The plant family 1 UDP-glycosyltransferases (UGTs) are the biggest GT family in plants, which are responsible for transferring sugar moieties onto a variety of small molecules, and control many metabolic processes; however, their physiological significance in planta is largely unknown. Here, we revealed that two Arabidopsis glycosyltransferase genes, UGT79B2 and UGT79B3, could be strongly induced by various abiotic stresses, including cold, salt and drought stresses. Overexpression of UGT79B2/B3 significantly enhanced plant tolerance to low temperatures as well as drought and salt stresses, whereas the ugt79b2/b3 double mutants generated by RNAi (RNA interference) and CRISPR-Cas9 strategies were more susceptible to adverse conditions. Interestingly, the expression of UGT79B2 and UGT79B3 is directly controlled by CBF1 (CRT/DRE-binding factor 1, also named DREB1B) in response to low temperatures. Furthermore, we identified the enzyme activities of UGT79B2/B3 in adding UDP-rhamnose to cyanidin and cyanidin 3-O-glucoside. Ectopic expression of UGT79B2/B3 significantly increased the anthocyanin accumulation, and enhanced the antioxidant activity in coping with abiotic stresses, whereas the ugt79b2/b3 double mutants showed reduced anthocyanin levels. When overexpressing UGT79B2/B3 in tt18 (transparent testa 18), a mutant that cannot synthesize anthocyanins, both genes fail to improve plant adaptation to stress. Taken together, we demonstrate that UGT79B2 and UGT79B3, identified as anthocyanin rhamnosyltransferases, are regulated by CBF1 and confer abiotic stress tolerance via modulating anthocyanin accumulation.
Keywords: Arabidopsis; CBF1; UGT79B2/B3; anthocyanin; cold stress; glycosyltransferase; stress tolerance.
© 2016 The Authors The Plant Journal © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.