Plant growth is greatly affected by drought and low temperature. Expression of a number of genes is induced by both drought and low temperature, although these stresses are quite different. Previous experiments have established that a cis -acting element named DRE (for dehydration-responsive element) plays an important role in both dehydration- and low-temperature-induced gene expression in Arabidopsis. Two cDNA clones that encode DRE binding proteins, DREB1A and DREB2A, were isolated by using the yeast one-hybrid screening technique. The two cDNA libraries were prepared from dehydrated and cold-treated rosette plants, respectively. The deduced amino acid sequences of DREB1A and DREB2A showed no significant sequence similarity, except in the conserved DNA binding domains found in the EREBP and APETALA2 proteins that function in ethylene-responsive expression and floral morphogenesis, respectively. Both the DREB1A and DREB2A proteins specifically bound to the DRE sequence in vitro and activated the transcription of the β-glucuronidase reporter gene driven by the DRE sequence in Arabidopsis leaf protoplasts. Expression of the DREB1A gene and its two homologs was induced by low-temperature stress, whereas expression of the DREB2A gene and its single homolog was induced by dehydration. Overexpression of the DREB1A cDNA in transgenic Arabidopsis plants not only induced strong expression of the target genes under unstressed conditions but also caused dwarfed phenotypes in the transgenic plants. These transgenic plants also revealed freezing and dehydration tolerance. In contrast, overexpression of the DREB2A cDNA induced weak expression of the target genes under unstressed conditions and caused growth retardation of the transgenic plants. These results indicate that two independent families of DREB proteins, DREB1 and DREB2, function as trans -acting factors in two separate signal transduction pathways under low-temperature and dehydration conditions, respectively.
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