Background: SUMOylation is an essential eukaryotic post-translation modification that, in plants, regulates numerous cellular processes, ranging from seed development to stress response. Using rice as a model crop plant, we searched for potential regulatory points that may influence the activity of the rice SUMOylation machinery genes.
Results: We analyzed the presence of putative cis-acting regulatory elements (CREs) within the promoter regions of the rice SUMOylation machinery genes and found CREs related to different cellular processes, including hormone signaling. We confirmed that the transcript levels of genes involved in target-SUMOylation, containing ABA- and GA-related CREs, are responsive to treatments with these hormones. Transcriptional analysis in Nipponbare (spp. japonica) and LC-93-4 (spp. indica), showed that the transcript levels of all studied genes are maintained in the two subspecies, under normal growth. OsSUMO3 is an exceptional case since it is expressed at low levels or is not detectable at all in LC-93-4 roots and shoots, respectively. We revealed post-transcriptional regulation by alternative splicing (AS) for all genes studied, except for SUMO coding genes, OsSIZ2, OsOTS3, and OsELS2. Some AS forms have the potential to alter protein domains and catalytic centers. We also performed the molecular and phenotypic characterization of T-DNA insertion lines of some of the genes under study. Knockouts of OsFUG1 and OsELS1 showed increased SUMOylation levels and non-overlapping phenotypes. The fug1 line showed a dwarf phenotype, and significant defects in fertility, seed weight, and panicle architecture, while the els1 line showed early flowering and decreased plant height. We suggest that OsELS1 is an ortholog of AtEsd4, which was also supported by our phylogenetic analysis.
Conclusions: Overall, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the rice SUMOylation machinery and discuss possible effects of the regulation of these genes at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional level. We also contribute to the characterization of two rice SUMO proteases, OsELS1 and OsFUG1.
Keywords: Alternative splicing; Rice (Oryza sativa); SUMO proteases; SUMOylation; T-DNA; cis-elements.