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Bacterium-enabled transient gene activation by artificial transcription factors for resolving gene regulation in maize

Zhao Mingxia; Peng Zhao; Qin Yang; Tamang Tej Man; Zhang Ling; Tian Bin; Chen Yueying; Liu Yan; Zhang Junli; Lin Guifang; Zheng Huakun; He Cheng; Lv Kaiwen; Klaus Alina; Marcon Caroline; Hochholdinger Frank; Trick Harold N.; Liu Yunjun; Cho Myeong-Je; Park Sunghun; Wei Hairong; Zheng Jun; White Frank F.; Liu Sanzhen. 

Plant Cell, 2023, IF 11.60



Understanding gene regulatory networks is essential to elucidate developmental processes and environmental responses. Here, we studied regulation of a maize (Zea mays) transcription factor gene using designer transcription activator-like effectors (dTALes), which are synthetic Type III TALes of the bacterial genus Xanthomonas and serve as inducers of disease susceptibility gene transcription in host cells. The maize pathogen Xanthomonas vasicola pv. vasculorum was used to introduce 2 independent dTALes into maize cells to induced expression of the gene glossy3 (gl3), which encodes a MYB transcription factor involved in biosynthesis of cuticular wax. RNA-seq analysis of leaf samples identified, in addition to gl3, 146 genes altered in expression by the 2 dTALes. Nine of the 10 genes known to be involved in cuticular wax biosynthesis were upregulated by at least 1 of the 2 dTALes. A gene previously unknown to be associated with gl3, Zm00001d017418, which encodes aldehyde dehydrogenase, was also expressed in a dTALe-dependent manner. A chemically induced mutant and a CRISPR-Cas9 mutant of Zm00001d017418 both exhibited glossy leaf phenotypes, indicating that Zm00001d017418 is involved in biosynthesis of cuticular waxes. Bacterial protein delivery of dTALes proved to be a straightforward and practical approach for the analysis and discovery of pathway-specific genes in maize. A bacterial protein delivery system for transient gene induction was used to study gene regulation in the cuticular wax biosynthesis pathway in maize.