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Rational design and testing of abiotic stress-inducible synthetic promoters from poplar cis-regulatory elements...

by Junhyung Lee
Publication Type
Journal Name
Plant Biotechnology Journal
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1354 to 1369

Abiotic stress resistance traits may be especially crucial for sustainable production of bioenergy tree crops. Here, we show the performance of a set of rationally designed osmotic-related and salt stress-inducible synthetic promoters for use in hybrid poplar. De novo motif-detecting algorithms yielded 30 water-deficit (SD) and 34 salt stress (SS) candidate DNA motifs from relevant poplar transcriptomes. We selected three conserved water-deficit stress motifs (SD18, SD13 and SD9) found in 16 co-expressed gene promoters, and we discovered a well-conserved motif for salt response (SS16). We characterized several native poplar stress-inducible promoters to enable comparisons with our synthetic promoters. Fifteen synthetic promoters were designed using various SD and SS subdomains, in which heptameric repeats of five-to-eight subdomain bases were fused to a common core promoter downstream, which, in turn, drove a green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene for reporter assays. These 15 synthetic promoters were screened by transient expression assays in poplar leaf mesophyll protoplasts and agroinfiltrated Nicotiana benthamiana leaves under osmotic stress conditions. Twelve synthetic promoters were induced in transient expression assays with a GFP readout. Of these, five promoters (SD18-1, SD9-2, SS16-1, SS16-2 and SS16-3) endowed higher inducibility under osmotic stress conditions than native promoters. These five synthetic promoters were stably transformed into Arabidopsis thaliana to study inducibility in whole plants. Herein, SD18-1 and SD9-2 were induced by water-deficit stress, whereas SS16-1, SS16-2 and SS16-3 were induced by salt stress. The synthetic biology design pipeline resulted in five synthetic promoters that outperformed endogenous promoters in transgenic plants.