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Plant Biotechnol J. 2012 Sep;10(7):792-805. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2012.00697.x. Epub 2012 May 3.

The overexpression of OsNAC9 alters the root architecture of rice plants enhancing drought resistance and grain yield under field conditions.

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1
School of Biotechnology and Environmental Engineering, Myongji University, Yongin, Korea.

Abstract

Drought conditions limit agricultural production by preventing crops from reaching their genetically predetermined maximum yields. Here, we present the results of field evaluations of rice overexpressing OsNAC9, a member of the rice NAC domain family. Root-specific (RCc3) and constitutive (GOS2) promoters were used to overexpress OsNAC9 and produced the transgenic RCc3:OsNAC9 and GOS2:OsNAC9 plants. Field evaluations over two cultivating seasons showed that grain yields of the RCc3:OsNAC9 and the GOS2:OsNAC9 plants were increased by 13%-18% and 13%-32% under normal conditions, respectively. Under drought conditions, RCc3:OsNAC9 plants showed an increased grain yield of 28%-72%, whilst the GOS2:OsNAC9 plants remained unchanged. Both transgenic lines exhibited altered root architecture involving an enlarged stele and aerenchyma. The aerenchyma of RCc3:OsNAC9 roots was enlarged to a greater extent than those of GOS2:OsNAC9 and non-transgenic (NT) roots, suggesting the importance of this phenotype for enhanced drought resistance. Microarray experiments identified 40 up-regulated genes by more than threefold (P < 0.01) in the roots of both transgenic lines. These included 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase, an ABA biosynthesis gene, calcium-transporting ATPase, a component of the Ca(2+) signalling pathway involved in cortical cell death and aerenchyma formation, cinnamoyl CoA reductase 1, a gene involved in lignin biosynthesis, and wall-associated kinases¸ genes involved in cell elongation and morphogenesis. Interestingly, O-methyltransferase, a gene necessary for barrier formation, was specifically up-regulated only in the RCc3:OsNAC9 roots. Such up-regulated genes that are commonly and specifically up-regulated in OsNAC9 transgenic roots may account for the altered root architecture conferring increased drought resistance phenotype.

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