Background: Enhancers are cis-regulatory elements present in eukaryote genomes, which constitute indispensable determinants of gene regulation by governing the spatiotemporal and quantitative expression dynamics of target genes, and are involved in multiple life processes, for instance during development and disease states. The importance of enhancer activity has additionally been highlighted for immune responses in animals and plants; however, the dynamics of enhancer activities and molecular functions in plant innate immunity are largely unknown. Here, we investigated the involvement of distal enhancers in early innate immunity in Arabidopsis thaliana.
Results: A group of putative distal enhancers producing low-abundance transcripts either unidirectionally or bidirectionally are identified. We show that enhancer transcripts are dynamically modulated in plant immunity triggered by microbe-associated molecular patterns and are strongly correlated with open chromatin, low levels of methylated DNA, and increases in RNA polymerase II targeting and acetylated histone marks. Dynamic enhancer transcription is correlated with target early immune gene expression patterns. Cis motifs that are bound by immune-related transcription factors, such as WRKYs and SARD1, are highly enriched within upregulated enhancers. Moreover, a subset of core pattern-induced enhancers are upregulated by multiple patterns from diverse pathogens. The expression dynamics of putative immunity-related enhancers and the importance of WRKY binding motifs for enhancer function were also validated.
Conclusions: Our study demonstrates the general occurrence of enhancer transcription in plants and provides novel information on the distal regulatory landscape during early plant innate immunity, providing new insights into immune gene regulation and ultimately improving the mechanistic understanding of the plant immune system.
Keywords: Cis-regulatory elements; Enhancer RNAs; Enhancers; Plant innate immunity; Transcriptional regulation.
© 2022. The Author(s).