Cultivar-biased regulation of HSFA7 and HSFB4a govern high-temperature tolerance in tomato

Cultivar-biased regulation of HSFB4a and HSFA7 mediates heat stress tolerance/sensitivity in tomato. Reduced HSFB4a repressor levels and enhanced HSFA7 activator levels govern thermo-tolerance in tolerant cultivars. Abstract Heat shock factors (HSFs) are at the core of heat stress (HS) response in plants. However, the contribution of HSFs governing the inherent thermo-tolerance mechanism in tomato from sub-tropical hot climates is poorly understood. With the above aim, comparative expression profiles of the HSF family in a HS-tolerant (CLN1621L) and -sensitive cultivars (CA4 and Pusa Ruby) of tomato under HS revealed cultivar-biased regulation of an activator (HSFA7) and a repressor (HSFB4a) class HSF.

HSFA7 exhibited strong upregulation while HSFB4a showed downregulation in tolerant tomato cultivar upon HS. Functional characterization of HSFA7 and HSFB4a in a tolerant–sensitive cultivar pair by virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS)-based silencing and transient overexpression established them as a positive and a negative regulator of HS tolerance, respectively. Promoter:GUS reporter assays and promoter sequence analyses suggest heat-mediated transcriptional control of both the HSF genes in the contrasting cultivars.

Moreover, degradome data highlighted HSFB4a is a probable target of microRNA Sly-miR4200. Transient in-planta Sly-MIR4200-effector:HSFB4a-reporter assays showed miRNA-dependent target down-regulation. Chelation of miRNA by short-tandem-target-mimic of Sly-miR4200 increased target abundance, highlighting a link between Sly-miR4200 and HSFB4a. This miRNA has induced several folds upon HS in the tolerant cultivar where HSFB4a levels are reduced, thus exhibiting the inverse miR:target expression. Thus, we speculate that the alleviation of HSFB4a and increased HSFA7 levels govern thermo-tolerance in the tolerant cultivar by regulating downstream heat stress-responsive genes.

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Rao, Sombir & Das, Jaishri & Balyan, Sonia & Verma, Radhika & Mathur, Saloni. (2022). Cultivar-biased regulation of HSFA7 and HSFB4a govern high-temperature tolerance in tomato. Planta. 255. 10.1007/s00425-021-03813-y. 

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