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2.  Alleviation of Cadmium Toxicity in Brassica juncea L. (Czern. & Coss.) by Calcium Application Involves Various Physiological and Biochemical Strategies 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0114571.
Calcium (Ca) plays important role in plant development and response to various environmental stresses. However, its involvement in mitigation of heavy metal stress in plants remains elusive. In this study, we examined the effect of Ca (50 mM) in controlling cadmium (Cd) uptake in mustard (Brassica juncea L.) plants exposed to toxic levels of Cd (200 mg L−1 and 300 mg L−1). The Cd treatment showed substantial decrease in plant height, root length, dry weight, pigments and protein content. Application of Ca improved the growth and biomass yield of the Cd-stressed mustard seedlings. More importantly, the oil content of mustard seeds of Cd-stressed plants was also enhanced with Ca treatment. Proline was significantly increased in mustard plants under Cd stress, and exogenously sprayed Ca was found to have a positive impact on proline content in Cd-stressed plants. Different concentrations of Cd increased lipid peroxidation but the application of Ca minimized it to appreciable level in Cd-treated plants. Excessive Cd treatment enhanced the activities of antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase, ascorbate peroxidase and glutathione reductase, which were further enhanced by the addition of Ca. Additionally, Cd stress caused reduced uptake of essential elements and increased Cd accumulation in roots and shoots. However, application of Ca enhanced the concentration of essential elements and decreased Cd accumulation in Cd-stressed plants. Our results indicated that application of Ca enables mustard plant to withstand the deleterious effect of Cd, resulting in improved growth and seed quality of mustard plants.
PMCID: PMC4309397  PMID: 25629695
3.  DT2008: A Promising New Genetic Resource for Improved Drought Tolerance in Soybean When Solely Dependent on Symbiotic N2 Fixation 
BioMed Research International  2015;2015:687213.
Water deficit is one of the major constraints for soybean production in Vietnam. The soybean breeding research efforts conducted at the Agriculture Genetics Institute (AGI) of Vietnam resulted in the development of promising soybean genotypes, suitable for the drought-stressed areas in Vietnam and other countries. Such a variety, namely, DT2008, was recommended by AGI and widely used throughout the country. The aim of this work was to assess the growth of shoots, roots, and nodules of DT2008 versus Williams 82 (W82) in response to drought and subsequent rehydration in symbiotic association as a means to provide genetic resources for genomic research. Better shoot, root, and nodule growth and development were observed in the cultivar DT2008 under sufficient, water deficit, and recovery conditions. Our results represent a good foundation for further comparison of DT2008 and W82 at molecular levels using high throughput omic technologies, which will provide huge amounts of data, enabling us to understand the genetic network involved in regulation of soybean responses to water deficit and increasing the chances of developing drought-tolerant cultivars.
PMCID: PMC4299153  PMID: 25685802
4.  Correlation between differential drought tolerability of two contrasting drought-responsive chickpea cultivars and differential expression of a subset of CaNAC genes under normal and dehydration conditions 
Drought causes detrimental effect to growth and productivity of many plants, including crops. NAC transcription factors have been reported to play important role in drought tolerance. In this study, we assessed the expression profiles of 19 dehydration-responsive CaNAC genes in roots and leaves of two contrasting drought-responsive chickpea varieties treated with water (control) and dehydration to examine the correlation between the differential expression levels of the CaNAC genes and the differential drought tolerability of these two cultivars. Results of real-time quantitative PCR indicated a positive relationship between the number of dehydration-inducible and -repressible CaNAC genes and drought tolerability. The higher drought-tolerant capacity of ILC482 cultivar vs. Hashem cultivar might be, at least partly, attributed to the higher number of dehydration-inducible and lower number of dehydration-repressible CaNAC genes identified in both root and leaf tissues of ILC482 than in those of Hashem. In addition, our comparative expression analysis of the selected CaNAC genes in roots and leaves of ILC482 and Hashem cultivars revealed different dehydration-responsive expression patterns, indicating that CaNAC gene expression is tissue- and genotype-specific. Furthermore, the analysis suggested that the enhanced drought tolerance of ILC482 vs. Hashem might be associated with five genes, namely CaNAC02, 04, 05, 16, and 24. CaNAC16 could be a potential candidate gene, contributing to the better drought tolerance of ILC482 vs. Hashem as a positive regulator. Conversely, CaNAC02 could be a potential negative regulator, contributing to the differential drought tolerability of these two cultivars. Thus, our results have also provided a solid foundation for selection of promising tissue-specific and/or dehydration-responsive CaNAC candidates for detailed in planta functional analyses, leading to development of transgenic chickpea varieties with improved productivity under drought.
PMCID: PMC4472984  PMID: 26150822
chickpea; NAC transcription factors; differential expression; differential drought tolerability; RT-qPCR
5.  Comparative analysis of root transcriptomes from two contrasting drought-responsive Williams 82 and DT2008 soybean cultivars under normal and dehydration conditions 
The economically important DT2008 and the model Williams 82 (W82) soybean cultivars were reported to have differential drought-tolerant degree to dehydration and drought, which was associated with root trait. Here, we used 66K Affymetrix Soybean Array GeneChip to compare the root transcriptomes of DT2008 and W82 seedlings under normal, as well as mild (2 h treatment) and severe (10 h treatment) dehydration conditions. Out of the 38172 soybean genes annotated with high confidence, 822 (2.15%) and 632 (1.66%) genes showed altered expression by dehydration in W82 and DT2008 roots, respectively, suggesting that a larger machinery is required to be activated in the drought-sensitive W82 cultivar to cope with the stress. We also observed that long-term dehydration period induced expression change of more genes in soybean roots than the short-term one, independently of the genotypes. Furthermore, our data suggest that the higher drought tolerability of DT2008 might be attributed to the higher number of genes induced in DT2008 roots than in W82 roots by early dehydration, and to the expression changes of more genes triggered by short-term dehydration than those by prolonged dehydration in DT2008 roots vs. W82 roots. Differentially expressed genes (DEGs) that could be predicted to have a known function were further analyzed to gain a basic understanding on how soybean plants respond to dehydration for their survival. The higher drought tolerability of DT2008 vs. W82 might be attributed to differential expression in genes encoding osmoprotectant biosynthesis-, detoxification- or cell wall-related proteins, kinases, transcription factors and phosphatase 2C proteins. This research allowed us to identify genetic components that contribute to the improved drought tolerance of DT2008, as well as provide a useful genetic resource for in-depth functional analyses that ultimately leads to development of soybean cultivars with improved tolerance to drought.
PMCID: PMC4528160  PMID: 26300889
soybean; dehydration; root microarray; differential expression; differential drought tolerability
6.  Hydrogen Sulfide Regulates Salt Tolerance in Rice by Maintaining Na+/K+ Balance, Mineral Homeostasis and Oxidative Metabolism Under Excessive Salt Stress 
Being a salt sensitive crop, rice growth and development are frequently affected by soil salinity. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has been recently explored as an important priming agent regulating diverse physiological processes of plant growth and development. Despite its enormous prospects in plant systems, the role of H2S in plant stress tolerance is still elusive. Here, a combined pharmacological, physiological and biochemical approach was executed aiming to examine the possible mechanism of H2S in enhancement of rice salt stress tolerance. We showed that pretreating rice plants with H2S donor sodium bisulfide (NaHS) clearly improved, but application of H2S scavenger hypotaurine with NaHS decreased growth and biomass-related parameters under salt stress. NaHS-pretreated salt-stressed plants exhibited increased chlorophyll, carotenoid and soluble protein contents, as well as suppressed accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), contributing to oxidative damage protection. The protective mechanism of H2S against oxidative stress was correlated with the elevated levels of ascorbic acid, glutathione, redox states, and the enhanced activities of ROS- and methylglyoxal-detoxifying enzymes. Notably, the ability to decrease the uptake of Na+ and the Na+/K+ ratio, as well as to balance mineral contents indicated a role of H2S in ion homeostasis under salt stress. Altogether, our results highlight that modulation of the level of endogenous H2S genetically or exogenously could be employed to attain better growth and development of rice, and perhaps other crops, under salt stress. Furthermore, our study reveals the importance of the implication of gasotransmitters like H2S for the management of salt stress, thus assisting rice plants to adapt to adverse environmental changes.
PMCID: PMC4685665  PMID: 26734015
global salinity; gasotransmitter; hydrogen sulfide; ionic stress; physiological and biochemical mechanisms; reactive oxygen species; rice; salt tolerance
7.  Genome-Wide Identification and Expression Analysis of the CaNAC Family Members in Chickpea during Development, Dehydration and ABA Treatments 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114107.
The plant-specific NAC transcription factors (TFs) play important roles in regulation of diverse biological processes, including development, growth, cell division and responses to environmental stimuli. In this study, we identified the members of the NAC TF family of chickpea (Cicer arietinum) and assess their expression profiles during plant development and under dehydration and abscisic acid (ABA) treatments in a systematic manner. Seventy-one CaNAC genes were detected from the chickpea genome, including 8 membrane-bound members of which many might be involved in dehydration responses as judged from published literature. Phylogenetic analysis of the chickpea and well-known stress-related Arabidopsis and rice NACs enabled us to predict several putative stress-related CaNACs. By exploring available transcriptome data, we provided a comprehensive expression atlas of CaNACs in various tissues at different developmental stages. With the highest interest in dehydration responses, we examined the expression of the predicted stress-related and membrane-bound CaNACs in roots and leaves of chickpea seedlings, subjected to well-watered (control), dehydration and ABA treatments, using real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). Nine-teen of the 23 CaNACs examined were found to be dehydration-responsive in chickpea roots and/or leaves in either ABA-dependent or -independent pathway. Our results have provided a solid foundation for selection of promising tissue-specific and/or dehydration-responsive CaNAC candidates for detailed in planta functional analyses, leading to development of transgenic chickpea varieties with improved productivity under drought.
PMCID: PMC4257607  PMID: 25479253
8.  Evaluation of Drought Tolerance of the Vietnamese Soybean Cultivars Provides Potential Resources for Soybean Production and Genetic Engineering 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:809736.
Drought is one of the greatest constraints to soybean production in many countries, including Vietnam. Although a wide variety of the newly produced cultivars have been produced recently in Vietnam through classical breeding to cope with water shortage, little knowledge of their molecular and physiological responses to drought has been discovered. This study was conducted to quickly evaluate drought tolerance of thirteen local soybean cultivars for selection of the best drought-tolerant cultivars for further field test. Differences in drought tolerance of cultivars were assessed by root and shoot lengths, relative water content, and drought-tolerant index under both normal and drought conditions. Our data demonstrated that DT51 is the strongest drought-tolerant genotype among all the tested cultivars, while the highest drought-sensitive phenotype was observed with MTD720. Thus, DT51 could be subjected to further yield tests in the field prior to suggesting it for use in production. Due to their contrasting drought-tolerant phenotypes, DT51 and MTD720 provide excellent genetic resources for further studies underlying mechanisms regulating drought responses and gene discovery. Our results provide vital information to support the effort of molecular breeding and genetic engineering to improve drought tolerance of soybean.
PMCID: PMC3997955  PMID: 24804248
9.  Diversity of Plant Methionine Sulfoxide Reductases B and Evolution of a Form Specific for Free Methionine Sulfoxide 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65637.
Methionine can be reversibly oxidized to methionine sulfoxide (MetO) under physiological conditions. Organisms evolved two distinct methionine sulfoxide reductase families (MSRA & MSRB) to repair oxidized methionine residues. We found that 5 MSRB genes exist in the soybean genome, including GmMSRB1 and two segmentally duplicated gene pairs (GmMSRB2 and GmMSRB5, GmMSRB3 and GmMSRB4). GmMSRB2 and GmMSRB4 proteins showed MSRB activity toward protein-based MetO with either DTT or thioredoxin (TRX) as reductants, whereas GmMSRB1 was active only with DTT. GmMSRB2 had a typical MSRB mechanism with Cys121 and Cys 68 as catalytic and resolving residues, respectively. Surprisingly, this enzyme also possessed the MSRB activity toward free Met-R-O with kinetic parameters similar to those reported for fRMSR from Escherichia coli, an enzyme specific for free Met-R-O. Overexpression of GmMSRB2 or GmMSRB4 in the yeast cytosol supported the growth of the triple MSRA/MSRB/fRMSR (Δ3MSRs) mutant on MetO and protected cells against H2O2-induced stress. Taken together, our data reveal an unexpected diversity of MSRBs in plants and indicate that, in contrast to mammals that cannot reduce free Met-R-O and microorganisms that use fRMSR for this purpose, plants evolved MSRBs for the reduction of both free and protein-based MetO.
PMCID: PMC3680461  PMID: 23776515
10.  Characterization of the Newly Developed Soybean Cultivar DT2008 in Relation to the Model Variety W82 Reveals a New Genetic Resource for Comparative and Functional Genomics for Improved Drought Tolerance 
BioMed Research International  2012;2013:759657.
Soybean (Glycine max) productivity is adversely affected by drought stress worldwide, including Vietnam. In the last few years, we have made a great effort in the development of drought-tolerant soybean cultivars by breeding and/or radiation-induced mutagenesis. One of the newly developed cultivars, the DT2008, showed enhanced drought tolerance and stable yield in the field conditions. The purpose of this study was to compare the drought-tolerant phenotype of DT2008 and Williams 82 (W82) by assessing their water loss and growth rate under dehydration and/or drought stress conditions as a means to provide genetic resources for further comparative and functional genomics. We found that DT2008 had reduced water loss under both dehydration and drought stresses in comparison with W82. The examination of root and shoot growths of DT2008 and W82 under both normal and drought conditions indicated that DT2008 maintains a better shoot and root growth rates than W82 under both two growth conditions. These results together suggest that DT2008 has better drought tolerance degree than W82. Our results open the way for further comparison of DT2008 and W82 at molecular levels by advanced omic approaches to identify mutation(s) involved in the enhancement of drought tolerance of DT2008, contributing to our understanding of drought tolerance mechanisms in soybean. Mutation(s) identified are potential candidates for genetic engineering of elite soybean varieties to improve drought tolerance and biomass.
PMCID: PMC3591244  PMID: 23509774
11.  Differential Gene Expression in Soybean Leaf Tissues at Late Developmental Stages under Drought Stress Revealed by Genome-Wide Transcriptome Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49522.
The availability of complete genome sequence of soybean has allowed research community to design the 66 K Affymetrix Soybean Array GeneChip for genome-wide expression profiling of soybean. In this study, we carried out microarray analysis of leaf tissues of soybean plants, which were subjected to drought stress from late vegetative V6 and from full bloom reproductive R2 stages. Our data analyses showed that out of 46093 soybean genes, which were predicted with high confidence among approximately 66000 putative genes, 41059 genes could be assigned with a known function. Using the criteria of a ratio change > = 2 and a q-value<0.05, we identified 1458 and 1818 upregulated and 1582 and 1688 downregulated genes in drought-stressed V6 and R2 leaves, respectively. These datasets were classified into 19 most abundant biological categories with similar proportions. There were only 612 and 463 genes that were overlapped among the upregulated and downregulated genes, respectively, in both stages, suggesting that both conserved and unconserved pathways might be involved in regulation of drought response in different stages of plant development. A comparative expression analysis using our datasets and that of drought stressed Arabidopsis leaves revealed the existence of both conserved and species-specific mechanisms that regulate drought responses. Many upregulated genes encode either regulatory proteins, such as transcription factors, including those with high homology to Arabidopsis DREB, NAC, AREB and ZAT/STZ transcription factors, kinases and two-component system members, or functional proteins, e.g. late embryogenesis-abundant proteins, glycosyltransferases, glycoside hydrolases, defensins and glyoxalase I family proteins. A detailed analysis of the GmNAC family and the hormone-related gene category showed that expression of many GmNAC and hormone-related genes was altered by drought in V6 and/or R2 leaves. Additionally, the downregulation of many photosynthesis-related genes, which contribute to growth retardation under drought stress, may serve as an adaptive mechanism for plant survival. This study has identified excellent drought-responsive candidate genes for in-depth characterization and future development of improved drought-tolerant transgenic soybeans.
PMCID: PMC3505142  PMID: 23189148
12.  Regulatory Roles of Cytokinins and Cytokinin Signaling in Response to Potassium Deficiency in Arabidopsis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47797.
Potassium (K) is an important plant macronutrient that has various functions throughout the whole plant over its entire life span. Cytokinins (CKs) are known to regulate macronutrient homeostasis by controlling the expression of nitrate, phosphate and sulfate transporters. Although several studies have described how CKs signal deficiencies for some macronutrients, the roles of CKs in K signaling are poorly understood. CK content has been shown to decrease under K-starved conditions. Specifically, a CK-deficient mutant was more tolerant to low K than wild-type; however, a plant with an overaccumulation of CKs was more sensitive to low K. These results suggest that K deprivation alters CK metabolism, leading to a decrease in CK content. To investigate this phenomenon further, several Arabidopsis lines, including a CK-deficient mutant and CK receptor mutants, were analyzed in low K conditions using molecular, genetic and biochemical approaches. ROS accumulation and root hair growth in low K were also influenced by CKs. CK receptor mutants lost the responsiveness to K-deficient signaling, including ROS accumulation and root hair growth, but the CK-deficient mutant accumulated more ROS and exhibited up-regulated expression of HAK5, which is a high-affinity K uptake transporter gene that is rapidly induced by low K stress in ROS- and ethylene-dependent manner in response to low K. From these results, we conclude that a reduction in CK levels subsequently allows fast and effective stimulation of low K-induced ROS accumulation, root hair growth and HAK5 expression, leading to plant adaptation to low K conditions.
PMCID: PMC3480408  PMID: 23112848
13.  Identification and prediction of abiotic stress responsive transcription factors involved in abiotic stress signaling in soybean 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(3):255-257.
Abiotic stresses such as extreme temperature, drought, high salinity, cold and waterlogging often result in significant losses to the yields of economically important crops such as soybean (Glycine max L.). Transcription factors (TFs) which bind to DNA through specific cis-regulatory sequences either activate or repress gene transcription have been reported to act as control switches in stress signaling. Recent completion of the soybean genomic sequence has open wide opportunities for large-scale identification and annotations of regulatory TFs in soybean for functional studies. Within the soybean genome, we identified 5,035 TF models which grouped into 61 families. Detailed annotations of soybean TF genes can be accessed at SoybeanTFDB (soybeantfdb.psc.riken. jp). Moreover, we have reported a new idea of high throughput prediction and selection of abiotic stress responsive TFs based on the existence of known stress responsive cis-element(s) located in the promoter regions of respective TFs and GO annotations. We, therefore, have provided a basic platform for the genomewide analysis of regulatory mechanisms underlying abiotic stress responses and a reliable tool for prediction and selection of stress responsive TFs for further functional studies and genetic engineering.
PMCID: PMC2881270  PMID: 20023425
soybean; transcrition factor; cis-element; abiotic stress; gene ontology
14.  Role of cytokinin responsive two-component system in ABA and osmotic stress signalings 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(2):148-150.
The two-component signaling systems (TCSs), which mediate the histidine-aspartate signaling, control diverse biological processes of many organisms, including cell division, cell growth and proliferation and responses to environmental stimuli and growth regulators. We have provided in planta evidence that the cytokinin (CK) responsive TCS mediates abscisic acid (ABA) and osmotic stress responses. By using loss-of-function approach we have demonstrated that the three cytokinin (CK) receptor histidine kinases AHK2, AHK3 and AHK4/CRE1 act as negative regulators in ABA, drought and high salinity stress signalings. Genome-wide expression profiling of the stress-tolerant double mutant suggested that CK receptor kinases mediate osmotic stress response in both an ABA-dependent and ABA-independent manner. Additionally, we showed evidence for the role of CK in mediating stress responses, judging from the fact that AHK4 requires the CK to function as a negative regulator in osmotic stress response. Our results suggested that cross-talk exists among CK, ABA and osmotic stress signaling pathways, and that CK signaling and CK metabolism may play crucial roles not only in plant growth and development but also in osmotic stress signaling.
PMCID: PMC2884120  PMID: 20023424
two-component systems; osmotic stress; abscisic acid; cytokinin; microarray
15.  A transposable element in a NAC gene is associated with drought tolerance in maize seedlings 
Nature Communications  2015;6:8326.
Drought represents a major constraint on maize production worldwide. Understanding the genetic basis for natural variation in drought tolerance of maize may facilitate efforts to improve this trait in cultivated germplasm. Here, using a genome-wide association study, we show that a miniature inverted-repeat transposable element (MITE) inserted in the promoter of a NAC gene (ZmNAC111) is significantly associated with natural variation in maize drought tolerance. The 82-bp MITE represses ZmNAC111 expression via RNA-directed DNA methylation and H3K9 dimethylation when heterologously expressed in Arabidopsis. Increasing ZmNAC111 expression in transgenic maize enhances drought tolerance at the seedling stage, improves water-use efficiency and induces upregulation of drought-responsive genes under water stress. The MITE insertion in the ZmNAC111 promoter appears to have occurred after maize domestication and spread among temperate germplasm. The identification of this MITE insertion provides insight into the genetic basis for natural variation in maize drought tolerance.
Drought is a major cause of yield loss in maize and understanding the genetic determinants of natural variation in drought tolerance may aid breeding programs produce more tolerant varieties. Here, Mao et al. identify a MITE transposon insertion in a NAC transcription factor, which is associated with natural variation in drought tolerance.
PMCID: PMC4595727  PMID: 26387805
16.  Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation in Legume Nodules: Metabolism and Regulatory Mechanisms 
The special issue “Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation in Legume Nodules: Metabolism and Regulatory Mechanisms” aims to investigate the physiological and biochemical advances in the symbiotic process with an emphasis on nodule establishment, development and functioning. The original research articles included in this issue provide important information regarding novel aspects of nodule metabolism and various regulatory pathways, which could have important future implications. This issue also included one review article that highlights the importance of using legume trees in the production of renewable biofuels.
PMCID: PMC4264117  PMID: 25347276
nitrogen fixation; legume; symbiosis; nitrogenase; nodule; carbon metabolism; nitrogen metabolism; oxygen supply; translocation
17.  Functional Analysis of Water Stress-Responsive Soybean GmNAC003 and GmNAC004 Transcription Factors in Lateral Root Development in Arabidopsis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84886.
In Arabidopsis, NAC (NAM, ATAF and CUC) transcription factors have been found to promote lateral root number through the auxin signaling pathway. In the present study, the role of water stress–inducible soybean GmNAC003 and GmNAC004 genes in the enhancement of lateral root development under water deficit conditions was investigated. Both genes were highly expressed in roots, leaves and flowers of soybean and were strongly induced by water stress and moderately induced by a treatment with abscisic acid (ABA). They showed a slight response to treatment with 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D). The transgenic Arabidopsis plants overexpressing GmNAC004 showed an increase in lateral root number and length under non-stress conditions and maintained higher lateral root number and length under mild water stress conditions compared to the wild-type (WT), while the transgenic plants overexpressing GmNAC003 did not show any response. However, LR development of GmNAC004 transgenic Arabidopsis plants was not enhanced in the water-stressed compared to the well-watered treatment. In the treatment with ABA, LR density of the GmNAC004 transgenic Arabidopsis was less suppressed than that of the WT, suggesting that GmNAC004 counteracts ABA-induced inhibition of lateral root development. In the treatment with 2,4-D, lateral root density was enhanced in both GmNAC004 transgenic Arabidopsis and WT plants but the promotion was higher in the transgenic plants. Conversely, in the treatment with naphthylphthalamic acid (NPA), lateral root density was inhibited and there was no difference in the phenotype of the GmNAC004 transgenic Arabidopsis and WT plants, indicating that auxin is required for the action of GmNAC004. Transcript analysis for a number of known auxin and ABA related genes showed that GmNAC004's role may suppress ABA signaling but promote auxin signaling to increase lateral root development in the Arabidopsis heterologous system.
PMCID: PMC3900428  PMID: 24465446
18.  Differential Expression Analysis of a Subset of Drought-Responsive GmNAC Genes in Two Soybean Cultivars Differing in Drought Tolerance 
The plant-specific NAC transcription factors play important roles in plant response to drought stress. Here, we have compared the expression levels of a subset of GmNAC genes in drought-tolerant DT51 and drought-sensitive MTD720 under both normal and drought stress conditions aimed at identifying correlation between GmNAC expression levels and drought tolerance degree, as well as potential GmNAC candidates for genetic engineering. The expression of 23 selected dehydration-responsive GmNACs was assessed in both stressed and unstressed root tissues of DT51 and MTD720 using real-time quantitative PCR. The results indicated that expression of GmNACs was genotype-dependent. Seven and 13 of 23 tested GmNACs showed higher expression levels in roots of DT51 in comparison with MTD720 under normal and drought stress conditions, respectively, whereas none of them displayed lower transcript levels under any conditions. This finding suggests that the higher drought tolerance of DT51 might be positively correlated with the higher induction of the GmNAC genes during water deficit. The drought-inducible GmNAC011 needs to be mentioned as its transcript accumulation was more than 76-fold higher in drought-stressed DT51 roots relative to MTD720 roots. Additionally, among the GmNAC genes examined, GmNAC085, 092, 095, 101 and 109 were not only drought-inducible but also more highly up-regulated in DT51 roots than in that of MTD720 under both treatment conditions. These data together suggest that GmNAC011, 085, 092, 095, 101 and 109 might be promising candidates for improvement of drought tolerance in soybean by biotechnological approaches.
PMCID: PMC3876080  PMID: 24322442
comparative expression analysis; drought stress; NAC transcription factor; real-time quantitative PCR; soybean
19.  Genome-Wide Analysis of ZmDREB Genes and Their Association with Natural Variation in Drought Tolerance at Seedling Stage of Zea mays L 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(9):e1003790.
The worldwide production of maize (Zea mays L.) is frequently impacted by water scarcity and as a result, increased drought tolerance is a priority target in maize breeding programs. While DREB transcription factors have been demonstrated to play a central role in desiccation tolerance, whether or not natural sequence variations in these genes are associated with the phenotypic variability of this trait is largely unknown. In the present study, eighteen ZmDREB genes present in the maize B73 genome were cloned and systematically analyzed to determine their phylogenetic relationship, synteny with rice, maize and sorghum genomes; pattern of drought-responsive gene expression, and protein transactivation activity. Importantly, the association between the nucleic acid variation of each ZmDREB gene with drought tolerance was evaluated using a diverse population of maize consisting of 368 varieties from tropical and temperate regions. A significant association between the genetic variation of ZmDREB2.7 and drought tolerance at seedling stage was identified. Further analysis found that the DNA polymorphisms in the promoter region of ZmDREB2.7, but not the protein coding region itself, was associated with different levels of drought tolerance among maize varieties, likely due to distinct patterns of gene expression in response to drought stress. In vitro, protein-DNA binding assay demonstrated that ZmDREB2.7 protein could specifically interact with the target DNA sequences. The transgenic Arabidopsis overexpressing ZmDREB2.7 displayed enhanced tolerance to drought stress. Moreover, a favorable allele of ZmDREB2.7, identified in the drought-tolerant maize varieties, was effective in imparting plant tolerance to drought stress. Based upon these findings, we conclude that natural variation in the promoter of ZmDREB2.7 contributes to maize drought tolerance, and that the gene and its favorable allele may be an important genetic resource for the genetic improvement of drought tolerance in maize.
Author Summary
Water scarcity is one of the most severe threats to maize production worldwide. Although research has demonstrated that DREB-type transcription factors play important roles in plant water stress response, whether the specific genetic variants in DREB genes contribute to plant drought tolerance is largely unknown. Taking advantages of recent technical and methodological advance, we systematically analyzed all the functional DREB genes in maize and examined their associations with the natural variation in drought tolerance of 368 maize varieties collected from tropical and temperate regions. A significant association in the ZmDREB2.7 gene with drought tolerance was detected in that the DNA polymorphisms in the gene promoter region, but not those in the protein coding region, contributed to observed variations in maize drought tolerance, probably due to the distinct gene expression patterns in response to the stress. Overexpressing ZmDREB2.7 in Arabidopsis resulted in enhanced tolerance to drought stress. Moreover, a favorable ZmDREB2.7 allele, identified from drought-tolerant varieties, was effective in improving plant tolerance to drought stress when it was introduced into a drought-sensitive background. ZmDREB2.7 and its favorable allele represent a valuable genetic resource for enhancing maize drought tolerance by marker assisted breeding and transformation technology.
PMCID: PMC3784558  PMID: 24086146
20.  The Auxin Response Factor Transcription Factor Family in Soybean: Genome-Wide Identification and Expression Analyses During Development and Water Stress 
In plants, the auxin response factor (ARF) transcription factors play important roles in regulating diverse biological processes, including development, growth, cell division and responses to environmental stimuli. An exhaustive search of soybean genome revealed 51 GmARFs, many of which were formed by genome duplications. The typical GmARFs (43 members) contain a DNA-binding domain, an ARF domain and an auxin/indole acetic acid (AUX/IAA) dimerization domain, whereas the remaining eight members lack the dimerization domain. Phylogenetic analysis of the ARFs from soybean and Arabidopsis revealed both similarity and divergence between the two ARF families, as well as enabled us to predict the functions of the GmARFs. Using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and available soybean Affymetrix array and Illumina transcriptome sequence data, a comprehensive expression atlas of GmARF genes was obtained in various organs and tissues, providing useful information about their involvement in defining the precise nature of individual tissues. Furthermore, expression profiling using qRT-PCR and microarray data revealed many water stress-responsive GmARFs in soybean, albeit with different patterns depending on types of tissues and/or developmental stages. Our systematic analysis has identified excellent tissue-specific and/or stress-responsive candidate GmARF genes for in-depth in planta functional analyses, which would lead to potential applications in the development of genetically modified soybean cultivars with enhanced drought tolerance.
PMCID: PMC3789561  PMID: 23810914
ARF transcription factor family; soybean; structural analysis; expression analysis; water stress
21.  Growth and nodulation of symbiotic Medicago truncatula at different levels of phosphorus availability 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;64(10):2701-2712.
Medicago truncatula is an important model plant for characterization of P deficiency on leguminous plants at the physiological and molecular levels. Growth optimization of this plant with regard to P supply is the first essential step for elucidation of the role of P in regulation of nodulation. Hence, a study was carried out to address the growth pattern of M. truncatula hydroponically grown at different gradual increases in P levels. The findings revealed that M. truncatula had a narrow P regime, with an optimum P level (12 μM P) which is relatively close to the concentration that induces P toxicity. The accumulated P concentration (2.7 mg g–1 dry matter), which is normal for other crops and legumes, adversely affected the growth of M. truncatula plants. Under P deficiency, M. truncatula showed a higher symbiotic efficiency with Sinorhizobium meliloti 2011 in comparison with S. meliloti 102F51, partially as a result of higher electron allocation to N2 versus H+. The total composition of free amino acids in the phloem was significantly affected by P deprivation. This pattern was found to be almost exclusively the result of the increase in the asparagine level, suggesting that asparagine might be the shoot-derived signal that translocates to the nodules and exerts the down-regulation of nitrogenase activity. Additionally, P deprivation was found to have a strong influence on the contents of the nodule carbon metabolites. While levels of sucrose and succinate tended to decrease, a higher accumulation of malate was observed. These findings have provided evidence that N2 fixation of M. truncatula is mediated through an N feedback mechanism which is closely related to nodule carbon metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3697940  PMID: 23682114
Asparagine; carbon and nitrogen metabolites; feedback; Medicago truncatula; nitrogen fixation; nitrogenase activity; nodulation; phloem; phosphorus availability; plant growth; symbiosis capacity; translocation.
22.  Comparative Analysis of the Symbiotic Efficiency of Medicago truncatula and Medicago sativa under Phosphorus Deficiency 
Phosphorus (P)-deficiency is a major abiotic stress that limits legume growth in many types of soils. The relationship between Medicago and Sinorhizobium, is known to be affected by different environmental conditions. Recent reports have shown that, in combination with S. meliloti 2011, Medicago truncatula had a lower symbiotic efficiency than Medicago sativa. However, little is known about how Medicago–Sinorhizobium is affected by P-deficiency at the whole-plant level. The objective of the present study was to compare and characterize the symbiotic efficiency of N2 fixation of M. truncatula and M. sativa grown in sand under P-limitation. Under this condition, M. truncatula exhibited a significantly higher rate of N2 fixation. The specific activity of the nodules was much higher in M. truncatula in comparison to M. sativa, partially as a result of an increase in electron allocation to N2versus H+. Although the main organic acid, succinate, exhibited a strong tendency to decrease under P-deficiency, the more efficient symbiotic ability observed in M. truncatula coincided with an apparent increase in the content of malate in its nodules. Our results indicate that the higher efficiency of the M. truncatula symbiotic system is related to the ability to increase malate content under limited P-conditions.
PMCID: PMC3634504  PMID: 23459233
Medicago sativa; Medicago truncatula; nitrogen fixation; nodule; symbiosis; phosphorus
23.  TreeTFDB: An Integrative Database of the Transcription Factors from Six Economically Important Tree Crops for Functional Predictions and Comparative and Functional Genomics 
Crop plants, whose productivity is affected by a wide range of growing and environmental conditions, are grown for economic purposes. Transcription factors (TFs) play central role in regulation of many biological processes, including plant development and responses to environmental stimuli, by activating or repressing spatiotemporal gene expression. Here, we describe the TreeTFDB ( that houses the TF repertoires of six economically important tree crop species: Jatropha curcas, papaya, cassava, poplar, castor bean and grapevine. Among these, the TF repertoire of J. curcas has not been reported by any other TF databases. In addition to their basic information, such as sequence and domain features, domain alignments, gene ontology assignment and sequence comparison, information on available full-length cDNAs, identity and positions of all types of known cis-motifs found in the promoter regions, gene expression data are provided. With its newly designed and friendly interface and its unique features, TreeTFDB will enable research community to predict the functions and provide access to available genetic resources for performing comparative and functional genomics of the crop TFs, either individually or at whole family level, in a comprehensive and convenient manner.
PMCID: PMC3628445  PMID: 23284086
tree crops; transcription factor; database; expression; cis-motif
25.  Evaluation of Candidate Reference Genes for Normalization of Quantitative RT-PCR in Soybean Tissues under Various Abiotic Stress Conditions 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e46487.
Quantitative RT-PCR can be a very sensitive and powerful technique for measuring differential gene expression. Changes in gene expression induced by abiotic stresses are complex and multifaceted, which make determining stably expressed genes for data normalization difficult. To identify the most suitable reference genes for abiotic stress studies in soybean, 13 candidate genes collected from literature were evaluated for stability of expression under dehydration, high salinity, cold and ABA (abscisic acid) treatments using delta CT and geNorm approaches. Validation of reference genes indicated that the best reference genes are tissue- and stress-dependent. With respect to dehydration treatment, the Fbox/ABC, Fbox/60s gene pairs were found to have the highest expression stability in the root and shoot tissues of soybean seedlings, respectively. Fbox and 60s genes are the most suitable reference genes across dehydrated root and shoot tissues. Under salt stress the ELF1b/IDE and Fbox/ELF1b are the most stably expressed gene pairs in roots and shoots, respectively, while 60s/Fbox is the best gene pair in both tissues. For studying cold stress in roots or shoots, IDE/60s and Fbox/Act27 are good reference gene pairs, respectively. With regard to gene expression analysis under ABA treatment in either roots, shoots or across these tissues, 60s/ELF1b, ELF1b/Fbox and 60s/ELF1b are the most suitable reference genes, respectively. The expression of ELF1b/60s, 60s/Fbox and 60s/Fbox genes was most stable in roots, shoots and both tissues, respectively, under various stresses studied. Among the genes tested, 60s was found to be the best reference gene in different tissues and under various stress conditions. The highly ranked reference genes identified from this study were proved to be capable of detecting subtle differences in expression rates that otherwise would be missed if a less stable reference gene was used.
PMCID: PMC3460875  PMID: 23029532

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