Plant Raf-like kinases regulate the mRNA population upstream of ABA-unresponsive SnRK2 kinases under drought stress.
SNF1-related protein kinases 2 (SnRK2s) are key regulators governing the plant adaptive responses to osmotic stresses, such as drought and high salinity. Subclass III SnRK2s function as central regulators of abscisic acid (ABA) signalling and orchestrate ABA-regulated adaptive responses to osmotic stresses. Seed plants have acquired other types of osmotic stress-activated but ABA-unresponsive subclass I SnRK2s that regulate mRNA decay and promote plant growth under osmotic stresses. In contrast to subclass III SnRK2s, the regulatory mechanisms underlying the rapid activation of subclass I SnRK2s in response to osmotic stress remain elusive. Here, we report that three B4 Raf-like MAP kinase kinase kinases (MAPKKKs) phosphorylate and activate subclass I SnRK2s under osmotic stress. Transcriptome analyses reveal that genes downstream of these MAPKKKs largely overlap with subclass I SnRK2-regulated genes under osmotic stress, which indicates that these MAPKKKs are upstream factors of subclass I SnRK2 and are directly activated by osmotic stress.