A Populus euphratica DNA microarray was constructed and used to analyze gene expression in trees growing in the desert. P. euphratica is shown to express a set of genes that is different from other Populus trees and these genes contribute to adaptation to saline growth conditions.
Plants growing in their natural habitat represent a valuable resource for elucidating mechanisms of acclimation to environmental constraints. Populus euphratica is a salt-tolerant tree species growing in saline semi-arid areas. To identify genes involved in abiotic stress responses under natural conditions we constructed several normalized and subtracted cDNA libraries from control, stress-exposed and desert-grown P. euphratica trees. In addition, we identified several metabolites in desert-grown P. euphratica trees.
About 14,000 expressed sequence tag (EST) sequences were obtained with a good representation of genes putatively involved in resistance and tolerance to salt and other abiotic stresses. A P. euphratica DNA microarray with a uni-gene set of ESTs representing approximately 6,340 different genes was constructed. The microarray was used to study gene expression in adult P. euphratica trees growing in the desert canyon of Ein Avdat in Israel. In parallel, 22 selected metabolites were profiled in the same trees.
Of the obtained ESTs, 98% were found in the sequenced P. trichocarpa genome and 74% in other Populus EST collections. This implies that the P. euphratica genome does not contain different genes per se, but that regulation of gene expression might be different and that P. euphratica expresses a different set of genes that contribute to adaptation to saline growth conditions. Also, all of the five measured amino acids show increased levels in trees growing in the more saline soil.