LEUNIG, LEUNIG HOMOLOG, AND SEUSS ARE TRANSCRIPTIONAL CO-REPRESSORS THAT REGULATE FLOWER DEVELOPMENT, MUCILAGE SECRETION, AND PATHOGEN RESISTANCE
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Transcriptional repression is an important regulatory mechanism for development. My thesis focuses on dissecting the function of Groucho (Gro)/Transducin-Like Enhancer of split (TLE) family of transcriptional repressors in plant development. My work characterizes two Arabidopsis thaliana genes, LEUNIG (LUG), first discovered to repress transcription of the floral homeotic gene AGAMOUS (AG), and LEUNIG_HOMOLOG (LUH), a gene with the highest sequence similarity to LUG. To investigate the functional redundancy between LUG and LUH, I constructed and analyzed lug; luh double mutants, and concluded that both LUG and LUH repress AG expression in the flower, with LUG playing a more prominent role than LUH. The double mutant also revealed a previously unknown function of LUG and LUH in embryogenesis because lug-3; luh-1 double mutants are embryo lethal, while the single mutants develop normal embryos. During the course of this study, I developed a new genotyping method called Simple Allele-discriminating PCR (SAP), which is cost-effective, quick, and easy to perform. This method has greatly facilitated my research as well as others in the lab.
A second part of my thesis addresses the role of LUG and LUH in other developmental processes besides flower development. My data indicate that these two genes, like their counter parts in fungi and animals, act as "global co-repressors" in various developmental and physiological processes. My thesis work revealed that both co-repressors, together with its interacting protein SEUSS (SEU), repress the Salicylic Acid (SA) pathogen defense pathway. Although lug-3, luh-1, and seu-1> mutants induced PR1 expression at higher levels than wild-type, only lug-3 and seu-1 mutants were pathogen resistant. Furthermore, LUH functions as a positive regulator in seed mucilage secretion, a process important for proper seed germination, hydration, and dispersal. I propose a possible connection between the defect in mucilage secretion and pathogen defense in luh-1 mutant plants and seeds, which places the foundation for further investigation and may uncover mucilage secretion as a major defense mechanism. My thesis has provided important insights into how transcriptional co-repressors regulate diverse developmental and physiological pathways in higher plants.