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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42411. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042411. Epub 2012 Aug 10.

Identification and expression analysis of cytokinin metabolic genes in soybean under normal and drought conditions in relation to cytokinin levels.

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Signaling Pathway Research Unit, RIKEN Plant Science Center, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.


Cytokinins (CKs) mediate cellular responses to drought stress and targeted control of CK metabolism can be used to develop drought-tolerant plants. Aiming to manipulate CK levels to improve drought tolerance of soybean cultivars through genetic engineering of CK metabolic genes, we surveyed the soybean genome and identified 14 CK biosynthetic (isopentenyltransferase, GmIPT) and 17 CK degradative (CK dehydrogenase, GmCKX) genes. Comparative analyses of GmIPTs and GmCKXs with Arabidopsis counterparts revealed their similar architecture. The average numbers of abiotic stress-inducible cis-elements per promoter were 0.4 and 1.2 for GmIPT and GmCKX genes, respectively, suggesting that upregulation of GmCKXs, thereby reduction of CK levels, maybe the major events under abiotic stresses. Indeed, the expression of 12 GmCKX genes was upregulated by dehydration in R2 roots. Overall, the expressions of soybean CK metabolic genes in various tissues at various stages were highly responsive to drought. CK contents in various organs at the reproductive (R2) stage were also determined under well-watered and drought stress conditions. Although tRNA-type GmIPT genes were highly expressed in soybean, cis-zeatin and its derivatives were found at low concentrations. Moreover, reduction of total CK content in R2 leaves under drought was attributable to the decrease in dihydrozeatin levels, suggesting a role of this molecule in regulating soybean's responses to drought stress. Our systematic analysis of the GmIPT and GmCKX families has provided an insight into CK metabolism in soybean under drought stress and a solid foundation for in-depth characterization and future development of improved drought-tolerant soybean cultivars by manipulation of CK levels via biotechnological approach.

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