Heat shock transcription factors involved in seed desiccation tolerance and longevity retard vegetative senescence in transgenic tobacco.

PMID 26021607


Transcription factors normally expressed in sunflower seeds delayed vegetative senescence induced by severe stress in transgenic tobacco. This revealed a novel connection between seed heat shock factors, desiccation tolerance and vegetative longevity. HaHSFA9 and HaHSFA4a coactivate a genetic program that, in sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.), contributes to seed longevity and desiccation tolerance. We have shown that overexpression of HaHSFA9 in transgenic tobacco seedlings resulted in tolerance to drastic dehydration and oxidative stress. Overexpression of HaHSFA9 alone was linked to a remarkable protection of the photosynthetic apparatus. In addition, the combined overexpression of HaHSFA9 and HaHSFA4a enhanced all these stress-resistance phenotypes. Here, we find that HaHSFA9 confers protection against damage induced by different stress conditions that accelerate vegetative senescence during different stages of development. Seedlings and plants that overexpress HaHSFA9 survived lethal treatments of dark-induced senescence. HaHSFA9 overexpression induced resistance to effects of culture under darkness for several weeks. Only some homoiochlorophyllous resurrection plants are able to withstand this experimental severe stress condition. The combined overexpression of HaHSFA9 and HaHSFA4a did not result in further slowing of dark-induced seedling senescence. However, combined expression of the two transcription factors caused improved recovery of the photosynthetic organs of seedlings after lethal dark treatments. At later stages of vegetative development, HaHSFA9 delayed the appearance of senescence symptoms in leaves of plants grown under normal illumination. This delay was observed under either control or stress treatments. Thus, HaHSFA9 delayed both natural and stress-induced leaf senesce. These novel observations connect transcription factors involved in desiccation tolerance with leaf longevity.