As the overall global mean surface temperature is increasing due to climate change, plant adaptation to those stressful conditions is of utmost importance for their survival. Plants are sessile organisms, thus to compensate for their lack of mobility, they evolved a variety of mechanisms enabling them to flexibly adjust their physiological, growth and developmental processes to fluctuating temperatures and to survive in harsh environments. While these unique adaptation abilities provide an important evolutionary advantage, overall modulation of plant growth and developmental program due to non-optimal temperature negatively affects biomass production, crop productivity or sensitivity to pathogens. Thus, understanding molecular processes underlying plant adaptation to increased temperature can provide important resources for breeding strategies to ensure sufficient agricultural food production. An increase in ambient temperature by a few degrees leads to profound changes in organ growth including enhanced hypocotyl elongation, expansion of petioles, hyponastic growth of leaves and cotyledons, collectively named thermomorphogenesis (Casal & Balasubramanian, 2019). Auxin, one of the best-studied growth hormones, plays an essential role in this process by direct activation of transcriptional and non-transcriptional processes resulting in elongation growth (Majda & Robert, 2018).To modulate hypocotyl growth in response to high ambient temperature (hAT), auxin needs to be redistributed accordingly. PINs, auxin efflux transporters, are key components of the polar auxin transport (PAT) machinery, which controls the amount and direction of auxin translocated in the plant tissues and organs(Adamowski & Friml, 2015). Hence, PIN-mediated transport is tightly linked with thermo-morphogenesis, and interference with PAT through either chemical or genetic means dramatically affecting the adaptive responses to hAT. Intriguingly, despite the key role of PIN mediated transport in growth response to hAT, whether and how PINs at the level of expression adapt to fluctuation in temperature is scarcely understood. With genetic, molecular and advanced bio-imaging approaches, we demonstrate the role of PIN auxin transporters in the regulation of hypocotyl growth in response to hAT. We show that via adjustment of PIN3, PIN4 and PIN7 expression in cotyledons and hypocotyls, auxin distribution is modulated thereby determining elongation pattern of epidermal cells at hAT. Furthermore, we identified three Zinc-Finger (ZF) transcription factors as novel molecular components of the thermo-regulatory network, which through negative regulation of PIN transcription adjust the transport of auxin at hAT. Our results suggest that the ZF-PIN module might be a part of the negative feedback loop attenuating the activity of the thermo-sensing pathway to restrain exaggerated growth and developmental responses to hAT.
I would like to acknowledge ISTA and all the people from the Scientific Service Units and at ISTA, in particular Dorota Jaworska for excellent technical and scientific support as well as ÖAW for funding my research for over 3 years (DOC ÖAW Fellowship PR1022OEAW02).
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