Background: The heat shock response of Arabidopsis thaliana is dependent upon a complex regulatory network involving twenty-one known transcription factors and four heat shock protein families. It is known that heat shock proteins (Hsps) and transcription factors (Hsfs) are involved in cellular response to various forms of stress besides heat. However, the role of Hsps and Hsfs under cold and non-thermal stress conditions is not well understood, and it is unclear which types of stress interact least and most strongly with Hsp and Hsf response pathways. To address this issue, we have analyzed transcriptional response profiles of Arabidopsis Hsfs and Hsps to a range of abiotic and biotic stress treatments (heat, cold, osmotic stress, salt, drought, genotoxic stress, ultraviolet light, oxidative stress, wounding, and pathogen infection) in both above and below-ground plant tissues.
Results: All stress treatments interact with Hsf and Hsp response pathways to varying extents, suggesting considerable cross-talk between heat and non-heat stress regulatory networks. In general, Hsf and Hsp expression was strongly induced by heat, cold, salt, and osmotic stress, while other types of stress exhibited family or tissue-specific response patterns. With respect to the Hsp20 protein family, for instance, large expression responses occurred under all types of stress, with striking similarity among expression response profiles. Several genes belonging to the Hsp20, Hsp70 and Hsp100 families were specifically upregulated twelve hours after wounding in root tissue, and exhibited a parallel expression response pattern during recovery from heat stress. Among all Hsf and Hsp families, large expression responses occurred under ultraviolet-B light stress in aerial tissue (shoots) but not subterranean tissue (roots).
Conclusion: Our findings show that Hsf and Hsp family member genes represent an interaction point between multiple stress response pathways, and therefore warrant functional analysis under conditions apart from heat shock treatment. In addition, our analysis revealed several family and tissue-specific heat shock gene expression patterns that have not been previously described. These results have implications regarding the molecular basis of cross-tolerance in plant species, and raise new questions to be pursued in future experimental studies of the Arabidopsis heat shock response network.