The AP2 transcription factor NtERF172 confers drought resistance by modifying NtCAT
Drought stress often limits plant growth and global crop yields. Catalase (CAT)-mediated hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) scavenging plays an important role in the adaptation of plant stress responses, but the transcriptional regulation of the CAT gene in response to drought stress is not well understood. In this study, an APETALA2/ETHYLENE RESPONSIVE FACTOR (AP2/ERF) domain-containing transcription factor (TF), NtERF172, which was strongly induced by drought, abscisic acid (ABA), and H2O2, was isolated from tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) by yeast one-hybrid screening. NtERF172 localized to the nucleus and acted as a transcriptional activator. Chromatin immunoprecipitation, yeast one-hybrid assays, electrophoretic mobility shift assays, and transient expression analysis assays showed that NtERF172 directly bound to the promoter region of the NtCAT gene and positively regulated its expression. Transgenic plants overexpressing NtERF172 displayed enhanced tolerance to drought stress, whereas suppression of NtERF172 decreased drought tolerance. Under drought stress conditions, the NtERF172-overexpressed lines showed higher catalase activity and lower accumulation of H2O2 compared with wild-type (WT) plants, while the NtERF172-silenced plants showed the inverse correlation. Exogenous application of amino-1,2,4-triazole (3-AT), an irreversible CAT inhibitor, to the NtERF172-overexpression lines showed decreased catalase activity and drought tolerance, and increased levels of cellular H2O2. Knock down NtCAT in the NtERF172-overexpression lines displayed a more drought stress-sensitive phenotype than NtERF172-overexpression lines. We propose that NtERF172 acts as a positive factor in drought stress tolerance, at least in part through the regulation of CAT-mediated H2O2 homeostasis.