Background: Although cytokinins have been known for decades to play important roles in the regulation of plant growth and development, our knowledge of the regulatory mechanism of endogenous content of specific cytokinins remains limited.
Methodology/principal findings: Here, we characterized two SOB five-like (SOFL) genes, AtSOFL1 and AtSOFL2, in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and showed that they acted redundantly in regulating specific cytokinin levels. Analysis of the translational fusion AtSOFL1:AtSOFL1-GUS and AtSOFL2:AtSOFL2-GUS indicated that AtSOFL1 and AtSOFL2 exhibited similar expression patterns. Both proteins were predominantly expressed in the vascular tissues of developing leaves, flowers and siliques, but barely detectable in roots and stems. Overexpression of either AtSOFL1 or AtSOFL2 led to increased cytokinin content and obvious corresponding mutant phenotypes for both transgenic seedlings and adult plants. In addition, overexpression and site-directed mutagenesis experiments demonstrated that the SOFL domains are necessary for AtSOFL2's overexpression phenotypes. Silencing or disrupting either AtSOFL1 or AtSOFL2 caused no obvious developmental defects. Endogenous cytokinin analysis, however, revealed that compared to the wild type control, the SOFL1-RNAi62 sofl2-1 double mutant accumulated lower levels of trans-zeatin riboside monophosphate (tZRMP) and N(6)-(Delta(2)-isopentenyl)adenosine monophosphate (iPRMP), which are biosynthetic intermediates of bioactive cytokinins. The double mutant also displayed decreased response to exogenous cytokinin in both callus-formation and inhibition-of-hypocotyl-elongation assays.
Conclusions/significance: Taken together, our data suggest that in plants AtSOFL1 and AtSOFL2 work redundantly as positive modulators in the fine-tuning of specific cytokinin levels as well as responsiveness.