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Chemokine-like MDL proteins modulate flowering time and innate immunity in plants.

J Biol Chem. 2021 Mar 30:100611. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2021.100611. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33798552.

Authors/Editors: Gruner K, Leissing F, Sinitski D, Thieron H, Axstmann C, Baumgarten K, Reinstädler A, Winkler P, Altmann M, Flatley A, Jaouannet M, Zienkiewicz K, Feussner I, Keller H, Coustau C, Falter-Braun P, Feederle R. Bernhagen J. Panstruga R.
Publication Date: 2021


Human macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is an atypical chemokine implicated in intercellular signaling and innate immunity. MIF orthologs (MIF/D-DT-like proteins, MDLs) are present throughout the plant kingdom, but remain experimentally unexplored in these organisms. Here, we provide an in planta characterization and functional analysis of the three-member gene/protein MDL family in Arabidopsis thaliana. Subcellular localization experiments indicated a nucleo-cytoplasmic distribution of MDL1 and MDL2, while MDL3 is localized to peroxisomes. Protein-protein interaction assays revealed the in vivo formation of MDL1, MDL2, and MDL3 homo-oligomers, as well as the formation of MDL1-MDL2 hetero-oligomers. Functionally, Arabidopsis mdl mutants exhibited a delayed transition from vegetative to reproductive growth (flowering) under long-day conditions, but not in a short-day environment. In addition, mdl mutants were more resistant to colonization by the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. maculicola. The latter phenotype was compromised by the additional mutation of SALICYLIC ACID INDUCTION DEFICIENT 2 (SID2), a gene, implicated in the defense-induced biosynthesis of the key signaling molecule salicylic acid; however, the enhanced antibacterial immunity was not associated with any constitutive or pathogen-induced alterations in the levels of characteristic phytohormones or defense-associated metabolites. Interestingly, bacterial infection triggered relocalization and accumulation of MDL1 and MDL2 at the peripheral lobes of leaf epidermal cells. Collectively, our data indicate redundant functionality and a complex interplay between the three chemokine-like Arabidopsis MDL proteins in the regulation of both developmental and immune-related processes. These insights expand the comparative cross-kingdom analysis of MIF/MDL signaling in human and plant systems.

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