Arabidopsis thaliana transcription factors bZIP19 and bZIP23 regulate the adaptation to zinc deficiency

Assuncao, A.G.L.; Herrero, E.; Lin, Y.F.; Huettel, B.; Talukdar, S.; Smaczniak, C.D.; Immink, R.G.H.; Eldik, M. van; Fiers, M.; Schat, H.; Aarts, M.G.M.


Zinc is an essential micronutrient for all living organisms. When facing a shortage in zinc supply, plants adapt by enhancing the zinc uptake capacity. The molecular regulators controlling this adaptation are not known. We present the identification of two closely related members of the Arabidopsis thaliana basic-region leucine-zipper (bZIP) transcription factor gene family, bZIP19 and bZIP23, that regulate the adaptation to low zinc supply. They were identified, in a yeast-one-hybrid screening, to associate to promoter regions of the zinc deficiency-induced ZIP4 gene of the Zrt- and Irt-related protein (ZIP) family of metal transporters. Although mutation of only one of the bZIP genes hardly affects plants, we show that the bzip19 bzip23 double mutant is hypersensitive to zinc deficiency. Unlike the wild type, the bzip19 bzip23 mutant is unable to induce the expression of a small set of genes that constitutes the primary response to zinc deficiency, comprising additional ZIP metal transporter genes. This set of target genes is characterized by the presence of one or more copies of a 10-bp imperfect palindrome in their promoter region, to which both bZIP proteins can bind. The bZIP19 and bZIP23 transcription factors, their target genes, and the characteristic cis zinc deficiency response elements they can bind to are conserved in higher plants. These findings are a significant step forward to unravel the molecular mechanism of zinc homeostasis in plants, allowing the improvement of zinc bio-fortification to alleviate human nutrition problems and phytoremediation strategies to clean contaminated soils