Requirement and functional redundancy of Ib subgroup bHLH proteins for iron deficiency responses and uptake in Arabidopsis thaliana

Mol Plant. 2013 Mar;6(2):503-13. doi: 10.1093/mp/sss089. Epub 2012 Sep 14.


The Ib subgroup of the bHLH gene family in Arabidopsis contains four members (AtbHLH38, AtbHLH39, AtbHLH100, and AtbHLH101). AtbHLH38 and AtbHLH39 were previously confirmed to interact with FER-like iron deficiency induced transcription factor (FIT), directly functioning in activation of the expression of ferric-chelate reductase FRO2 and high-affinity ferrous iron transporter IRT1. In this work, we characterized the functions of AtbHLH100 and AtbHLH101 in the regulation of the iron-deficiency responses and uptake. Yeast two-hybrid analysis and bimolecular fluorescence complementation assay demonstrated that both AtbHLH100 and AtbHLH101 could interact with FIT. Dual expression of either AtbHLH100 or AtbHLH101 with FIT in yeast cells activated the GUS expression driven by promoters of FRO2 and IRT1. The plants overexpressing FIT together with AtbHLH101 showed constitutive expression of FRO2 and IRT1 in roots, and accumulated more iron in shoots. Further, the single, double, and triple knockout mutants of AtbHLH38, AtbHLH39, AtbHLH100, and AtbHLH101 were generated and characterized. The FRO2 and IRT1 expression in roots and the iron content in shoots were more drastically decreased in the triple knockout mutant of AtbHLH39, AtbHLH100, and AtbHLH101 than that of the other available double and triple mutants of the four genes. Comparison of the physiological responses as well as the expression of FRO2 and IRT1 in the multiple knockout mutants under iron deficiency revealed that AtbHLH100, AtbHLH38, AtbHLH101, and AtbHLH39 played the gradually increased important role in the iron-deficiency responses and uptake. Taken all together, we conclude that the four Ib subgroup bHLH proteins are required and possess redundant functions with differential significance for activation of iron-deficiency responses and uptake in Arabidopsis.

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 / deficiency
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Homeostasis
  • Iron / deficiency*
  • Plant Shoots / genetics
  • Plant Shoots / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Iron