Cotton is the world’s primary fiber crop and is a major agricultural commodity in over 30 countries. Like many other global commodities, sustainable cotton production is challenged by restricted natural resources. In response to the anticipated increase of agricultural water demand, a major research direction involves developing crops that use less water or that use water more efficiently. In this study, our objective was to identify differentially expressed genes in response to water deficit stress in cotton. A global expression analysis using cDNA-Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism was conducted to compare root and leaf gene expression profiles from a putative drought resistant cotton cultivar grown under water deficit stressed and well watered field conditions.
We identified a total of 519 differentially expressed transcript derived fragments. Of these, 147 transcript derived fragment sequences were functionally annotated according to their gene ontology. Nearly 70 percent of transcript derived fragments belonged to four major categories: 1) unclassified, 2) stress/defense, 3) metabolism, and 4) gene regulation. We found heat shock protein-related and reactive oxygen species-related transcript derived fragments to be among the major parts of functional pathways induced by water deficit stress. Also, twelve novel transcripts were identified as both water deficit responsive and cotton specific. A subset of differentially expressed transcript derived fragments was verified using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Differential expression analysis also identified five pairs of duplicated transcript derived fragments in which four pairs responded differentially between each of their two homologues under water deficit stress.
In this study, we detected differentially expressed transcript derived fragments from water deficit stressed root and leaf tissues in tetraploid cotton and provided their gene ontology, functional/biological distribution, and possible roles of gene duplication. This discovery demonstrates complex mechanisms involved with polyploid cotton’s transcriptome response to naturally occurring field water deficit stress. The genes identified in this study will provide candidate targets to manipulate the water use characteristics of cotton at the molecular level.