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Plant Biotechnol J. 2014 May;12(4):468-79. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12153. Epub 2014 Jan 3.

The ERF transcription factor TaERF3 promotes tolerance to salt and drought stresses in wheat.

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National Key Facility for Crop Gene Resources and Genetic Improvement/Key Laboratory of Biology and Genetic Improvement of Triticeae Crops of the Agriculture Ministry, Institute of Crop Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China; Central South University of Forestry and Technology, Changsha, China.


Salinity and drought are major limiting factors of wheat (Triticum aestivum) productivity worldwide. Here, we report the function of a wheat ERF transcription factor TaERF3 in salt and drought responses and the underlying mechanism of TaERF3 function. Upon treatment with 250 mM NaCl or 20% polyethylene glycol (PEG), transcript levels of TaERF3 were rapidly induced in wheat. Using wheat cultivar Yangmai 12 as the transformation recipient, four TaERF3-overexpressing transgenic lines were generated and functionally characterized. The seedlings of the TaERF3-overexpressing transgenic lines exhibited significantly enhanced tolerance to both salt and drought stresses as compared to untransformed wheat. In the leaves of TaERF3-overexpressing lines, accumulation levels of both proline and chlorophyll were significantly increased, whereas H₂O₂ content and stomatal conductance were significantly reduced. Conversely, TaERF3-silencing wheat plants that were generated through virus-induced gene silencing method displayed more sensitivity to salt and drought stresses compared with the control plants. Real-time quantitative RT-PCR analyses showed that transcript levels of ten stress-related genes were increased in TaERF3-overexpressing lines, but compromised in TaERF3-silencing wheat plants. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed that the TaERF3 protein could interact with the GCC-box cis-element present in the promoters of seven TaERF3-activated stress-related genes. These results indicate that TaERF3 positively regulates wheat adaptation responses to salt and drought stresses through the activation of stress-related genes and that TaERF3 is an attractive engineering target in applied efforts to improve abiotic stress tolerances in wheat and other cereals.


ERF protein TaERF3; TaERF3 overexpression; TaERF3 silencing; Triticum aestivum; salt and drought tolerance; stress-related genes

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