Transcriptome response and developmental implications of RNAi-mediated ODC knockdown in tobacco
Polyamines (PAs) are ubiquitously present polycationic compounds that play a critical role in various growth and developmental processes including stress responses in plants. Yet, their specific functions and mode of action remain largely unknown. In the present study, we have targeted tobacco ornithine decarboxylase gene (ODC) by RNA interference to modulate cellular PA levels and study the effects at different developmental time points. Down-regulation of ODC resulted in significant physiological and morphological anomalies including reduced leaf size, reduced chlorophyll and carotene content, decreased abiotic stress tolerance, early onset of senescence, delayed flowering, partial male and female sterility, reduced seed setting, delayed seed germination, reduced seed viability, and poor in vitro regeneration response from leaf explants. Also, for the first time, microarray analysis has been attempted to study genome-wide gene expression changes in response to lowered PA titers in an ODC knockdown line. A number of transcription factors, auxin- and ethylene-responsive genes, stress-induced genes, lignin-biosynthesis genes, photosynthesis-related genes, senescence-associated genes, membrane proteins, and protein kinases were found to be affected, suggesting a probable list of PA-responsive genes. Transcriptome analysis has also indicated many genes, which could directly or indirectly be responsible for regulating the PA metabolic pathway. Various phenotypic changes observed upon ODC knockdown along with the identification of a number of gene targets means it is a step forward in envisaging possible mechanisms of PA action and for assigning them with specific roles in various developmental processes they are known to be a part of.