Plant Molecular Biology

, Volume 85, Issue 4–5, pp 429–441 | Cite as

Transgenic Arabidopsis expressing osmolyte glycine betaine synthesizing enzymes from halophilic methanogen promote tolerance to drought and salt stress

  • Shu-Jung Lai
  • Mei-Chin Lai
  • Ren-Jye Lee
  • Yu-Hsuan Chen
  • Hungchen Emilie Yen


Glycine betaine (betaine) has the highest cellular osmoprotective efficiency which does not accumulate in most glycophytes. The biosynthetic pathway for betaine in higher plants is derived from the oxidation of low-accumulating metabolite choline that limiting the ability of most plants to produce betaine. Halophilic methanoarchaeon Methanohalophilus portucalensis FDF1T is a model anaerobic methanogen to study the acclimation of water-deficit stresses which de novo synthesize betaine by the stepwise methylation of glycine, catalyzed by glycine sarcosine N-methyltransferase (GSMT) and sarcosine dimethylglycine N-methyltransferase. In this report, genes encoding these betaine biosynthesizing enzymes, Mpgsmt and Mpsdmt, were introduced into Arabidopsis. The homozygous Mpgsmt (G), Mpsdmt (S), and their cross, Mpgsmt and Mpsdmt (G × S) plants showed increased accumulation of betaine. Water loss from detached leaves was slower in G, S, and G × S lines than wild-type (WT). Pot-grown transgenic plants showed better growth than WT after 9 days of withholding water or irrigating with 300 mM NaCl. G, S, G × S lines also maintained higher relative water content and photosystem II activity than WT under salt stress. This suggests heterologously expressed Mpgsmt and Mpsdmt could enhance tolerance to drought and salt stress in Arabidopsis. We also found a twofold increase in quaternary ammonium compounds in salt-stressed leaves of G lines, presumably due to the activation of GSMT activity by high salinity. This study demonstrates that introducing stress-activated enzymes is a way of avoiding the divergence of primary metabolites under normal growing conditions, while also providing protection in stressful environments.


Halophilic methanoarchaea Glycine betaine Glycine sarcosine N-methyltransferase (GSMT) Sarcosine dimethylglycine N-methyltransferase (SDMT) Salt tolerance Transgenic Arabidopsis 



Glycine sarcosine N-methyltransferase


Liquid chromatograph–mass spectrometry


Quaternary ammonium compound


Relative water content


Rate of water loss


Sarcosine dimethylglycine N-methyltransferase



This work has been supported by Grants NSC 100-2321-B-005-005-MY3 from the National Science Council, Taiwan. We are grateful to the Instrument Center, NCHU, Taiwan for assistance with LC/MS analyses.

Supplementary material

11103_2014_195_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (332 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 332 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Life SciencesNational Chung Hsing UniversityTaichungTaiwan
  2. 2.Instrument Center and Department of ChemistryNational Chung Hsing UniversityTaichungTaiwan

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