Isolation, identification and expression analysis of salt-induced genes in Suaeda maritima, a natural halophyte, using PCR-based suppression subtractive hybridization

Binod B Sahu, Birendra P Shaw
BMC Plant Biology 2009, 9: 69

BACKGROUND: Despite wealth of information generated on salt tolerance mechanism, its basics still remain elusive. Thus, there is a need of continued effort to understand the salt tolerance mechanism using suitable biotechnological techniques and test plants (species) to enable development of salt tolerant cultivars of interest. Therefore, the present study was undertaken to generate information on salt stress responsive genes in a natural halophyte, Suaeda maritima, using PCR-based suppression subtractive hybridization (PCR-SSH) technique.

RESULTS: Forward and reverse SSH cDNA libraries were constructed after exposing the young plants to 425 mM NaCl for 24 h. From the forward SSH cDNA library, 429 high quality ESTs were obtained. BLASTX search and TIGR assembler programme revealed overexpression of 167 unigenes comprising 89 singletons and 78 contigs with ESTs redundancy of 81.8%. Among the unigenes, 32.5% were found to be of special interest, indicating novel function of these genes with regard to salt tolerance. Literature search for the known unigenes revealed that only 17 of them were salt-inducible. A comparative analysis of the existing SSH cDNA libraries for NaCl stress in plants showed that only a few overexpressing unigenes were common in them. Moreover, the present study also showed increased expression of phosphoethanolamine N-methyltransferase gene, indicating the possible accumulation of a much studied osmoticum, glycinebetaine, in halophyte under salt stress. Functional categorization of the proteins as per the Munich database in general revealed that salt tolerance could be largely determined by the proteins involved in transcription, signal transduction, protein activity regulation and cell differentiation and organogenesis.

CONCLUSION: The study provided a clear indication of possible vital role of glycinebetaine in the salt tolerance process in S. maritima. However, the salt-induced expression of a large number of genes involved in a wide range of cellular functions was indicative of highly complex nature of the process as such. Most of the salt inducible genes, nonetheless, appeared to be species-specific. In light of the observations made, it is reasonable to emphasize that a comparative analysis of ESTs from SSH cDNA libraries generated systematically for a few halophytes with varying salt exposure time may clearly identify the key salt tolerance determinant genes to a minimum number, highly desirable for any genetic manipulation adventure.

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