The Arabidopsis thaliana MYB60 promoter provides a tool for the spatio-temporal control of gene expression in stomatal guard cells
Plants have evolved different strategies to resist drought, of which the best understood is the abscisic acidPlants have evolved different strategies to resist drought, of which the best understood is the abscisic acid (ABA)-induced closure of stomatal pores to reduce water loss by transpiration. The availability of useful promoters that allow for precise spatial and temporal control of gene expression in stomata is essential both for investigating stomatal regulation in model systems and for biotechnological applications in field crops. Previous work indicated that the regulatory region of the transcription factor AtMYB60 specifically drives gene expression in guard cells of Arabidopsis, although its activity is rapidly down-regulated by ABA. Here, the activity of the full-length and minimal AtMYB60 promoters is reported in rice (Oryza sativa), tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), using a reporter gene approach. In rice, the activity of both promoters was completely abolished, whereas it was spatially restricted to guard cells in tobacco and tomato. To overcome the negative effect of ABA on the AtMYB60 promoter, a chimeric inducible system was developed, which combined the cellular specificity of the AtMYB60 minimal promoter with the positive responsiveness to dehydration and ABA of the rd29A promoter. Remarkably, the synthetic module specifically up-regulated gene expression in guard cells of Arabidopsis, tobacco, and tomato in response to dehydration or ABA. The comparative analysis of different native and synthetic regulatory modules derived from the AtMYB60 promoter offers new insights into the functional conservation of the cis-mechanisms that mediate gene expression in guard cells in distantly related dicotyledonous species and provides novel tools for modulating stomatal activity in plants.