ERF Gene Clusters: Working Together to Regulate Metabolism

Tsubasa Shoji, Ling Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Plants produce structurally diverse specialized metabolites, including bioactive alkaloids and terpenoids, in response to biotic and abiotic environmental stresses. The APETALA2/ETHYLENE RESPONSE FACTOR (AP2/ERF) family of transcription factors (TFs) play key roles in regulating biosynthesis of specialized metabolites. Increasing genomic and functional evidence shows that a subset of the ERF genes occurs in clusters on the chromosomes. These jasmonate-responsive ERF TF gene clusters control the biosynthesis of many important metabolites, from natural products, such as nicotine and steroidal glycoalkaloids (SGAs), to pharmaceuticals, such as artemisinin, vinblastine, and vincristine. Here, we review the function, regulation, and evolution of ERF clusters and highlight recent advances in understanding the distinct roles of clustered ERF genes and their possible application in metabolic engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-32
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Plant Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The studies related to this article were supported in part by the Japan Society for Science and Technology (Grants-in-Aids for Scientific Research No. 17K07747 to T.S.), the Harold R. Burton Endowed Professorship (to L.Y.), and the National Science Foundation (under Cooperative Agreement no. 1355438 to L.Y). We thank David Zaitlin and Katherine Shen for critical reading of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors


  • ERF transcription factor
  • gene cluster
  • jasmonates
  • specialized metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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