, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 591-606
Date: 28 Jan 2009

Genetic engineering of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) with the P5CSF129A gene for osmoregulation with implications on drought tolerance

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Abiotic stresses including water deficit severely limits crop yields in the semi-arid tropics. In chickpea, annual losses of over 3.7 million tones have been estimated to be due to water deficit conditions alone. Therefore, major efforts are needed to improve its tolerance to water deficit, and genetic engineering approaches provide an increasing hope for this possibility. We have used transgenic technology for the introduction of an osmoregulatory gene P5CSF129A encoding the mutagenized Δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthetase (P5CS) for the overproduction of proline. A total of 49 transgenic events of chickpea were produced with the 35S:P5CSF129A gene through Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated gene transfer through the use of axillary meristem explants. Eleven transgenic events that accumulated high proline (2–6 folds) were further evaluated in greenhouse experiments based on their transpiration efficiency (TE), photosynthetic activity, stomatal conductance, and root length under water stress. Almost all the transgenic events showed a decline in transpiration at lower values of the fraction of transpirable soil water (dryer soil), and extracted more water than their untransformed parents. The accumulation of proline in the selected events was more pronounced that increased significantly in the leaves when exposed to water stress. However, the overexpression of P5CSF129A gene resulted only in a modest increase in TE, thereby indicating that the enhanced proline had little bearing on the components of yield architecture that are significant in overcoming the negative effects of drought stress in chickpea.