Researchers, led by Ahmed Bahieldin from the King Abdulaziz University in
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, aimed to study the role of transcription
factors (TFs) expressed by genes related to programmed cell death (PCD)
during salt stress. The team focused on the superfamily of ethylene
responsive factor (AP2/ERF) since it is involved in the response to biotic
and abiotic stimuli as well as to programmed cell death (PCD).
Tobacco (Nicotiana benthamiana) leaves were exposed to oxalic acid to induce
PCD. Genes that were upregulated after two hours of treatment and known to
be involved in PCD were used to select TFs. Knockdown mutants of these TFs
were then generated via virus induced gene silencing (VIGS) in tobacco to
know their roles during PCD.
Two TFs, namely ERF109 and TFIID5, were identified and were tested in
Arabidopsis. Analysis of the knockout and overexpressing lines showed that
ERF109 expression confers salt tolerance as well as inhibits PCD in plants.
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