While moderately elevated ambient temperatures do not trigger stress responses in plants, they do substantially stimulate the growth of specific organs through a process known as thermomorphogenesis. The basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor PHYTOCHROME-INTERACTING FACTOR 4 (PIF4) plays a central role in regulating thermomorphogenetic hypocotyl elongation in various plant species, including Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). Although it is well known that PIF4 and its co-activator HEMERA (HMR) promote plant thermosensory growth by activating genes involved in the biosynthesis and signaling of the phytohormone auxin, the detailed molecular mechanism of such transcriptional activation is not clear. In this report, we investigated the role of the Mediator complex in the PIF4/HMR-mediated thermoresponsive gene expression. Through the characterization of various mutants of the Mediator complex, a tail subunit named MED14 was identified as an essential factor for thermomorphogenetic hypocotyl growth. MED14 was required for the thermal induction of PIF4 target genes but had a marginal effect on the levels of PIF4 and HMR. Further transcriptomic analyses confirmed that the expression of numerous PIF4/HMR-dependent, auxin-related genes required MED14 at warm temperatures. Moreover, PIF4 and HMR physically interacted with MED14 and both were indispensable for the association of MED14 with the promoters of these thermoresponsive genes. While PIF4 did not regulate MED14 levels, HMR was required for the transcript abundance of MED14. Taken together, these results unveil an important thermomorphogenetic mechanism, in which PIF4 and HMR recruit the Mediator complex to activate auxin-related growth-promoting genes when plants sense moderate increases in ambient temperature.
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Society of Plant Biologists.