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The use of sunflower transcription factors as biotechnological tools to improve yield and stress tolerance in crops

Chan RL

Instituto de Agrobiotecnología del Litoral (IAL), Universidad Nacional del Litoral, CONICET, CC 242 Ciudad Universitaria, 3000, Santa Fe, Argentina.

* Corresponding Author:Address Correspondence to: Raquel Lía Chan, e-mail: .

Phyton-International Journal of Experimental Botany 2009, 78(all), 5-10.


Transcription factors (TFs) are proteins able to specifically recognize DNA sequences in the regulatory regions of their target genes. They bind these specific sequences, an event that leads to the activation or repression of whole signal transduction pathways. In plants about 1500 TFs were informatically identified; identification was mainly based in the presence of DNA-binding domains in the translated sequences. They were classified in families and subfamilies according to several features, including the conservation of the DNA binding domain, the genes structures and the functions they exert. Among transcription factors, several seem to be potential powerful biotechnological tools to improve crops via obtaining transgenic plants. Assigned purposes include: yield improvements, abiotic and biotic stress tolerances, and a combination of them. None of them is up to date a product market, since from the gene discovery to the regulation process (which differs in each country) there is a long pipeline to run.
Since a few years ago, our research group is devoted to the structural and functional characterization of sunflower transcription factors, especially those belonging to the HD-Zip family. Members of this family exhibit in their structure a homeodomain (HD) associated to a leucine zipper (LZ). This association is unique to plants, being these two domains common to transcription factors from several kingdoms. It was proposed by other authors, and also by us, that this unique association is probably due to specific plant responses as plant development, which depends on environmental conditions.
In this work we show an overview and new insights of the sunflower HD-Zip proteins, demonstrating to be useful biotechnological tools to confer drought, salt, herbicide, and herbivory (e.g. insect) tolerance, and other abiotic and biotic tolerance to stressgenerating factors.
Like other TFs, sunflower HD-Zip transcription factors confer a complex phenotype to transgenic plants due to a combination of different regulated pathways. It is likely that TFs become the choice for breeders in the near future due to the demonstrated efficiency in conferring desired traits to transgenic plants. Additionally, from the public perception standpoint, the over or ectopic expression of a plant gene should be more accepted than the use of molecules from foreign organisms.


Cite This Article

RL, C. (2009). The use of sunflower transcription factors as biotechnological tools to improve yield and stress tolerance in crops. Phyton-International Journal of Experimental Botany, 78(all), 5–10.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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