BACKGROUND: To combat infection to biotic stress plants elicit the biosynthesis of numerous natural products, many of which are valuable pharmaceutical compounds. Jasmonate is a central regulator of defense response to pathogens and accumulation of specialized metabolites. Catharanthus roseus produces a large number of terpenoid indole alkaloids (TIAs) and is an excellent model for understanding the regulation of this class of valuable compounds. Recent work illustrates a possible role for the Catharanthus WRKY transcription factors (TFs) in regulating TIA biosynthesis. In Arabidopsis and other plants, the WRKY TF family is also shown to play important role in controlling tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses, as well as secondary metabolism.

RESULTS: Here, we describe the WRKY TF families in response to jasmonate in Arabidopsis and Catharanthus. Publically available Arabidopsis microarrays revealed at least 30% (22 of 72) of WRKY TFs respond to jasmonate treatments. Microarray analysis identified at least six jasmonate responsive Arabidopsis WRKY genes (AtWRKY7, AtWRKY20, AtWRKY26, AtWRKY45, AtWRKY48, and AtWRKY72) that have not been previously reported. The Catharanthus WRKY TF family is comprised of at least 48 members. Phylogenetic clustering reveals 11 group I, 32 group II, and 5 group III WRKY TFs. Furthermore, we found that at least 25% (12 of 48) were jasmonate responsive, and 75% (9 of 12) of the jasmonate responsive CrWRKYs are orthologs of AtWRKYs known to be regulated by jasmonate.

CONCLUSION: Overall, the CrWRKY family, ascertained from transcriptome sequences, contains approximately 75% of the number of WRKYs found in other sequenced asterid species (pepper, tomato, potato, and bladderwort). Microarray and transcriptomic data indicate that expression of WRKY TFs in Arabidopsis and Catharanthus are under tight spatio-temporal and developmental control, and potentially have a significant role in jasmonate signaling. Profiling of CrWRKY expression in response to jasmonate treatment revealed potential associations with secondary metabolism. This study provides a foundation for further characterization of WRKY TFs in jasmonate responses and regulation of natural product biosynthesis.

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Published in BMC Genomics, v. 15.

© 2014 Schluttenhofer et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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