Stress responsive DEAD-box helicases: a new pathway to engineer plant stress tolerance

Ajay Amar Vashisht, Narendra Tuteja
Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology. B, Biology 2006 August 1, 84 (2): 150-60
Abiotic stresses including various environmental factors adversely affect plant growth and limit agricultural production worldwide. Minimizing these losses is a major area of concern for all countries. Therefore, it is desirable to develop multi-stress tolerant varieties. Salinity, drought, and cold are among the major environmental stresses that greatly influence the growth, development, survival, and yield of plants. UV-B radiation of sunlight, which damages the cellular genomes, is another growth-retarding factor. Several genes are induced under the influence of various abiotic stresses. Among these are DNA repair genes, which are induced in response to the DNA damage. Since the stresses affect the cellular gene expression machinery, it is possible that molecules involved in nucleic acid metabolism including helicases are likely to be affected. The light-driven shifts in redox-potential can also initiate the helicase gene expression. Helicases are ubiquitous enzymes that catalyse the unwinding of energetically stable duplex DNA (DNA helicases) or duplex RNA secondary structures (RNA helicases). Most helicases are members of DEAD-box protein superfamily and play essential roles in basic cellular processes such as DNA replication, repair, recombination, transcription, ribosome biogenesis and translation initiation. Therefore, helicases might be playing an important role in regulating plant growth and development under stress conditions by regulating some stress-induced pathways. There are now few reports on the up-regulation of DEAD-box helicases in response to abiotic stresses. Recently, salinity-stress tolerant tobacco plants have already been raised by overexpressing a helicase gene, which suggests a new pathway to engineer plant stress tolerance [N. Sanan-Mishra, X.H. Pham, S.K. Sopory, N. Tuteja, Pea DNA helicase 45 overexpression in tobacco confers high salinity tolerance without affecting yield. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102 (2005) 509-514]. Presently the exact mechanism of helicase-mediated stress tolerance is not understood. In this review we have described all the reported stress-induced helicases and also discussed the possible mechanisms by which they can provide stress tolerance.

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