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The Cys-Arg/N-end rule pathway is a general sensor of abiotic stress in flowering plants

Vicente, Jorge; Mendiondo, Guillermina M.; Movahedi, Mahsa; Peirats-Llobet, Marta; Juan, Yu-ting; Shen, Yu-yen; Dambire, Charlene; Smart, Katherine; Rodriguez, Pedro L.; Charng, Yee-yung; Gray, Julie E.; Holdsworth, Michael J.


Jorge Vicente

Mahsa Movahedi

Marta Peirats-Llobet

Yu-ting Juan

Yu-yen Shen

Charlene Dambire

Katherine Smart

Pedro L. Rodriguez

Yee-yung Charng

Julie E. Gray


Abiotic stresses impact negatively on plant growth, profoundly affecting yield and quality of crops. Although much is known about plant responses, very little is understood at the molecular level about the initial sensing of environmental stress. In plants, hypoxia (low oxygen, which occurs during flooding) is directly sensed by the Cys-Arg/N-end rule pathway of ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis, through oxygen-dependent degradation of group VII Ethylene Response Factor transcription factors (ERFVIIs) via amino-terminal (Nt-) cysteine [1, 2]. Using Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and barley (Hordeum vulgare), we show that the pathway regulates plant responses to multiple abiotic stresses. In Arabidopsis, genetic analyses revealed that response to these stresses is controlled by N-end rule regulation of ERFVII function. Oxygen sensing via the Cys-Arg/N-end rule in higher eukaryotes is linked through a single mechanism to nitric oxide (NO) sensing [3, 4]. In plants, the major mechanism of NO synthesis is via NITRATE REDUCTASE (NR), an enzyme of nitrogen assimilation [5]. Here, we identify a negative relationship between NR activity and NO levels and stabilization of an artificial Nt-Cys substrate and ERFVII function in response to environmental changes. Furthermore, we show that ERFVIIs enhance abiotic stress responses via physical and genetic interactions with the chromatin-remodeling ATPase BRAHMA. We propose that plants sense multiple abiotic stresses through the Cys-Arg/N-end rule pathway either directly (via oxygen sensing) or indirectly (via NO sensing downstream of NR activity). This single mechanism can therefore integrate environment and response to enhance plant survival.


Vicente, J., Mendiondo, G. M., Movahedi, M., Peirats-Llobet, M., Juan, Y., Shen, Y., …Holdsworth, M. J. (2017). The Cys-Arg/N-end rule pathway is a general sensor of abiotic stress in flowering plants. Current Biology, 27(20), Article 3183-3190.e4.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 5, 2017
Online Publication Date Oct 12, 2017
Publication Date Oct 23, 2017
Deposit Date Sep 6, 2017
Publicly Available Date Oct 12, 2017
Journal Current Biology
Print ISSN 0960-9822
Electronic ISSN 1879-0445
Publisher Cell Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 20
Article Number 3183-3190.e4
Keywords N-end rule pathway; Abiotic stress response; ERFVII transcription factors; Proteolysis6; BRAHMA; Nitrate reductase; Nitric oxide
Public URL
Publisher URL


Flowering 1-s2.0-S0960982217311703-main.pdf (2.9 Mb)

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