BACKGROUND: NAC transcription factors contain five highly conserved subdomains which are required for protein dimerisation and DNA binding. Few residues within these subdomains have been identified as essential for protein function, and fewer still have been shown to be of biological relevance in planta. Here we use a positive regulator of senescence in wheat, NAM-A1, to test the impact of missense mutations at specific, highly conserved residues of the NAC domain on protein function.
RESULTS: We identified missense mutations in five highly conserved residues of the NAC domain of NAM-A1 in a tetraploid TILLING population. TILLING lines containing these mutations, alongside synonymous and non-conserved mutation controls, were grown under glasshouse conditions and scored for senescence. Four of the five mutations showed a significant and consistent delay in peduncle senescence but had no consistent effects on flag leaf senescence. All four mutant alleles with the delayed senescence phenotype also lost the ability to interact with the homoeolog NAM-B1 in a yeast two-hybrid assay. Two of these residues were previously shown to be involved in NAC domain function in Arabidopsis, suggesting conservation of residue function between species. Three of these four alleles led to an attenuated cell death response compared to wild-type NAM-A1 when transiently over-expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana. One of these mutations was further tested under field conditions, in which there was a significant and consistent delay in both peduncle and leaf senescence.
CONCLUSIONS: We combined field and glasshouse studies of a series of mutant alleles with biochemical analyses to identify four residues of the NAC domain which are required for NAM-A1 function and protein interaction. We show that mutations in these residues lead to a gradient of phenotypes, raising the possibility of developing allelic series of mutations for traits of agronomic importance. We also show that mutations in NAM-A1 more severely impact peduncle senescence, compared to the more commonly studied flag leaf senescence, highlighting this as an area deserving of further study. The results from this integrated approach provide strong evidence that conserved residues within the functional domains of NAC transcription factors have biological significance in planta.
- NAC domain
- Yeast two hybrid
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science