Emerging evidence suggests that the molecular mechanisms driving the responses of plants to environmental stresses are associated with specific chromatin modifications. Here, we demonstrate that the Arabidopsis trithorax-like factor ATX1, which trimethylates histone H3 at lysine 4 (H3K4me3), is involved in dehydration stress signaling in both abscisic acid (ABA)-dependent and ABA-independent pathways. The loss of function of ATX1 results in decreased germination rates, larger stomatal apertures, more rapid transpiration and decreased tolerance to dehydration stress in atx1 plants. This deficiency is caused in part by reduced ABA biosynthesis in atx1 plants resulting from decreased transcript levels from NCED3, which encodes a key enzyme controlling ABA production. Dehydration stress increased ATX1 binding to NCED3, and ATX1 was required for the increased levels of NCED3 transcripts and nucleosomal H3K4me3 that occurred during dehydration stress. Mechanistically, ATX1 affected the quantity of RNA polymerase II bound to NCED3. By upregulating NCED3 transcription and ABA production, ATX1 influenced ABA-regulated pathways and genes. ATX1 also affected the expression of ABA-independent genes, implicating ATX1 in diverse dehydration stress-response mechanisms in Arabidopsis.
© 2011 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.