A WUSCHEL Homeobox Transcription Factor, OsWOX13, Enhances Drought Tolerance and Triggers Early Flowering in Rice
Pham-Thi Minh-Thu1,6, Joung Sug Kim1,6, Songhwa Chae1, Kyong Mi Jun2, Gang-Seob Lee3, Dong-Eun Kim4, Jong-Joo Cheong5, Sang Ik Song1, Baek Hie Nahm1,2, and Yeon-Ki Kim1,*
1Department of Bioscience and Bioinformatics, Myongji University, Yongin 17058, Korea, 2Genomics Genetics Institute, GreenGene Biotech Inc., Yongin 17058, Korea, 3Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, National Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Jeonju 54875, Korea, 4Department of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Konkuk University, Seoul 05029, Korea, 5Center for Food and Bioconvergence, Seoul National University, Seoul 08826, Korea, 6These authors contributed equally to this work.
*Correspondence: kim750a11@gmail.com
Received May 11, 2018; Revised June 14, 2018; Accepted June 2, 2018.; Published online July 30, 2018.
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Plants have evolved strategies to cope with drought stress by maximizing physiological capacity and adjusting developmental processes such as flowering time. The WOX13 orthologous group is the most conserved among the clade of WOX homeodomain-containing proteins and is found to function in both drought stress and flower development. In this study, we isolated and characterized OsWOX13 from rice. OsWOX13 was regulated spatially in vegetative organs but temporally in flowers and seeds. Overexpression of OsWOX13 (OsWOX13-ov) in rice under the rab21 promoter resulted in drought resistance and early flowering by 7-10 days. Screening of gene expression profiles in mature leaf and panicles of OsWOX13-ov showed a broad spectrum of effects on biological processes, such as abiotic and biotic stresses, exerting a cross-talk between responses. Protein binding microarray and electrophoretic mobility shift assay analyses supported ATTGATTG as the putative cis-element binding of OsWOX13. OsDREB1A and OsDREB1F, drought stress response transcription factors, contain ATTGATTG motif(s) in their promoters and are preferentially expressed in OsWOX13-ov. In addition, Heading date 3a and OsMADS14, regulators in the flowering pathway and development, were enhanced in OsWOX13-ov. These results suggest that OsWOX13 mediates the stress response and early flowering and, thus, may be a regulator of genes involved in drought escape.
Keywords: drought, early flowering, escape, Hd3a, OsWOX13, vascular tissue

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