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An RNA thermoswitch regulates daytime growth in Arabidopsis

Temperature is a major environmental cue affecting plant growth and development. Plants often experience higher temperatures in the context of a 24 h day–night cycle, with temperatures peaking in the middle of the day. Here, we find that the transcript encoding the bHLH transcription factor PIF7 undergoes a direct increase in translation in response to warmer temperature. Diurnal expression of PIF7 transcript gates this response, allowing PIF7 protein to quickly accumulate in response to warm daytime temperature. Enhanced PIF7 protein levels directly activate the thermomorphogenesis pathway by inducing the transcription of key genes such as the auxin biosynthetic gene YUCCA8, and are necessary for thermomorphogenesis to occur under warm cycling daytime temperatures. The temperature-dependent translational enhancement of PIF7 messenger RNA is mediated by the formation of an RNA hairpin within its 5′ untranslated region, which adopts an alternative conformation at higher temperature, leading to increased protein synthesis. We identified similar hairpin sequences that control translation in additional transcripts including WRKY22 and the key heat shock regulator HSFA2, suggesting that this is a conserved mechanism enabling plants to respond and adapt rapidly to high temperatures.

Chung,B.;  Balcerowicz,M.; Antonio,M.; Jaeger,K.; Geng,F.; Krzysztof, F.; Marriott,P.; Brierley,I.; Firth,A. and Wigge, P.2020. An RNA thermoswitch regulates daytime growth in Arabidopsis. Nature Plants

DOI: 10.1038/s41477-020-0633-3