ABA is a phytohormone that is synthesized in response to abiotic stresses and other environmental changes, inducing various physiological responses. While ABA has been found in unicellular photosynthetic organisms, such as cyanobacteria and eukaryotic algae, its function in these organisms is poorly understood. Here, we found that ABA accumulated in the unicellular red alga Cyanidioschyzon merolae under conditions of salt stress and that the cell cycle G1/S transition was inhibited when ABA was added to the culture medium. A gene encoding heme-scavenging tryptophan-rich sensory protein-related protein (CmTSPO; CMS231C) was positively regulated by ABA, as in Arabidopsis, and CmTSPO bound heme in vitro. The intracellular content of total heme was increased by addition of ABA, but unfettered heme decreased, presumably due to scavenging by CmTSPO. The inhibition of DNA replication by ABA was negated by addition of heme to the culture medium. Thus, we propose a regulatory role for ABA and heme in algal cell cycle initiation. Finally, we found that a C. merolae mutant that is defective in ABA production was more susceptible to salt stress, indicating the importance of ABA to stress resistance in red algae.
Keywords: ABA; Cell cycle; Cyanidioschyzon merolae; Heme; TSPO; Unfettered heme.
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