The sunflower transcription factor HaWRKY76 confers drought and flood tolerance to Arabidopsis thaliana plants without yield penalty
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Arabidopsis transgenic plants expressing the sunflower transcription factor HaWRKY76 exhibit increased yield and tolerance to drought and flood stresses. The genetic construct containing HaWRKY76 is proposed as a potential biotechnological tool to improve crops.
Water deficit and water excess are abiotic stress factors that seriously affect crops worldwide. To increase the tolerance to such stresses without causing yield penalty constitutes a major goal for biotechnologists. In this survey, we report that HaWRKY76, a divergent sunflower WRKY transcription factor, is able to confer both dehydration and submergence tolerance to Arabidopsis transgenic plants without yield penalty. The expression pattern of HaWRKY76 was analyzed in plants grown in standard conditions and under different watering regimes indicating a regulation by water availability. The corresponding cDNA was isolated and cloned under the control of a constitutive promoter and Arabidopsis plants were transformed with this construct. These transgenic plants presented higher biomass, seed production and sucrose content than controls in standard growth conditions. Moreover, they exhibited tolerance to mild drought or flood (complete submergence/waterlogging) stresses as well as the same or increased yield, depending on the stress severity and plant developmental stage, compared with controls. Drought tolerance occurred via an ABA-independent mechanism and induction of stomatal closure. Submergence tolerance can be explained by the carbohydrate (sucrose and starch) preservation achieved through the repression of fermentation pathways. Higher cell membrane stability and chlorenchyma maintenance could be the nexus between tolerance responses in front of both stresses. Altogether, the obtained results indicated that HaWRKY76 can be a potential biotechnological tool to improve crops yield as well as drought and flood tolerances.
KeywordsTranscription factor WRKY Drought Submergence Sunflower Arabidopsis
This work was supported by Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (ANPCyT, PICT-PAE 37100 and PICT 2011 850), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET, PIP 2011 11420100100278) and Universidad Nacional del Litoral (UNL, CAID 2011 50120110100399 and 50120110100349). KFR and RLC are members of CONICET and UNL; JR is a Fellow of CONICET and member of UNL. We thank Dr. Julieta Cabello and Dr. Gabriel Céccoli (IAL–CONICET UNL) for their valorous technical advice.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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