Genome-wide analysis of AP2/ERF family genes from Lotus corniculatus shows LcERF054 enhances salt tolerance

Zhan-Min Sun, Mei-Liang Zhou, Xing-Guo Xiao, Yi-Xiong Tang, Yan-Min Wu
Functional & Integrative Genomics 2014, 14 (3): 453-66
Lotus corniculatus is used in agriculture as a main forage plant. Members of the Apetala2/ethylene response factor (AP2/ERF) family play important roles in regulating gene expression in response to many forms of stress, including drought and salt. Here, starting from database of the L. corniculatus var. japonicus genome, we identified 127 AP2/ERF genes by insilico cloning method. The phylogeny, gene structures, and putative conserved motifs in L. corniculatus var. japonicus ERF proteins were analyzed. Based on the number of AP2/ERF domains and the function of the genes, 127 AP2/ERF genes from L. corniculatus var. japonicus were classified into five subfamilies named the AP2, dehydration-responsive element binding factor (DREB), ERF, RAV, and a soloist. Outside the AP2/ERF domain, many L. corniculatus var. japonicus-specific conserved motifs were detected. Expression profile analysis of AP2/ERF genes by quantitative real-time PCR revealed that 19 LcERF genes, including LcERF054 (KJ004728), were significantly induced by salt stress. The results showed that the LcERF054 gene encodes a nuclear transcription activator. Overexpression of LcERF054 in Arabidopsis enhanced the tolerances to salt stress, showed higher germination ratio of seeds, and had elevated levels of relative moisture contents, soluble sugars, proline, and lower levels of malondialdehyde under stress conditions compared to wild-type plants. The expression of hyperosmotic salinity response genes COR15A, LEA4-5, P5CS1, and RD29A was found to be elevated in the LcERF054-overexpressing Arabidopsis plants compared to wild type. These results revealed that the LcERF genes play important roles in L. corniculatus cv Leo under salt stress and that LcERFs are attractive engineering targets in applied efforts to improve abiotic stress tolerances in L. corniculatus cv Leo or other crops.

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