PHYTOCHROME-INTERACTING FACTORS (PIFs) are a group of basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors that can physically interact with photoreceptors, including phytochromes and cryptochromes. It was previously demonstrated that PIFs accumulated in darkness and repressed seedling photomorphogenesis, and that PIFs linked different photosensory and hormonal pathways to control plant growth and development. In this study, we show that PIFs positively regulate the ABA signaling pathway during the seedling stage specifically in darkness. We found that PIFs positively regulate ABI5 transcript and protein levels in darkness in response to exogenous ABA treatment by binding directly to the G-box motifs in the ABI5 promoter. Consistently, PIFs and the G-box motifs in the ABI5 promoter determine ABI5 expression in darkness, and overexpression of ABI5 could rescue the ABA-insensitive phenotypes of pifq mutants in the dark. Moreover, we discovered that PIFs can physically interact with the ABA receptors PYL8 and PYL9, and that this interaction is not regulated by ABA. Further analyses showed that PYL8 and PYL9 promote PIF4 protein accumulation in the dark and enhance PIF4 binding to the ABI5 promoter, but negatively regulate PIF4-mediated ABI5 activation. Taken together, our data demonstrate that PIFs interact with ABA receptors to orchestrate ABA signaling in darkness by controlling ABI5 expression, providing new insights into the pivotal roles of PIFs as signal integrators in regulating plant growth and development.
Keywords: ABA; ABI5; Arabidopsis; PIFs; darkness; transcription factor.
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