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Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2008 Jul;21(7):958-66. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-21-7-0958.

Improvement of drought tolerance and grain yield in common bean by overexpressing trehalose-6-phosphate synthase in rhizobia.

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Centro de Investigación en Biotecnología, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Av. Universidad 1001, Col. Chamilpa, Cuernavaca Mor. 62209, Mexico.


Improving stress tolerance and yield in crops are major goals for agriculture. Here, we show a new strategy to increase drought tolerance and yield in legumes by overexpressing trehalose-6-phosphate synthase in the symbiotic bacterium Rhizobium etli. Phaseolus vulgaris (common beans) plants inoculated with R. etli overexpressing trehalose-6-phosphate synthase gene had more nodules with increased nitrogenase activity and higher biomass compared with plants inoculated with wild-type R. etli. In contrast, plants inoculated with an R. etli mutant in trehalose-6-phosphate synthase gene had fewer nodules and less nitrogenase activity and biomass. Three-week-old plants subjected to drought stress fully recovered whereas plants inoculated with a wild-type or mutant strain wilted and died. The yield of bean plants inoculated with R. etli overexpressing trehalose-6-phosphate synthase gene and grown with constant irrigation increased more than 50%. Macroarray analysis of 7,200 expressed sequence tags from nodules of plants inoculated with the strain overexpressing trehalose-6-phosphate synthase gene revealed upregulation of genes involved in stress tolerance and carbon and nitrogen metabolism, suggesting a signaling mechanism for trehalose. Thus, trehalose metabolism in rhizobia is key for signaling plant growth, yield, and adaptation to abiotic stress, and its manipulation has a major agronomical impact on leguminous plants.

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