The hormone ethylene influences plant growth, development, and some defense responses. The fungal elicitor Ethylene-Inducing Xylanase (EIX) elicits ethylene biosynthesis in tomato ( Lycopersicon esculentum ) and tobacco ( Nicotiana tabacum ) leaves by induction of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-caboxylic acid synthase ( Acs ) gene expression. A minimal promoter element in the LeAcs2 gene required for EIX responsiveness was defined by deletion analysis in transgenic tomato plants. The sequence between −715 and −675 of the tomato Acs2 gene was found to be essential for induction by EIX. A Cys protease (LeCp) was isolated that specifically binds to this cis element in vitro. Ectopic expression of LeCp in tomato leaves induced the expression of Acs2 . Moreover, chromatin immunoprecipitation showed that LeCp binds in vivo to the Acs promoter. We propose a mechanism for the dual function of the LeCp protein. The protease acts enzymatically in the cytoplasm. Then, upon signaling, a small ubiquitin-related modifier protein binds to it, enabling entrance into the nucleus, where it acts as a transcription factor. Thus, LeCp can be considered a dual-function protein, having enzymatic activity and, upon elicitor signaling, exhibiting transcriptional factor activity that induces LeAcs2 expression.
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