Cis-Regulatory Code for Predicting Plant Cell-Type Transcriptional Response to High Salinity

Multicellular organisms have diverse cell types with distinct roles in development and responses to the environment. At the transcriptional level, the differences in the environmental response between cell types are due to differences in regulatory programs. In plants, although cell-type environmental responses have been examined, it is unclear how these responses are regulated. Here, we identify a set of putative cis-regulatory elements (pCREs) enriched in the promoters of genes responsive to high-salinity stress in six Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) root cell types. We then use these pCREs to establish cis-regulatory codes (i.e. models predicting whether a gene is responsive to high salinity for each cell type with machine learning). These pCRE-based models outperform models using in vitro binding data of 758 Arabidopsis transcription factors. Surprisingly, organ pCREs identified based on the whole-root high-salinity response can predict cell-type responses as well as pCREs derived from cell-type data, because organ and cell-type pCREs predict complementary subsets of high-salinity response genes. Our findings not only advance our understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of the plant spatial transcriptional response through cis-regulatory codes but also suggest broad applicability of the approach to any species, particularly those with little or no trans-regulatory data.

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