Plant growth and development are acutely sensitive to high ambient temperature ascribable in part to climate change. However, the mechanism of high ambient temperature signaling is not well defined. Here, we show that HECATEs (HEC1 and HEC2), two helix-loop-helix transcription factors, inhibit thermomorphogenesis. While the expression of HEC1 and HEC2 is increased and HEC2 protein is stabilized at high ambient temperature, hec1hec2 double mutant showed exaggerated thermomorphogenesis. Analyses of the four major PIF (PIF1, PIF3, PIF4 and PIF5) mutants and overexpression lines showed that they all contribute to promote thermomorphogenesis. Furthermore, genetic analysis showed that pifQ is epistatic to hec1hec2. HECs and PIFs oppositely control the expression of many genes in response to high ambient temperature. HEC2 interacts with PIF4 both in yeast and in vivo. In the absence of HECs, PIF4 binding to its own promoter as well as the target gene promoters was enhanced, indicating that HECs control PIF4 activity via heterodimerization. Overall, these data suggest that PIF4-HEC forms an autoregulatory composite negative feedback loop that controls growth genes to modulate thermomorphogenesis.
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