Background: Isoprenylcysteine methylesterases (ICME) demethylate prenylated protein in eukaryotic cell. Until now, knowledge about their molecular information, localization and expression pattern is largely unavailable in plant species. One ICME in Arabidopsis, encoded by At5g15860, has been identified recently. Over-expression of At5g15860 caused an ABA hypersensitive phenotype in transgenic Arabidopsis plants, indicating that it functions as a positive regulator of ABA signaling. Moreover, ABA induced the expression of this gene in Arabidopsis seedlings. The current study extends these findings by examining the sub-cellular localization, expression profiling, and physiological functions of ICME and two other ICME-like proteins, ICME-LIKE1 and ICME-LIKE2, which were encoded by two related genes At1g26120 and At3g02410, respectively.
Results: Bioinformatics investigations showed that the ICME and other two ICME-like homologs comprise a small subfamily of carboxylesterase (EC 220.127.116.11) in Arabidopsis. Sub-cellular localization of GFP tagged ICME and its homologs showed that the ICME and ICME-like proteins are intramembrane proteins predominantly localizing in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Golgi apparatus. Semi-quantitative and real-time quantitative PCR revealed that the ICME and ICME-like genes are expressed in all examined tissues, including roots, rosette leaves, cauline leaves, stems, flowers, and siliques, with differential expression levels. Within the gene family, the base transcript abundance of ICME-LIKE2 gene is very low with higher expression in reproductive organs (flowers and siliques). Time-course analysis uncovered that both ICME and ICME-like genes are up-regulated by mannitol, NaCl and ABA treatment, with ICME showing the highest level of up-regulation by these treatments. Heat stress resulted in up-regulation of the ICME gene significantly but down-regulation of the ICME-LIKE1 and ICME-LIKE2 genes. Cold and dehydration stimuli led to no significant change of both ICME and ICME-like gene expression. Mutant icme-like2-1 showed increased sensitivity to ABA but slightly decreased sensitivity to salt and osmotic stresses during seed germination.
Conclusions: It is concluded that the ICME family is involved in stress and ABA signaling in Arabidopsis, probably through mediating the process of demethylating prenylated proteins. Identification of these prenylated proteins will help to better understand the significance of protein prenylation in Planta.