The WRKY proteins are a superfamily of regulators that control diverse developmental and physiological processes. This family was believed to be plant specific until the recent identification of WRKY genes in nonphotosynthetic eukaryotes. We have undertaken a comprehensive computational analysis of the rice ( Oryza sativa ) genomic sequences and predicted the structures of 81 OsWRKY genes, 48 of which are supported by full-length cDNA sequences. Eleven OsWRKY proteins contain two conserved WRKY domains, while the rest have only one. Phylogenetic analyses of the WRKY domain sequences provide support for the hypothesis that gene duplication of single- and two-domain WRKY genes, and loss of the WRKY domain, occurred in the evolutionary history of this gene family in rice. The phylogeny deduced from the WRKY domain peptide sequences is further supported by the position and phase of the intron in the regions encoding the WRKY domains. Analyses for chromosomal distributions reveal that 26% of the predicted OsWRKY genes are located on chromosome 1. Among the dozen genes tested, OsWRKY24 , -51 , -71 , and -72 are induced by abscisic acid (ABA) in aleurone cells. Using a transient expression system, we have demonstrated that OsWRKY24 and - 45 repress ABA induction of the HVA22 promoter- β -glucuronidase construct, while OsWRKY72 and - 77 synergistically interact with ABA to activate this reporter construct. This study provides a solid base for functional genomics studies of this important superfamily of regulatory genes in monocotyledonous plants and reveals a novel function for WRKY genes, i.e. mediating plant responses to ABA.
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