A glucocorticoid-inducible transcription system causes severe growth defects in Arabidopsis and induces defense-related genes

Plant J. 1999 Oct;20(1):127-33. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-313x.1999.00575.x.


A glucocorticoid-inducible transcription system was employed to control the expression of AtEBP, an Arabidopsis transcription factor. A number of the transgenic AtEBP lines had developmental and growth defects when grown on dexamethasone (DEX), a strong synthetic glucocorticoid. However, these growth defects were not confined to the AtEBP lines but were observed with other transgenic lines that were generated using the same system, including empty vector lines. In about 25% of the AtEBP or empty vector transgenic lines, these growth defects were severe and in some cases led to death. As AtEBP has been linked to the plant defense response, the expression of specific defense-related genes, including a number of pathogenesis-related (PR) genes was also examined. PDF1.2, a plant defensin gene, was strongly induced in all transgenic lines examined following treatment with DEX, including empty vector lines that did not show any observable DEX-induced growth defect. PR-5 was induced to a lesser extent in all the lines, while the expression of PR-1, PR-2 and phenylalanine ammonia-lyase 3 (PAL3) did not change significantly. While the induction of the AtEBP transgene and PDF1.2 had similar DEX concentration requirements, the kinetics of induction differed significantly, with the AtEBP transgene being induced within 1 h and PDF1.2 only being induced between 24 and 48 h. Although the molecular mechanisms underlying the growth defects and changes in gene expression remain to be determined, these changes appear to result from the glucocorticoid-inducible system itself, and may therefore limit the usefulness of this system for controlling gene expression in Arabidopsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / drug effects
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / drug effects
  • Genes, Plant
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects


  • DNA Primers
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Transcription Factors
  • Dexamethasone