Salicylic Acid (SA) is a pivotal phytohormone in plant innate immunity enhancement of triggered by various pathogens, such as Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas), the causal agent of Huanglongbing (HLB). WRKY is a plant specific transcription factor (TF) family, which plays crucial roles in plant response to biotic stresses. So far, the evolutionary history, functions, and expression patterns under SA treatment and CLas infection of WRKY family are poorly understood in Citrus, despite the release of the genome of several Citrus species. A comprehensive genomic and expressional analysis is worth to conduct for this family.
Here, a genome-wide identification of WRKY TFs was performed in two Citrus species: Citrus sinensis (HLB-sensitive) and Poncirus trifoliata (HLB-tolerant). In total, 52 CsWRKYs and 51 PtrWRKYs were identified, whose physical and chemical properties, chromosome locations, phylogenetic relationships and structural characteristics were comparatively analyzed. Especially, expression patterns of these WRKY genes before and after SA treatment and CLas infection were compared. Based on this result, seven pairs of orthologous WRKY genes showing opposite expression patterns in two Citrus species were screened out. Moreover, two pairs of orthologous WRKY genes with significant differences in the number or type of stress-responsive cis-elements in the promoter regions were discovered. Subcellular localization and transcriptional activation activity assays revealed that these two pairs of orthologous genes are classic WRKY TFs localize in the nucleus and could function as transcriptional activators.
In this study, we systematically analyzed the genomic characterization of WRKY family in two Citrus species, together with the analyses of expression patterns under SA signaling and CLas infection. Our study laid a foundation for further study on the function of WRKY TFs in HLB response and SA signaling of Citrus.