Published on Sat Oct 09 2021

The effector FEP3/IRON MAN1 modulates interaction between BRUTUS-LIKE1 and bHLH subgroup IVb and IVc proteins

Lichtblau, D. M., Schwarz, B., Baby, D., Endres, C., Sieberg, C., Bauer, P.

Plants use the micronutrient iron (Fe) efficiently to balance the requirements for Fe during growth with its potential cytotoxic effects. A cascade of basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors is initiated by bHLH proteins of the subgroups IVb and IVc. This induces more than 50 genes in higher plants that can be grouped in co-expression clusters.

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Abstract

Plants use the micronutrient iron (Fe) efficiently to balance the requirements for Fe during growth with its potential cytotoxic effects. A cascade of basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors is initiated by bHLH proteins of the subgroups IVb and IVc. This induces more than 50 genes in higher plants that can be grouped in co-expression clusters. Gene co-expression networks contain information on functional protein interactomes. We conducted a targeted yeast two-hybrid screen with pairwise combinations of 23 proteins stemming from previously characterized Fe-deficiency-induced gene co-expression clusters and regulators. We identified novel and described interactions, as well as interaction hubs with multiple interactions within the network. We found that BRUTUS-LIKE E3 ligases (BTSL1, BTSL2) interacted with basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors of the subgroups IVb and IVc including PYE, bHLH104 and ILR3, and with small FE UPTAKE-INDUCING PEPTIDE3/IRON MAN1 (FEP3/IMA1). Through deletion studies and with support of molecular docking, we mapped the interaction sites to three-amino-acid regions in BTSL1 and FEP3/IMA1. The FEP3/IMA1 active residues are present in interacting sites of the bHLH IVc factors. FEP3/IMA1 attenuated interaction of BTSL1 with bHLH proteins in a quantitative yeast three-hybrid assay suggesting that it is an inhibitor. Co-expression of BTSL1 and bHLH IVb and IVc factors uncovered unexpected patterns of subcellular localization. Combining deletion mapping, protein interaction and physiological analysis, we discuss the model that FEP3/IMA1 is a small effector protein inhibiting BTSL1/BTSL2-mediated degradation of bHLH subgroup IVb and IVc proteins.