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J Plant Physiol. 2012 Sep 1;169(13):1261-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jplph.2012.04.007. Epub 2012 May 25.

Expression of AtSAP5 in cotton up-regulates putative stress-responsive genes and improves the tolerance to rapidly developing water deficit and moderate heat stress.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409-3131, United States.


The regulation of gene expression is a key factor in plant acclimation to stress, and it is thought that manipulation of the expression of critical stress-responsive genes should ultimately provide increased protection against abiotic stress. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that the ectopic expression of the AtSAP5 (AT3G12630) gene in transgenic cotton (Gossypium hirsutum, cv. Coker 312) will improve tolerance to drought and heat stress by up-regulating the expression of endogenous stress-responsive genes. The SAP5 gene is a member of the stress-associated family of genes that encode proteins containing A20/AN1 zinc finger domains. Under non-stressful conditions, cotton plants that expressed the AtSAP5 gene showed elevated expression of at least four genes normally induced during water deficit or heat stress. The rate of net CO(2) assimilation A for three of four transgenic lines tested was less sensitive to rapidly developing water deficit over 4d than untransformed wild-type plants, but the recovery of A following drought was not significantly affected. The enhanced protection of photosynthesis during drought was determined to be primarily at the biochemical level, since the extent of stomatal closure was not significantly different for all genotypes. Expression of AtSAP5 resulted in the complete protection of photosystem (PS) II complexes from photodamage at mid-day after 4 d of drought, whereas wild-type plants experienced a 20% decline in active photosystem II (PSII) complexes. In addition, enhanced protection of seedling growth and leaf viability was associated with the expression of AtSAP5. Since A for the transgenic plants was significantly more heat tolerant than A for wild-type plants, we conclude that ectopic expression of SAP genes is a potentially viable approach to improving carbon gain and productivity for cotton grown in semi-arid regions with severe drought and heat stress.

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