Methylglyoxal (MG) is a key signaling molecule resulting from glycolysis and other metabolic pathways. During abiotic stress, MG levels accumulate to toxic levels in affected cells. However, MG is routinely detoxified through the action of DJ1/PARK7/Hsp31 proteins that are highly conserved across kingdoms and mutations in such genes are associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we report for the first time that, similar to abiotic stresses, MG levels increase during biotic stresses in plants, likely contributing to enhanced susceptibility to a wide range of stresses. We show that overexpression of yeast Heat shock protein 31 (Hsp31), a DJ-1 homolog with robust MG detoxifying capabilities, confers dual biotic and abiotic stress tolerance in model plant Nicotiana tabacum. Strikingly, overexpression of Hsp31 in tobacco imparts robust stress tolerance against diverse biotic stress inducers such as viruses, bacteria and fungi, in addition to tolerance against a range of abiotic stress inducers. During stress, Hsp31 was targeted to mitochondria and induced expression of key stress-related genes. These results indicate that Hsp31 is a novel attractive tool to engineer plants against both biotic and abiotic stresses.
Keywords: Abiotic stress; DJ-1 family members; Heat shock proteins; Methylglyoxal; Plant stress responses.