The ERF transcription factor TaERF3 promotes tolerance to salt and drought stresses in wheat

Wei Rong, Lin Qi, Aiyun Wang, Xingguo Ye, Lipu Du, Hongxia Liang, Zhiyong Xin, Zengyan Zhang
Plant Biotechnology Journal 2014, 12 (4): 468-79
Salinity and drought are major limiting factors of wheat (Triticum aestivum) productivity worldwide. Here, we report the function of a wheat ERF transcription factor TaERF3 in salt and drought responses and the underlying mechanism of TaERF3 function. Upon treatment with 250 mM NaCl or 20% polyethylene glycol (PEG), transcript levels of TaERF3 were rapidly induced in wheat. Using wheat cultivar Yangmai 12 as the transformation recipient, four TaERF3-overexpressing transgenic lines were generated and functionally characterized. The seedlings of the TaERF3-overexpressing transgenic lines exhibited significantly enhanced tolerance to both salt and drought stresses as compared to untransformed wheat. In the leaves of TaERF3-overexpressing lines, accumulation levels of both proline and chlorophyll were significantly increased, whereas H₂O₂ content and stomatal conductance were significantly reduced. Conversely, TaERF3-silencing wheat plants that were generated through virus-induced gene silencing method displayed more sensitivity to salt and drought stresses compared with the control plants. Real-time quantitative RT-PCR analyses showed that transcript levels of ten stress-related genes were increased in TaERF3-overexpressing lines, but compromised in TaERF3-silencing wheat plants. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed that the TaERF3 protein could interact with the GCC-box cis-element present in the promoters of seven TaERF3-activated stress-related genes. These results indicate that TaERF3 positively regulates wheat adaptation responses to salt and drought stresses through the activation of stress-related genes and that TaERF3 is an attractive engineering target in applied efforts to improve abiotic stress tolerances in wheat and other cereals.


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