approach (Chapter 5). Transgenic wheat lines constitutively expressing TaNF-YB3 were found to have significantly increased expression levels of photosynthesis genes, including those encoding light harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding proteins, photosystem I reaction centre subunits, a chloroplast ATP synthase subunit and glutamyl-tRNA reductase (GluTR). GluTR is a rate-limiting enzyme in the chlorophyll biosynthesis pathway. In association with the increased expression of the photosynthesis genes, the transgenic lines had a higher leaf chlorophyll content, increased photosynthetic rate and had a more rapid early growth rate compared to the wild-type wheat. In addition to its role in the regulation of photosynthesis genes, TaNF-YB3 overexpression lines flower on average 2-days earlier than the wild-type (Chapter 6). Quantitative RT-PCR analysis showed that there was a 13-fold increase in the expression level of the floral integrator, TaFT. The transcript levels of other downstream genes (TaFT2 and TaVRN1) were also increased in the transgenic lines. Furthermore, the transcript levels of TaNF-YB3 were significantly correlated with those of constans (CO), constans-like (COL) and timing of chlorophyll a/b-binding (CAB) expression 1 [TOC1; (CCT)] domain-containing proteins known to be involved in the regulation of flowering time. To summarise the key findings of this study, 37 NF-Y genes were identified in the crop species wheat. An in depth analysis of TaNF-Y gene expression profiles revealed that the potential role of some light-upregulated members was in the regulation of photosynthetic genes. The involvement of TaNF-YB3 in the regulation of photosynthesis genes was supported by data obtained from transgenic wheat lines with increased constitutive expression of TaNF-YB3. The overexpression of TaNF-YB3 in the transgenic lines revealed this NF-YB member is also involved in the fine-tuning of flowering time. These data suggest that the NF-Y TF plays an important role in light-mediated gene regulation in wheat.

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ID Code: 47525
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Collet, Chris, Xue, Gang-Ping, & McIntyre, Lynne
Keywords: bread wheat, CCAAT-box, CCAAT-binding factor, expression profile, flowering time, gene regulation, light response, nuclear factor Y, photosynthesis, phylogeny, target gene, transcriptional regulation, Triticum aestivum, wheat
Divisions: Past > Schools > Cell & Molecular Biosciences
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 07 Dec 2011 04:39
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2011 04:39

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