DELLA Proteins in Signalling


DELLA proteins have emerged as important modulators of prewired transcriptional circuits in response to the environment. In vascular plants, proteasome‐dependent degradation of DELLAs is induced by gibberellins, whose levels are strongly regulated by environmental signals such as light, temperature and nutrient availability. Transcriptional regulation is exerted by DELLAs through physical interaction with DNA‐binding transcription factors and other transcriptional regulators. The key biological role of DELLAs has been proposed to regulate the balance between growth and stress responses, which justifies the inadvertent selection of hyperstable DELLA alleles during the breeding programs that lead to the Green Revolution. DELLA proteins are also present in nonvascular plants which do not synthesise active gibberellins, suggesting that the origin of DELLAs predates the emergence of gibberellin biosynthesis.

Key Concepts

  • DELLAs are nuclear proteins that modulate the activity of a large set of transcription factors through protein–protein interaction.
  • DELLA protein degradation is regulated by environmental signals mostly through gibberellin signalling.
  • DELLA proteins are ‘hubs’ that control the balance between growth and stress responses.
  • The origin of DELLA proteins predates the appearance of bioactive gibberellins.
  • Manipulation of DELLA proteins has contributed to the ‘Green Revolution’.

Keywords: Arabidopsis ; rice; gibberellin; green revolution; prefoldin; transcriptional regulation; hormone signalling

Figure 1. Domain structure of DELLA proteins. The N‐terminal domain contains the ‘DELLA’, ‘LExLE’ and ‘TVHYNP’ motifs necessary for the interaction with the GID1 GA receptor. The C‐terminal domain also called ‘GRAS domain’ contains two leucine heptad repeats (LHR1 and 2), the ‘VHIID’ motif preceded by a nuclear localisation signal, and the ‘PFYRE’ and ‘SAW’ motifs.
Figure 2. GA‐dependent degradation of DELLA proteins. The images show the nuclear fluorescence signal emitted by RGA‐YFP in the absence of GAs, in Arabidopsis hypocotyls under a confocal microscope. The rga‐Δ17 allele is stable even in the presence of GAs.
Figure 3. Mechanisms of DELLA transcriptional regulation. DELLAs can sequester TFs, or sequester TF regulators, or act as TF transcriptional coactivators at the promoters of target genes.
Figure 4. The role of DELLA proteins in the coordination of transcriptional programs in response to environmental signals. Depending on the interacting TF, DELLAs can affect different biological processes in a given plant.
Figure 5. Regulation of microtubule elongation by DELLA‐PFD interaction. DELLA‐dependent retention of PFD in the nucleus impairs proper folding of tubulin, and hence microtubule extension.


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Further Reading

Daviere JM and Achard P (2013) Gibberellin signaling in plants. Development (Cambridge, England) 140: 1147–1151.

Schwechheimer C (2011) Gibberellin signaling in plants ‐ the extended version. Frontiers in Plant Science 2: 107.

Thomas SG (2017) Novel Rht‐1 dwarfing genes: tools for wheat breeding and dissecting the function of DELLA proteins. Journal of Experimental Botany 68: 354–358.

Vera‐Sirera F , Gomez MD and Perez‐Amador MA (2015) DELLA proteins, a group of GRAS transcription regularors, mediate gibberellin signaling. In: González DH (ed.) Plant Transcription Factors; Evolutionary, Structural and Functional Aspects, pp. 313–328. Amsterdam (The Netherlands): Elsevier.

Yoshida H , Tanimoto E , Hirai T , et al. (2018) Evolution and diversification of the plant gibberellin receptor GID1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115: E7844–E7853.

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Blázquez, Miguel A(Mar 2019) DELLA Proteins in Signalling. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020096.pub2]