Improvement of chilling tolerance is a major target in rice breeding. The signaling pathways regulating chilling consist of complex networks, including key transcription factors and their targets. However, it remains largely unknown how transcription factors are activated by chilling stress. Here, we report that the transcription factor OsbHLH002/OsICE1 is phosphorylated by OsMAPK3 under chilling stress. The osbhlh002-1 knockout mutant and antisense transgenic plants showed chilling hypersensitivity, whereas OsbHLH002-overexpressing plants exhibited enhanced chilling tolerance. OsbHLH002 can directly target OsTPP1, which encodes a key enzyme for trehalose biosynthesis. OsMAPK3 interacts with OsbHLH002 to prevent its ubiquitination by the E3 ligase OsHOS1. Under chilling stress, active OsMAPK3 phosphorylates OsbHLH002, leading to accumulation of phospho-OsbHLH002, which promotes OsTPP1 expression and increases trehalose content and resistance to chilling damage. Taken together, these results indicate that OsbHLH002 is phosphorylated by OsMAPK3, which enhances OsbHLH002 activation to its target OsTPP1 during chilling stress.
Keywords: OsMAPK3; OsbHLH002/OsICE1; chilling tolerance; phosphorylation; rice; trehalose; ubiquitination.
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