Overexpression of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin increases waterlogging tolerance in Arabidopsis and maize

Hewei Du, Xiaomeng Shen, Yiqin Huang, Min Huang, Zuxin Zhang
BMC Plant Biology 2016, 16: 35

BACKGROUND: Vitreoscilla hemoglobin (VHb) is a type of hemoglobin found in the Gram-negative aerobic bacterium Vitreoscilla that has been shown to contribute to the tolerance of anaerobic stress in multiple plant species. Maize (Zea mays L.) is susceptible to waterlogging, causing significant yield loss. In this study, we approached this problem with the introduction of an exogenous VHb gene.

RESULTS: We overexpressed the VHb gene in Arabidopsis and maize under the control of the CaMV35S promoter. After 14 days of waterlogging treatment, the transgenic VHb Arabidopsis plants remained green, while the controls died. Under waterlogging, important plant growth traits of VHb plants, including seedling height, primary root length, lateral root number, and shoot dry weight were significantly improved relative to those of the controls. The VHb gene was also introduced into a maize line through particle bombardment and was then transferred to two elite maize inbred lines through marker-assisted backcrossing. The introduction of VHb significantly enhanced plant growth under waterlogging stress on traits, including seedling height, primary root length, lateral root number, root dry weight, and shoot dry weight, in both Zheng58 and CML50 maize backgrounds. Under the waterlogging condition, transgenic VHb maize seedlings exhibited elevated expression of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH1) and higher peroxidase (POD) enzyme activity. The two VHb-containing lines, Zheng58 (VHb) and CML50 (VHb), exhibited higher tolerance to waterlogging than their negative control lines (Zheng58 and CML50).

CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate that the exogenous VHb gene confers waterlogging tolerance to the transgenic maize line. In Maize in the place of to the transgenic maize line, the VHb gene is a useful molecular tool for the improvement of waterlogging and submergence-tolerance.

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