ARGONAUTE1 and ARGONAUTE4 Regulate Gene Expression and Hypoxia Tolerance

In plants, hypoxia can be induced by submergence, and the lack of oxygen impairs mitochondrial respiration, thus affecting the plant’s energy status. Hypoxia has major effects on gene expression; these changes induce key responses that help meet the needs of the stressed plant. However, little is known about the possible role of RNA signaling in the regulation of gene expression under limited oxygen availability. Here, we report the contribution of ARGONAUTE1 (AGO1) to hypoxia-induced gene regulation in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). Submergence induced changes in levels of the microRNAs miR2936 and miR398, but this had no obvious effects on their putative target mRNA levels. However, we found that ago1-27 plants are intolerant to submergence and transcriptome analysis identified genes whose regulation requires functional AGO1. Analysis of mutants affected in various branches of RNA signaling highlighted the convergence of AGO1 signaling with the AGO4-dependent RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway. AGO4-dependent RdDM represses the expression of HOMOLOG OF RPW8 4 (HR4) and alters its response to submergence. Remarkably, methylation of the second exon of HR4 is not only reduced in ago4-1 but also in plants overexpressing a constitutively stable version of the oxygen sensor RELATED TO APETALA2 12 (RAP2.12), indicating convergence of oxygen signaling with epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Therefore, our results identify a role for AGO1 and AGO4 RNA-silencing pathways in low-oxygen signaling in Arabidopsis.

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