Image_3_Hierarchical and Dynamic Regulation of Defense-Responsive Specialized Metabolism by WRKY and MYB Transcription Factors.jpg
The plant kingdom produces hundreds of thousands of specialized bioactive metabolites, some with pharmaceutical and biotechnological importance. Their biosynthesis and function have been studied for decades, but comparatively less is known about how transcription factors with overlapping functions and contrasting regulatory activities coordinately control the dynamics and output of plant specialized metabolism. Here, we performed temporal studies on pathogen-infected intact host plants with perturbed transcription factors. We identified WRKY33 as the condition-dependent master regulator and MYB51 as the dual functional regulator in a hierarchical gene network likely responsible for the gene expression dynamics and metabolic fluxes in the camalexin and 4-hydroxy-indole-3-carbonylnitrile (4OH-ICN) pathways. This network may have also facilitated the regulatory capture of the newly evolved 4OH-ICN pathway in Arabidopsis thaliana by the more-conserved transcription factor MYB51. It has long been held that the plasticity of plant specialized metabolism and the canalization of development should be differently regulated; our findings imply a common hierarchical regulatory architecture orchestrated by transcription factors for specialized metabolism and development, making it an attractive target for metabolic engineering.