Proteasome-mediated turnover of the transcriptional activator FIT is required for plant iron-deficiency responses

Plant J. 2011 Jun;66(6):1044-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2011.04565.x. Epub 2011 Apr 5.


Plants display a number of responses to low iron availability in order to increase iron uptake from the soil. In the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the ferric-chelate reductase FRO2 and the ferrous iron transporter IRT1 control iron entry from the soil into the root epidermis. To maintain iron homeostasis, the expression of FRO2 and IRT1 is tightly controlled by iron deficiency at the transcriptional level. The basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor FIT represents the most upstream actor known in the iron-deficiency signaling pathway, and directly regulates the expression of the root iron uptake machinery genes FRO2 and IRT1. However, how FIT is controlled by iron and acts to activate transcription of its targets remains obscure. Here we show that FIT mRNA and endogenous FIT protein accumulate in Arabidopsis roots upon iron deficiency. However, using plants constitutively expressing FIT, we observed that FIT protein accumulation is reduced in iron-limited conditions. This post-transcriptional regulation of FIT is perfectly synchronized with the accumulation of endogenous FIT and IRT1 proteins, and therefore is part of the early responses to low iron. We demonstrated that such regulation affects FIT protein stability under iron deficiency as a result of 26S proteasome-dependent degradation. In addition, we showed that FIT post-translational regulation by iron is required for FRO2 and IRT1 gene expression. Taken together our results indicate that FIT transcriptional and post-translational regulations are integrated in plant roots to ensure that the positive regulator FIT accumulates as a short-lived protein following iron shortage, and to allow proper iron-deficiency responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • FMN Reductase / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism*
  • Protein Stability
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Transcriptional Activation


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • FIT1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • IRT1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Iron
  • FMN Reductase
  • ferric citrate iron reductase
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex