BOLT, AN AP2/ERF TRANSCRIPTION FACTOR, REGULATES ABIOTIC STRESS AND DEFENSE RESPONSES IN ARABIODPSIS THALIANA
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Biotic and abiotic stresses negatively affect plant growth and development, hence decrease productivity. Many AP2/ERF family transcription factors in plants have important roles in stress response signaling although most have not yet been studied. Here I show that expression of an Arabidopsis thaliana AP2/ERF family member, which I call BOLT, is regulated by a MAPK pathway that includes MEKK1, MKK1, MKK2, and MPK4, and has roles in both biotic and abiotic stress response as well influencing growth and development. In this thesis, I examined BOLT’s gene expression pattern and protein localization, using GUS and YFP reporter genes respectively, measured its expression in response to biotic and abiotic stress and plant hormones using RT-qPCR, examined phenotypes by generating overexpressing and RNAi lines, and analyzed its effect on downstream gene expression using a microarray at time points after inducing BOLT expression. I found that BOLT is expressed in various plant tissues and the protein localizes to nuclear bodies as demonstrated in onion epidermal cells. Knockdown (RNAi) plants exhibit greater drought tolerance and are larger than wild type under low light conditions, while the overexpressors exhibit a dramatic early flowering phenotype and are small and weak under low light. Gene expression analysis suggests BOLT regulates genes involved in photosynthesis, hormone biosynthesis and signaling, and defense, many of which are also regulated in the MAPK pathway. Increased BOLT expression downregulates two discreet systems, cyclic electron flow and glycine cleavage, components of photosynthesis and photorespiration, respectively, which are two systems that are important under low light conditions. Taking these results together, I conclude that BOLT functions downstream of a stress responsive MAPK pathway and regulates a variety of growth- and stress-related genes necessary to balance growth and defense in response to biotic or abiotic stresses, or low light conditions.