To dissect genetically the complex network of osmotic and cold stress signaling, we constructed lines of Arabidopsis plants displaying bioluminescence in response to low temperature, drought, salinity, and the phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA). This was achieved by introducing into Arabidopsis plants a chimeric gene construct consisting of the firefly luciferase coding sequence (LUC) under the control of the stress-responsive RD29A promoter. LUC activity in the transgenic plants, as assessed by using in vivo luminescence imaging, faithfully reports the expression of the endogenous RD29A gene. A large number of cos (for constitutive expression of osmotically responsive genes), los (for low expression of osmotically responsive genes), and hos (for high expression of osmotically responsive genes) mutants were identified by using a high-throughput luminescence imaging system. The los and hos mutants were grouped into 14 classes according to defects in their responses to one or a combination of stress and ABA signals. Based on the classes of mutants recovered, we propose a model for stress signaling in higher plants. Contrary to the current belief that ABA-dependent and ABA-independent stress signaling pathways act in a parallel manner, our data reveal that these pathways cross-talk and converge to activate stress gene expression.
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