Characterization of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) of pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan L.) and functional validation of selected genes for abiotic stress tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana

B Priyanka, K Sekhar, T Sunita, V D Reddy, Khareedu Venkateswara Rao
Molecular Genetics and Genomics: MGG 2010, 283 (3): 273-87
Pigeonpea, a major grain legume crop with remarkable drought tolerance traits, has been used for the isolation of stress-responsive genes. Herein, we report generation of ESTs, transcript profiles of selected genes and validation of candidate genes obtained from the subtracted cDNA libraries of pigeonpea plants subjected to PEG/water-deficit stress conditions. Cluster analysis of 124 selected ESTs yielded 75 high-quality ESTs. Homology searches disclosed that 55 ESTs share significant similarity with the known/putative proteins or ESTs available in the databases. These ESTs were characterized and genes relevant to the specific physiological processes were identified. Of the 75 ESTs obtained from the cDNA libraries of drought-stressed plants, 20 ESTs proved to be unique to the pigeonpea. These sequences are envisaged to serve as a potential source of stress-inducible genes of the drought stress-response transcriptome, and hence may be used for deciphering the mechanism of drought tolerance of the pigeonpea. Expression profiles of selected genes revealed increased levels of m-RNA transcripts in pigeonpea plants subjected to different abiotic stresses. Transgenic Arabidopsis lines, expressing Cajanus cajan hybrid-proline-rich protein (CcHyPRP), C. cajan cyclophilin (CcCYP) and C. cajan cold and drought regulatory (CcCDR) genes, exhibited marked tolerance, increased plant biomass and enhanced photosynthetic rates under PEG/NaCl/cold/heat stress conditions. This study represents the first report dealing with the isolation of drought-specific ESTs, transcriptome analysis and functional validation of drought-responsive genes of the pigeonpea. These genes, as such, hold promise for engineering crop plants bestowed with tolerance to major abiotic stresses.

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