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Elongator Epigenetic gene regulation in plants in varying light conditions

Researchers are investigating a protein complex, Elongator, that plays a major role in plant response to light.
Elongator Epigenetic gene regulation in plants in varying light conditions
Transcription is a vital process for the production of functional gene products such as proteins or RNA. RNA polymerase II (RNAP) drives the transcription process to initiate gene expression and convert DNA contents into RNA. Elongator associates with the RNAP enzyme to enable the elongation process in transcription by modifying histones. Histones are proteins that associate with DNA in the cell nucleus and help maintain the chromosome structure.

Although Elongator is a positive regulator of plant growth, little is known about the genes targeted by Elongator and its protein interactors. The EU-funded LIGHTER project investigated the role and interactions of Elongator during the transcription process in plants in response to different light conditions. The hypocotyl assay was used to assess the response to darkness, red, far-red and blue light conditions.

LIGHTER scientists tested and compared the seedlings of plants with Elongator-mutant strains to wild type plants using micro-arrays to analyse their transcriptome. Transcriptome represents all the RNA present inside a cell. The mutant seedlings were characterised based on their structure and form as well as response to light. The study of plants' development in light and dark conditions revealed those light-sensitive genes that are targeted by Elongator. Results also revealed how Elongator interacts with photoreceptors (such as the phytochromes A and B) along with the associated signalling pathways.

Tandem affinity purification (TAP) followed by mass spectrometry enabled the identification of 50 potential protein interactors of Elongator. These included RNA binding proteins, sub-units of the 26S proteasome and light-related proteins.

Project outcomes should enable the elucidation of epigenetic gene regulation in plants when exposed to different light conditions due to histone alterations by Elongator. Comprehending the role of Elongator and its interactions with proteins, photoreceptors and light-induced signalling pathways will help in the development of accurate models. It is hoped that fundamental processes like the circadian clock, photomorphogenesis, photosynthesis and leaf development can be adequately described in these models.

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