Plant Molecular Biology

, Volume 64, Issue 4, pp 371–386 | Cite as

Improved drought tolerance without undesired side effects in transgenic plants producing trehalose

  • Sazzad Karim
  • Henrik Aronsson
  • Henrik Ericson
  • Minna Pirhonen
  • Barbara Leyman
  • Björn Welin
  • Einar Mäntylä
  • E. Tapio Palva
  • Patrick Van Dijck
  • Kjell-Ove Holmström


Most organisms naturally accumulating trehalose upon stress produce the sugar in a two-step process by the action of the enzymes trehalose-6-phosphate synthase (TPS) and trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase (TPP). Transgenic plants overexpressing TPS have shown enhanced drought tolerance in spite of minute accumulation of trehalose, amounts believed to be too small to provide a protective function. However, overproduction of TPS in plants has also been found combined with pleiotropic growth aberrations. This paper describes three successful strategies to circumvent such growth defects without loosing the improved stress tolerance. First, we introduced into tobacco a double construct carrying the genes TPS1 and TPS2 (encoding TPP) from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Both genes are regulated by an Arabidopsis RuBisCO promoter from gene AtRbcS1A giving constitutive production of both enzymes. The second strategy involved stress-induced expression by fusing the coding region of ScTPS1 downstream of the drought-inducible ArabidopsisAtRAB18 promoter. In transgenic tobacco plants harbouring genetic constructs with either ScTPS1 alone, or with ScTPS1 and ScTPS2 combined, trehalose biosynthesis was turned on only when the plants experienced stress. The third strategy involved the use of AtRbcS1A promoter together with a transit peptide in front of the coding sequence of ScTPS1, which directed the enzyme to the chloroplasts. This paper confirms that the enhanced drought tolerance depends on unknown ameliorated water retention as the initial water status is the same in control and transgenic plants and demonstrates the influence of expression of heterologous trehalose biosynthesis genes on Arabidopsis root development.


Abiotic stress Arabidopsis Improved stress tolerance Tobacco Trehalose Trehalose-6-Phosphate 



double constitutive (in genetic constructs)


double inducible (in genetic constructs)




Arabidopsis thaliana, wild-type ecotype Landsberg erecta


multiple cloning site


origin of replication


Escherichia coli trehalose-6-phosphate synthase


E. coli trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase


restriction enzyme


Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase


relative water content


Saccharomyces cerevisiae


single constitutive (in genetic constructs)


single constitutive with a transit peptide (in genetic constructs)


single inducible (in genetic constructs)


eukaryotic trehalose-6-phosphate synthase


eukaryotic trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase






transit peptide


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sazzad Karim
    • 1
    • 9
  • Henrik Aronsson
    • 2
  • Henrik Ericson
    • 1
  • Minna Pirhonen
    • 3
  • Barbara Leyman
    • 4
    • 5
  • Björn Welin
    • 6
  • Einar Mäntylä
    • 7
  • E. Tapio Palva
    • 8
  • Patrick Van Dijck
    • 4
    • 5
  • Kjell-Ove Holmström
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of SkövdeSkövdeSweden
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of GöteborgGöteborgSweden
  3. 3.Department of Applied BiologyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Department of Molecular MicrobiologyVIB, K.U. LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  5. 5.Laboratory of Molecular Cell BiologyK.U. LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  6. 6.Lambaré 948, Piso 3, dpto ABuenos AiresArgentina
  7. 7.ORF GeneticsReykjavikIceland
  8. 8.Department of Biosciences, Division of GeneticsUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  9. 9.Department of Plant Biology and Forest GeneticsSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden

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