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Plant Physiol. 1998 May;117(1):293-302.

Overexpression of nitrate reductase in tobacco delays drought-induced decreases in nitrate reductase activity and mRNA


Transformed (cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter [35S]) tobacco (Nicotiana plumbaginifolia L.) plants constitutively expressing nitrate reductase (NR) and untransformed controls were subjected to drought for 5 d. Drought-induced changes in biomass accumulation and photosynthesis were comparable in both lines of plants. After 4 d of water deprivation, a large increase in the ratio of shoot dry weight to fresh weight was observed, together with a decrease in the rate of photosynthetic CO2 assimilation. Foliar sucrose increased in both lines during water stress, but hexoses increased only in leaves from untransformed controls. Foliar NO3- decreased rapidly in both lines and was halved within 2 d of the onset of water deprivation. Total foliar amino acids decreased in leaves of both lines following water deprivation. After 4 d of water deprivation no NR activity could be detected in leaves of untransformed plants, whereas about 50% of the original activity remained in the leaves of the 35S-NR transformants. NR mRNA was much more stable than NR activity. NR mRNA abundance increased in the leaves of the 35S-NR plants and remained constant in controls for the first 3 d of drought. On the 4th d, however, NR mRNA suddenly decreased in both lines. Rehydration at d 3 caused rapid recovery (within 24 h) of 35S-NR transcripts, but no recovery was observed in the controls. The phosphorylation state of the protein was unchanged by long-term drought. There was a strong correlation between maximal extractable NR activity and ambient photosynthesis in both lines. We conclude that drought first causes increased NR protein turnover and then accelerates NR mRNA turnover. Constitutive NR expression temporarily delayed drought-induced losses in NR activity. 35S-NR expression may therefore allow more rapid recovery of N assimilation following short-term water deficit.

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