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Plant Physiol. 2011 Jun;156(2):647-62. doi: 10.1104/pp.111.176164. Epub 2011 Apr 18.

Control of abscisic acid catabolism and abscisic acid homeostasis is important for reproductive stage stress tolerance in cereals.

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Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Plant Industry, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia.


Drought stress at the reproductive stage causes pollen sterility and grain loss in wheat (Triticum aestivum). Drought stress induces abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis genes in anthers and ABA accumulation in spikes of drought-sensitive wheat varieties. In contrast, drought-tolerant wheat accumulates lower ABA levels, which correlates with lower ABA biosynthesis and higher ABA catabolic gene expression (ABA 8'-hydroxylase). Wheat TaABA8'OH1 deletion lines accumulate higher spike ABA levels and are more drought sensitive. ABA treatment of the spike mimics the effect of drought, causing high levels of sterility. ABA treatment represses the anther cell wall invertase gene TaIVR1, and drought-tolerant lines appeared to be more sensitive to the effect of ABA. Drought-induced sterility shows similarity to cold-induced sterility in rice (Oryza sativa). In cold-stressed rice, the rate of ABA accumulation was similar in cold-sensitive and cold-tolerant lines during the first 8 h of cold treatment, but in the tolerant line, ABA catabolism reduced ABA levels between 8 and 16 h of cold treatment. The ABA biosynthesis gene encoding 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase in anthers is mainly expressed in parenchyma cells surrounding the vascular bundle of the anther. Transgenic rice lines expressing the wheat TaABA8'OH1 gene under the control of the OsG6B tapetum-specific promoter resulted in reduced anther ABA levels under cold conditions. The transgenic lines showed that anther sink strength (OsINV4) was maintained under cold conditions and that this correlated with improved cold stress tolerance. Our data indicate that ABA and ABA 8'-hydroxylase play an important role in controlling anther ABA homeostasis and reproductive stage abiotic stress tolerance in cereals.

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