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Theor Appl Genet. 2007 Jun;115(1):35-46. Epub 2007 Apr 11.

Over-expression of a LEA gene in rice improves drought resistance under the field conditions.

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  • 1National Center of Plant Gene Research (Wuhan), National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China.

Abstract

Late embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins have been implicated in many stress responses of plants. In this report, a LEA protein gene OsLEA3-1 was identified and over-expressed in rice to test the drought resistance of transgenic lines under the field conditions. OsLEA3-1 is induced by drought, salt and abscisic acid (ABA), but not by cold stress. The promoter of OsLEA3-1 isolated from the upland rice IRAT109 exhibits strong activity under drought- and salt-stress conditions. Three expression constructs consisting of the full-length cDNA driven by the drought-inducible promoter of OsLEA3-1 (OsLEA3-H), the CaMV 35S promoter (OsLEA3-S), and the rice Actin1 promoter (OsLEA3-A) were transformed into the drought-sensitive japonica rice Zhonghua 11. Drought resistance pre-screening of T(1) families at anthesis stage revealed that the over-expressing families with OsLEA3-S and OsLEA3-H constructs had significantly higher relative yield (yield under drought stress treatment/yield under normal growth conditions) than the wild type under drought stress conditions, although a yield penalty existed in T(1) families under normal growth conditions. Nine homozygous families, exhibiting over-expression of a single-copy of the transgene and relatively low yield penalty in the T(1) generation, were tested in the field for drought resistance in the T(2) and T(3) generations and in the PVC pipes for drought tolerance in the T(2) generation. Except for two families (transformed with OsLEA3-A), all the other families (transformed with OsLEA3-S and OsLEA3-H constructs) had higher grain yield than the wild type under drought stress in both the field and the PVC pipes conditions. No significant yield penalty was detected for these T(2 )and T(3) families. These results indicate that transgenic rice with significantly enhanced drought resistance and without yield penalty can be generated by over-expressing OsLEA3-1 gene with appropriate promoters and following a bipartite (stress and non-stress) in-field screening protocol.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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