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A receptor-like kinase gene (GbRLK) from Gossypium barbadense enhances salinity and drought-stress tolerance in Arabidopsis

Jun Zhao, Yulong Gao, Zhiyuan Zhang, Tianzi Chen, Wangzhen Guo, Tianzhen Zhang
BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13: 110
23915077

BACKGROUND: Cotton (Gossypium spp.) is widely cultivated due to the important economic value of its fiber. However, extreme environmental degradation impedes cotton growth and production. Receptor-like kinase (RLK) proteins play important roles in signal transduction and participate in a diverse range of processes in response to plant hormones and environmental cues. Here, we introduced an RLK gene (GbRLK) from cotton into Arabidopsis and investigated its role in imparting abiotic stress tolerance.

RESULTS: GbRLK transcription was induced by exogenously supplied abscisic acid (ABA), salicylic acid, methyl jasmonate, mock drought conditions and high salinity. We cloned the promoter sequence of this gene via self-formed adaptor PCR. Sequence analysis revealed that the promoter region contains many cis-acting stress-responsive elements such as ABRE, W-Box, MYB-core, W-Box core, TCA-element and others. We constructed a vector containing a 1,890-bp sequence in the 5' region upstream of the initiation codon of this promoter and transformed it into Arabidopsis thaliana. GUS histochemical staining analysis showed that GbRLK was expressed mainly in leaf veins, petioles and roots of transgenic Arabidopsis, but not in the cotyledons or root hairs. GbRLK promoter activity was induced by ABA, PEG, NaCl and Verticillium dahliae. Transgenic Arabidopsis with constitutive overexpression of GbRLK exhibited a reduced rate of water loss in leaves in vitro, along with improved salinity and drought tolerance and increased sensitivity to ABA compared with non-transgenic Col-0 Arabidopsis. Expression analysis of stress-responsive genes in GbRLK Arabidopsis revealed that there was increased expression of genes involved in the ABA-dependent signaling pathway (AtRD20, AtRD22 and AtRD26) and antioxidant genes (AtCAT1, AtCCS, AtCSD2 and AtCSD1) but not ion transporter genes (AtNHX1, AtSOS1).

CONCLUSIONS: GbRLK is involved in the drought and high salinity stresses pathway by activating or participating in the ABA signaling pathway. Overexpression of GbRLK may improve stress tolerance by regulating stress-responsive genes to reduce water loss. GbRLK may be employed in the genetic engineering of novel cotton cultivars in the future. Further studying of GbRLK will help elucidate abiotic stress signaling pathways.

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