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Front Plant Sci. 2017 Dec 13;8:2125. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2017.02125. eCollection 2017.

Over-Expression of Arabidopsis EDT1 Gene Confers Drought Tolerance in Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.).

Zheng G1,2,3, Fan C1,3, Di S1, Wang X2, Xiang C4, Pang Y1,2.

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Key Laboratory of Plant Resources and Beijing Botanical Garden, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
Institute of Animal Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China.
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China.


Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is an important legume forage crop with great economic value. However, as the growth of alfalfa is seriously affected by an inadequate supply of water, drought is probably the major abiotic environmental factor that most severely affects alfalfa production worldwide. In an effort to enhance alfalfa drought tolerance, we transformed the Arabidopsis Enhanced Drought Tolerance 1 (AtEDT1) gene into alfalfa via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. Compared with wild type plants, drought stress treatment resulted in higher survival rates and biomass, but reduced water loss rates in the transgenic plants. Furthermore, transgenic alfalfa plants had increased stomatal size, but reduced stomatal density, and these stomatal changes contributed greatly to reduced water loss from leaves. Importantly, transgenic alfalfa plants exhibited larger root systems with larger root lengths, root weight, and root diameters than wild type plants. The transgenic alfalfa plants had reduced membrane permeability and malondialdehyde content, but higher soluble sugar and proline content, higher superoxide dismutase activity, higher chlorophyll content, enhanced expression of drought-responsive genes, as compared with wild type plants. Notably, transgenic alfalfa plants grew better in a 2-year field trial and showed enhanced growth performance with increased biomass yield. All of our morphological, physiological, and molecular analyses demonstrated that the ectopic expression of AtEDT1 improved growth and enhanced drought tolerance in alfalfa. Our study provides alfalfa germplasm for use in forage improvement programs, and may help to increase alfalfa production in arid lands.


AtEDT1 gene; alfalfa; drought tolerance; over-expression; transgenic alfalfa

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