Light-dependent expression of rbcS, the gene encoding the small subunit of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase, which is the key enzyme involved in carbon fixation in higher plants, is regulated at the transcriptional level. Sequence analysis of the gene has uncovered a conserved GT motifin the -150 to -100 region of many rbcS promoters. This motif serves as the binding site of a nuclear factor, designated GT-1. Analysis of site-specific mutants of pea rbcS-3A promoter demonstrated that GT-1 binding in vitro is correlated with light-responsive expression of the rbcS promoter in transgenic plants. However, it is not known whether factors other than GT-1 might also be required for activation of transcription by light. A synthetic tetramer of box II (TGTGTGGTTAATATG), the GT-1 binding site located between -152 to -138 of the rbcS-3A promoter, inserted upstream of a truncated cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter is sufficient to confer expression in leaves of transgenic tobacco. This expression occurs principally in chloroplast-containing cells, is induced by light, and is correlated with the ability of box II to bind GT-1 in vitro. The data show that the binding site for GT-1 is likely to be a part of the molecular light switch for rbcS activation.
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