Intrinsically disordered proteins function as flexible stress modulators in vivo through largely unknown mechanisms. Here, we elucidated the mechanistic role of an intrinsically disordered protein, REPETITIVE PRO-RICH PROTEIN (RePRP), in regulating rice (Oryza sativa) root growth under water deficit. With nearly 40% Pro, RePRP is induced by water deficit and abscisic acid (ABA) in the root elongation zone. RePRP is sufficient and necessary for repression of root development by water deficit or ABA. We showed that RePRP interacts with the highly ordered cytoskeleton components actin and tubulin both in vivo and in vitro. Binding of RePRP reduces the abundance of actin filaments, thus diminishing noncellulosic polysaccharide transport to the cell wall and increasing the enzyme activity of Suc synthase. RePRP also reorients the microtubule network, which leads to disordered cellulose microfibril organization in the cell wall. The cell wall modification suppresses root cell elongation, thereby generating short roots, whereas increased Suc synthase activity triggers starch accumulation in "heavy" roots. Intrinsically disordered proteins control cell elongation and carbon reserves via an order-by-disorder mechanism, regulating the highly ordered cytoskeleton for development of "short-but-heavy" roots as an adaptive response to water deficit in rice.
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