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The ATAF1 transcription factor is a key regulator of aldehyde dehydrogenase 7B4 (ALDH7B4) gene expression in Arabidopsis thaliana


Main conclusions

ALDH7B4 expression contributes to abiotic stress tolerance. The NAC transcription factor ATAF1 is a main regulator of expression of the ALDH7B4 gene in Arabidopsis thaliana as shown by ATAF1 mutants.

The aldehyde dehydrogenase 7B4 (ALDH7B4) protein has important roles in detoxification of excessive aldehydes, elimination of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and inhibition of lipid peroxidation when plants are exposed to abiotic stress. However, the regulation of the expression of the ALDH7B4 gene under stress is largely unknown. Promoter studies revealed crucial cis-elements in the ALDH7B4 promoter in response to heat and stress combinations. Using a yeast one-hybrid assay, several NAC transcription factors, including ATAF1 were isolated. These transcription factors play an important role in plant adaptation to abiotic stress. ATAF1 activates the expression of the ALDH7B4 gene by directly binding to the promoter. Overexpression of ATAF1 in Arabidopsis plants results in elevated expression of ALDH7B4 in seeds, seedlings, and mature plants, whereas ATAF1 knock-out mutant plants abolished the expression of ALDH7B4. This study implies that ATAF1 may confer stress tolerance by up-regulating the target gene ALDH7B4.

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Aldehyde dehydrogenase


Arabidopsis transcription activation factor1




Dehydration-responsive element/C-repeat


Electrophoretic mobility shift assay


Fast agro-mediated seedling transformation


Heat shock element


NAM, ATAF1/2 and CUC2


Reactive oxygen species


Yeast one-hybrid


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Junyi Zhao acknowledges a fellowship from the China Scholarship Council (CSC). Part of the work was supported by the DFG funded graduate school GRK2064. We thank Dr. Qi Xie (Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China) for providing seeds of ATAF1 overexpressing and T-DNA insertion lines. We also thank Dr. Nobutaka Mitsuda (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Tsukuba, Japan) for providing the cDNA library for the yeast one-hybrid screen. The authors would like to thank C. Buchholz for growing plants, D. Mertens for providing the constructs Y1H: pLacZi-PL and pHISi-PH and T. Dieckmann for help with the Western blot.

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Correspondence to Dorothea Bartels.

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Zhao, J., Missihoun, T.D. & Bartels, D. The ATAF1 transcription factor is a key regulator of aldehyde dehydrogenase 7B4 (ALDH7B4) gene expression in Arabidopsis thaliana. Planta 248, 1017–1027 (2018).

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  • ALDH7B4 promoter
  • ATAF1 transcription factor
  • Gene expression
  • NAC transcription factor
  • Stress combinations