Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) target a variety of protein substrates to regulate cellular signaling processes in eukaryotes. In plants, the number of identified MAPK substrates that control plant defense responses is still limited. Here, we generated transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana plants with an inducible system to simulate in vivo activation of two stress-activated MAPKs, MPK3, and MPK6. Metabolome analysis revealed that this artificial MPK3/6 activation (without any exposure to pathogens or other stresses) is sufficient to drive the production of major defense-related metabolites, including various camalexin, indole glucosinolate and agmatine derivatives. An accompanying (phospho)proteome analysis led to detection of hundreds of potential phosphoproteins downstream of MPK3/6 activation. Besides known MAPK substrates, many candidates on this list possess typical MAPK-targeted phosphosites and in many cases, the corresponding phosphopeptides were detected by mass spectrometry. Notably, several of these putative phosphoproteins have been reported to be associated with the biosynthesis of antimicrobial defense substances (e.g., WRKY transcription factors and proteins encoded by the genes from the "PEN" pathway required for penetration resistance to filamentous pathogens). Thus, this work provides an inventory of candidate phosphoproteins, including putative direct MAPK substrates, for future analysis of MAPK-mediated defense control. (Proteomics data are available with the identifier PXD001252 via ProteomeXchange, http://proteomecentral.proteomexchange.org).
Keywords: MAPK substrates; defense; metabolomics; phosphoproteomics; phosphorylation; phytoalexins.