, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 307-315

Expression of the betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase gene in barley in response to osmotic stress and abscisic acid

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Abstract

When subjected to salt stress or drought, some vascular plants such as barley respond with an increased accumulation of the osmoprotectant glycine betaine (betaine), being the last step of betaine synthesis catalyzed by betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase (BADH). We report here cloning and characterization of BADH cDNA from barley, a monocot, and the expression pattern of a BADH transcript. An open reading frame of 1515 bp encoded a protein which showed high homology to BADH enzymes present in other plants (spinach and sugar-beet) and in Escherichia coli. Transgenic tobacco plants harboring the clone expressed high levels of both BADH protein and its enzymatic activity. Northern blot analyses indicated that BADH mRNA levels increased almost 8-fold and 2-fold, respectively, in leaves and roots of barley plants grown in high-salt conditions, and that these levels decreased upon release of the stress, whereas they did not decrease under continuous salt stress. BADH transcripts also accumulate in response to water stress or drought, indicating a common response of the plant to osmotic changes that affect its water status. The addition of abscisic acid (ABA) to plants during growth also increased the levels of BADH transcripts dramatically, although the response was delayed when compared to that found for salt-stressed plants. Removal of plant roots before transferring the plants to high-salt conditions reduced only slightly the accumulation of BADH transcripts in the leaves.