Roots are an attractive system for genomic and post-genomic studies of NaCl responses, due to their primary importance to agriculture, and because of their relative structural and biochemical simplicity. Excellent genomic resources have been established for the study of Arabidopsis roots, however, a comprehensive microarray analysis of the root transcriptome following NaCl exposure is required to further understand plant responses to abiotic stress and facilitate future, systems-based analyses of the underlying regulatory networks.
We used microarrays of 70-mer oligonucleotide probes representing 23,686 Arabidopsis genes to identify root transcripts that changed in relative abundance following 6 h, 24 h, or 48 h of hydroponic exposure to 150 mM NaCl. Enrichment analysis identified groups of structurally or functionally related genes whose members were statistically over-represented among up- or down-regulated transcripts. Our results are consistent with generally observed stress response themes, and highlight potentially important roles for underappreciated gene families, including: several groups of transporters (e.g. MATE, LeOPT1-like); signalling molecules (e.g. PERK kinases, MLO-like receptors), carbohydrate active enzymes (e.g. XTH18), transcription factors (e.g. members of ZIM, WRKY, NAC), and other proteins (e.g. 4CL-like, COMT-like, LOB-Class 1). We verified the NaCl-inducible expression of selected transcription factors and other genes by qRT-PCR.
Micorarray profiling of NaCl-treated Arabidopsis roots revealed dynamic changes in transcript abundance for at least 20% of the genome, including hundreds of transcription factors, kinases/phosphatases, hormone-related genes, and effectors of homeostasis, all of which highlight the complexity of this stress response. Our identification of these transcriptional responses, and groups of evolutionarily related genes with either similar or divergent transcriptional responses to stress, will facilitate mapping of regulatory networks and extend our ability to improve salt tolerance in plants.