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Enhanced tolerance to oxidative stress in transgenic Arabidopsis plants expressing proteins of unknown function.

Luhua S., Ciftci-Yilmaz S., Harper J., Cushman J., Mittler R.

Over one-quarter of all plant genes encode proteins of unknown function that can be further classified as proteins with obscure features (POFs), which lack currently defined motifs or domains, or proteins with defined features, which contain at least one previously defined domain or motif. Although empirical data in the form of transcriptome and proteome profiling suggest that many of these proteins play important roles in plants, their functional characterization remains one of the main challenges in modern biology. To begin the functional annotation of proteins with unknown function, which are involved in the oxidative stress response of Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), we generated transgenic Arabidopsis plants that constitutively expressed 23 different POFs (four of which were specific to Arabidopsis) and 18 different proteins with defined features. All were previously found to be expressed in response to oxidative stress in Arabidopsis. Transgenic plants were tested for their tolerance to oxidative stress imposed by paraquat or t-butyl hydroperoxide, or were subjected to osmotic, salinity, cold, and heat stresses. More than 70% of all expressed proteins conferred tolerance to oxidative stress. In contrast, >90% of the expressed proteins did not confer enhanced tolerance to the other abiotic stresses tested, and approximately 50% rendered plants more susceptible to osmotic or salinity stress. Two Arabidopsis-specific POFs, and an Arabidopsis and Brassica-specific protein of unknown function, conferred enhanced tolerance to oxidative stress. Our findings suggest that tolerance to oxidative stress involves mechanisms and pathways that are unknown at present, including some that are specific to Arabidopsis or the Brassicaceae.

Plant Physiol. 148:280-292(2008) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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