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Differential expression of genes regulated in response to drought or salinity stress in sunflower. (Genomics, Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology).

SUNFLOWER (Helianthus annuus L., Asteraceae) is an important source of vegetable oil [i.e., unsaturated--semidrying type like corn (Zea mays L.), sesame (Sesamum indicum L.), and cottonseed(Gossypium ssp.)] used for cooking and food preparation worldwide. This crop is also grown as a food source for direct consumption (i.e., seeds in snacks, candies, and birdfeed). Native to North America, sunflower is a secondary crop in the USA, and although its importance increased in the Great Plains and southern states following discovery of male sterility, production is also moving west into dryer climates. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, as well as Argentina, are major production centers. In addition, sunflower production is expanding in the arid regions of the Mediterranean and North Africa, where the species' moderate tolerance to drought and salinity conditions (Connor and Hall, 1997; Miller, 1995) is of agronomic importance. In particular, growth and production of sunflower in the Nile River valley of Egypt is compromised by lack of natural rainfall or the use of salt-contaminated water for irrigation.

Drought and high salinity are two of the most important environmental stresses that alter plant water status and severely limit plant growth and development, and thus crop productivity. Dehydration causes a number of physiological and biochemical changes in plants, such as a decrease in photochemical activities, reduction of C[O.sub.2] fixation, accumulation of osmolytes and osmoprotectants, and alteration in carbohydrate metabolism (Tabaeizadeh, 1998). Also, high salinity (e.g., increased concentrations of [Na.sup.+] and [Cl.sup.-] in the soil solution) causes osmotic/ionic stress (Hasegawa et al., 2000). The transduction pathways for osmotic and other environmental stress responses are likely to be very complicated, and will involve a number of signal molecules such as abscisic acid (ABA), cyclic nucleotides, and inositol polyphosphates. Thus, the precise mechanism(s) by which plants respond to drought or high salinity remains unresolved. However, at the molecular level, most of the changes are likely the result of alterations in the expression of genes. Therefore, it is important to identify the relevant genes and characterize their regulation in response to water and/or salinity stress.

Recently, a number of drought-responsive (Ingram and Bartels, 1996; Kim et al., 2000; Nepomuceno et al., 2000) and salinity-responsive (Moons et al., 1997; Ramani and Apte, 1997; Wei et al., 2000) genes were cloned and characterized from different plant species. Transcription of many of these genes (e.g., those encoding the late-embryogenesis-abundant, LEA proteins, Espelund et al., 1995; rd29A and rd29B, Yamaguchi-Shinozaki and Shinozaki, 1993; glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, Jeong et al., 2000; and ABA-responsive element binding proteins AREB1 and AREB2, Uno et al., 2000) is up-regulated by both drought and salinity stress. On the other hand, the expression of other genes is regulated specifically by either drought stress (Jonak et al., 1996) or high salinity (Binzel and Dunlap, 1995; Nemoto and Sasakuma, 2000). In addition, organ-specific expression of a salinity-induced gene (Pgm1) was reported for ice plant, Mesembryanthemum crystallinum L. (Forsthoefel et al., 1995). Despite these studies, relatively little is known about the fundamental differences and cross-talk between drought and high salinity response pathways in plants.

Differential display-polymerase chain reaction (DDPCR) (Liang and Pardee, 1992) is a simple, sensitive and powerful method for screening cDNAs, and is useful in characterizing tissue-, organ- or development-specific cDNAs (Cushman and Bohnert, 2000). DD-PCR has been used successfully to isolate a number of differentially expressed genes from plants (Martin-Laurent et al., 1997; Roux and Perrot-Rechenmann 1997; Visioli et al., 1997; Deleu et al., 1999; Wei et al., 2000). In the work reported here, 17 eDNA clones were isolated from sunflower by means of DD-PCR. Genes corresponding to 13 of these cDNAs were confirmed by quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR) to be expressed differentially in response to osmotic stress. Their expression patterns were analyzed in leaves of drought-stressed plants, and in roots and shoots of drought- or salinity-stressed seedlings.


Plant Material

Plants of the sunflower hybrid genotype Triumph 545 (Triumph Seed Co. Inc., Ralls, TX, USA) were grown from seed in the greenhouse under 16 h of light (250 [micro]mol [m.sup.-2] [s.sup.-1] minimum), ambient day/night temperature and 60 to 80% humidity. One-week-old seedlings were transferred to 3-L plastic pots filled with PeatLite composite soil (peat compost:vermiculite, 1:1, Piedmont Farm and Nursery Supply Co., Spartanburg, SC, USA), watered daily with tap water, and fertilized weekly with 1:250 Peters soluble fertilizer (20-10-20, Piedmont Farm and Nursery Supply Co.).

Drought or Salinity Treatments

Analysis of dry-weight comparisons showed that tissue water content decreased 10% after drought treatment for 6 d, air-drying for 10 h, or treating seedlings for 6 h with 250 mM NaC1. Therefore, stress response experiments for analyzing gene expression patterns under conditions of drought or salinity stress were performed as follows.

Drought treatment was accomplished by the modified method of Ouvrard et al. (1996). One-month-old plants were subjected to progressive drought by withholding water. Young, fully expanded leaves were collected daily (for 6 d) for RNA extraction. One-week-old seedlings were also drought stressed by placing them on filter paper and air drying for 10 h. Roots and shoots from stressed seedlings were collected separately for RNA extraction.

For high salinity treatment, 1-wk-old seedlings were transferred to a container of 250 mM NaCl. Seedlings were treated with the salt solution for up to 9 h. Control seedlings were grown in water. Roots and shoots from control and stressed seedlings were collected separately for RNA extraction.

Differential mRNA Display

Total RNA from 1 g of tissue was isolated from treated and control plants with RNAqueous Kit (Ambion Inc, Austin, TX, USA). DNA contaminants were removed with MessageClean Kit (GenHunter Corp., Nashville, TN, USA). The RNA was stored at -70[degrees]C. DD-PCR was performed as described in the RNAimage Kit (GenHunter Corp.). For drought-stress experiments, samples were taken over a 6-d period for both treated and control plants. Each reverse transcription (RT) reaction contained 5 mM KC1, 10 mM TrisHCI (pH 8.3), 4 mM Mg[Cl.sub.2], 25 [micro]M of each dNTP, 0.2 [micro]M anchor primer ([T.sub.11]VC, [T.sub.11]A, [T.sub.11]G, or [T.sub.11]C, where V is A, G, or C; GenHunter, Corp.), 0.5 tag total RNA and 100 U MMLV reverse transcriptase. RT reactions were performed at 40[degrees]C for 60 min followed by incubation at 70[degrees]C for 5 min.

One tenth of the cDNA was used for PCR amplifications in the presence of 2.5 [micro]M of each dNTP, [[alpha]-[sup.33]P]dCTP (0.075 mBq, NEN, Boston, MA, USA), 0.2 [micro]M of the same anchor primer as in the RT reaction, 0.2 [micro]M of an arbitrary primer (from AP1 to AP12, GenHunter Corp.), 0.5 U of Taq DNA polymerase (Promega, Madison, WI, USA) with its own buffer containing 1.5 mM Mg[Cl.sub.2]. After denaturation at 92[degrees]C for 3 min, 40 PCR cycles (i.e., cycle consists 92[degrees]C for 45 s, 40[degrees]C for 2 min and 70[degrees]C for 2 min) were performed and followed by a 5 min extension step at 70[degrees]C.

One sixth of the PCR product was mixed with formamide loading buffer (GenHunter Corp.), denatured for 5 min at 95[degrees]C, and analyzed on a denaturing 6% (w/v) acrylamide gel. The region(s) of the gel containing the band(s) of interest was excised and eluted into 100 [micro]L of 10 mM Tris pH 8.0, 1 mM EDTA by incubating for 15 min in boiling water bath. The supernatant (5-10 [micro]L) was reamplified under the same PCR conditions except no [[alpha]-[sup.33]P]dCTP was added.

For salinity-stress treatment, total RNA was isolated from roots or shoots of stressed and control seedlings over a 9-h period. The anchor primers used were [T.sub.11]A, [T.sub.11]G, and [T.sub.11]C (GenHunter Corp.), and the arbitrary primers were from AP1 to AP24 (GenHunter Corp.). DD-PCR was performed by means of the same protocol as described above. DD-PCR amplification for each primer pair was performed at least twice from RNA samples isolated separately for each time point.

Cloning and Sequencing

The reamplified products were cloned into pGEM-T Easy vector according to the manufacturer's protocol (Promega), and sequenced with T7 and SP6 primers with the ABI prism Dye Terminator kit and ABI model 373 automated DNA sequencer (Perkin Elmer, Branchburg, NJ, USA). The nucleotide sequence or the deduced amino acid sequence of each clone was compared with DNA, EST, and protein sequences from various databases by means of the basic local alignment search tool (BLAST) (Altschul et al., 1990).

Quantitative Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction

The expression pattern of each clone was further confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR using a gene-specific primer pair based on the nucleotide sequence of each clone. The sunflower gene-specific primer pairs used for quantitative RT-PCR are listed in Table 1. The primer pair for amplification of plant 18S rRNA (as the internal standard) and the 18S rRNA inhibitory competitive primer pair were from the QuantumRNA kit (Ambion). Each RT reaction was performed as described in the Differential mRNA Display section (above), except the primers were random hexamers (Promega, Madison, WI, USA). For each PCR reaction, one tenth of the eDNA was added in a mixture containing 100 [micro]M of each dNTP, 0.2 [micro]L of [[alpha]-[sup.32]P]dCTP (0.075 mBq, NEN), 1 [micro]M of each gene-specific primer pair, 1 tam of 18S rRNA primer pair and 18S rRNA inhibitory primer pair mixture (2:8), 0.5 U of Taq DNA polymerase (Promega) with its own buffer containing 1.5 mM Mg[Cl.sub.2]. After denaturation at 95[degrees]C for 3 min, 20 PCR cycles (95[degrees]C for 30 s, 60[degrees]C for 30 s, and 72[degrees]C for 30 s) were performed, followed by a 1-min extension step at 72[degrees]C. One-fifth of the PCR product was mixed with formamide loading buffer, denatured for 5 min at 95[degrees]C, and analyzed on a denaturing 6% acrylamide gel.

Each quantitative RT-PCR reaction was performed at least twice to confirm results for each eDNA. All quantitative RTPCR amplified DNA fragments were sequenced (as described above) to confirm their identity. The intensity of each quantitative RT-PCR product was determined by scanning densitometry. Scanning and integration were performed with a Fuji Image System (Fujifilm, Duluth, GA, USA).


Differential Display

Sunflower genes whose expression was regulated by drought or salinity stress were studied by differential mRNA display. Each experiment was repeated by using total RNA from at least two independent preparations. eDNA clone designations, size, and tissue of origin are listed in Table 2. By screening 48 primer-pair combinations in leaves, we observed five partial cDNAs that were potentially differentially expressed in response to drought stress (Table 2). Clones CAp1-1U, CAp1-2U, and CAp2-U were up-regulated in drought-treated leaves. Clones VC2-D and GAp1-D were downregulated in those same drought-treated leaves.

After screening 72 primer combinations, 12 seedling partial cDNAs were observed to be potentially regulated in response to high salinity (Table 2). Seven of these eDNA clones (i.e., RSA1-U, RSC1-U, RSC5-U, RSG10-U, RSGll-U, RSG13-U, and RSG15-U) were observed to be up-regulated in seedling roots in response to salinity stress. Three other clones (i.e., SA3-U, SC7-U, and SG2-U) were up-regulated in both roots and shoots of treated seedlings. SG4-U was up-regulated in shoots of treated seedlings, whereas RSG22-D was downregulated in roots of treated seedlings. Figure 1 shows examples of DD-PCR results using total RNAs isolated from leaves of drought-treated plants, and from roots and shoots of salinity-treated seedlings.


Cloning and Sequence Homologies of the Differential Display cDNA Clones

The 17 cDNA fragments, which were potentially regulated by drought or salinity, were extracted from the gel, reamplified, cloned into pGEM-T Easy vector and sequenced with T7 and SP6 primers. The deduced amino acid sequence of clone VC2-D was similar (71% identities) to the C-terminal sequence of the lytB-like gene of Adonis aestivalis L. (GenBank accession no. AAG-21984, Fig. 2A) (Cunningham et al., 2000). Similarly, the deduced amino acid sequence of clone CAp1-1U showed similarity (60% identities) to the guanylate kinase of Nicotiana tabacum L. (AAG12251, Fig. 2B) (Kumar, 2000); clone GAp1-U showed similarity (63% identities) to a putative selenium-binding protein of Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. (BAB01225, Fig. 2C); clone CAp2-U showed similarity (55% identities) to the activator transposase homolog of A. thaliana (AAD-39658, Fig. 2D); and clone RSG10-U showed some similarity (37% identities) to a polyprotein (i.e., reverse transcriptase) of Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench (AAD22158, Fig. 2E). In addition, CAp1-2U showed very high similarity (98% identities) to the ribosomal protein L41 of Candida maltosa (AAA34366, Fig. 2F). No significant nucleotide sequence homology or deduced amino acid sequence similarity was identified for the other 11 clones. Table 2 lists the clones obtained by DD-PCR, and summarizes the homology search results.


Confirmation of Differential Expression

Northern hybridization analysis using total RNA confirmed that expression of the genes corresponding to VC2-D and Cap1-1U was regulated by drought, but failed to detect transcripts of genes corresponding to clones GAp1-D, CAp2-U and RSC1-U. Failure to detect specific gene transcripts is probably due to the low abundance of these messages. Therefore, the more sensitive and directly quantifiable method of quantitative RT-PCR was used to investigate and confirm further the expression patterns of genes corresponding to the five drought- and the 12 salinity-regulated clones. Except for clone CAp1-1U, all quantitative RT-PCR analyses yielded a single product authenticated by sequencing. When the mixture of first strand cDNAs was amplified by means of the primer pair for clone CAp1-1U, a second eDNA product, which was 8 bp longer and had two other nucleotide differences than that of CAp1-1U was also detected. This RT-PCR product may be a different family member or allele of the gene corresponding to CAp1-1U.

Except for the gene corresponding CAp1-2U, which was expressed constitutively (Fig. 3), the other four genes corresponding to drought-regulated clones were found to have similar expression patterns to those identified from the original differential display gels. Furthermore, quantitative RT-PCR basically confirmed the differential expression of nine out of the twelve salinity-regulated clones (data not shown).


Interestingly, expression of the gene corresponding to SA3-U, which was originally observed by DD-PCR to be up-regulated in both roots and shoots in salinity-treated seedlings, was confirmed to be up-regulated in shoots but shown to be downregulated in roots. In contrast, expression of the gene corresponding to clone RSG10-U was downregulated by salinity stress in shoots but up-regulated in roots (data not shown). For three of the 12 clones originally identified by DD-PCR as upregulated by salinity (i.e., RSA1-U, SG4-U and RSG-13-U), expression of their corresponding genes was not significantly altered in shoots or roots in response to high salinity when investigated by quantitative RTPCR (Fig. 3).

Gene Expression Patterns under Drought- and Salinity-Stress Conditions

For the 13 clones confirmed to be differentially expressed in response to either drought or high salinity, differences and similarities in their stress-regulated expression were investigated further. Quantitative RT-PCR was again used to investigate expression of each clone in roots and shoots of drought- or salinity-treated seedlings, and in leaves of drought-treated plants. The results are shown in Fig. 4 and summarized in Table 3.


CAp1-1U was expressed in all samples tested but its expression was enhanced exclusively by drought stress (Fig. 4, Table 3). CAp2-U was up-regulated only in drought-treated leaves, although in treated seedlings it was expressed constitutively at a low level (Fig. 4, Table 3). The expression of VC2-D was altered only by drought treatment. Its expression was downregulated in leaves and seedling shoots, and not detected in roots (Fig. 4, Table 3). Expression of GAp1-D was downregulated in seedling roots by drought and salinity treatments and in seedling shoots by drought (but only slightly by salinity) (Fig. 4, Table 3).

Transcripts from RSC5-U, RSG11-U and RSG15-U were not detected in untreated, control samples. However, their expression was detected in salinity-treated and in drought-treated seedlings, and these genes were highly expressed in leaves taken from plants following drought treatment (Fig. 4, Table 3). Expression of SA3-U was up-regulated in drought-treated leaves and drought- or salinity-treated seedling shoots, but down-regulated in seedling roots by drought or high salinity (Fig. 4, Table 3). SC7-U was constitutively expressed at a high level in seedling shoots of both control and salinity-treated plants. However, its expression was up-regulated in seedling roots by salinity or drought treatments, but downregulated in seedling shoots and leaves by drought (Fig. 4, Table 3). In both control and drought-treated plants, RSC1-U was poorly expressed in seedling roots, but highly expressed in leaves. In addition, its expression was modestly up-regulated in seedling roots by salinity and in seedling shoots by exposure to drought and salinity (Fig. 4, Table 3). Expression of SG2-U was up-regulated by both types of abiotic stress in all organs examined, and expression of RSG22-D was found to be downregulated by both stresses in all organs examined (Fig. 4, Table 3).

Differential effects between drought and salinity stress were observed when expression patterns of genes corresponding to RSG10-U were analyzed. RSG10-U was found to be up-regulated in seedling roots and down-regulated in seedling shoots in response to exposure to high salinity. Under drought conditions, expression of this gene was downregulated in seedling roots, but up-regulated in seedling shoots and leaves (Fig. 4, Table 3).

On a comparative basis, for analyzing expression of genes corresponding to the four drought-regulated clones, the control 18S rRNA primer pair amplified a single, 315-bp fragment at the identical concentrations from the first strand cDNAs produced from both treated and control leaves. Similarly, for the nine genes corresponding to high salinity-regulated clones, the 18S rRNA control primers amplified a 315-bp fragment to identical concentrations from cDNAs produced from roots and shoots of treated and control seedlings (Fig. 4).


Seventeen osmotic stress-responsive partial cDNAs were initially identified by comparing expression profiles between drought- or salinity-stressed and nonstressed organs by means of differential mRNA display. In contrast to the original DDRT-PCR results, four clones (i.e., one corresponding to a presumptive drought-responsive gene and three corresponding to presumptive salinity-responsive genes) were shown to be constitutively expressed in the tissues examined by quantitative RT-PCR. This discrepancy between experimental methods is probably due to the limitations of DDRT-PCR, such as the somewhat indiscriminant amplification of a population of similarly sized cDNAs and the difficulty in excising a single amplification product from the differential display gel (Debouck, 1995).

Northern gel blot analysis along with detailed quantitative RT-PCR confirmed that the genes corresponding to 13 of the original 17 cDNA clones were differentially expressed in response to drought and/or salinity stress. Interestingly, their individual expression patterns were found to differ in response to drought and/or salinity stress in an organ-specific manner. Even those genes whose expression was up-regulated or downregulated by both high salinity and drought were expressed at different levels under individual stress conditions. It has been proposed that high-throughput stress-specific gene expression analysis is important for understanding gene function (Cushman and Bohnert, 2000). The results reported here suggest that organ- or tissue-specific, as well as stress-specific gene expression analyses are necessary in gene identification and characterization studies.

Although the expression of a number of genes was shown to be enhanced by exposure to both drought and salinity stress (Claes et al., 1990; Espelund et al., 1995; Jeong et al., 2000; Uno et al., 2000), differential responses to dehydration and high salt concentration have been documented in only a few studies. The expression of the glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PDH) gene in wheat (Nemoto and Sasakuma, 2000) and the 70-kDa (catalytic) subunit of tonoplast [H.sup.+]-ATPase gene in tomato (Binzel and Dunlap, 1995) is induced specifically by NaCl, but not drought. Furthermore, the expression of a salinity-induced gene (Pgm1) from ice plant is upregulated in leaves by both drought and high salinity, not affected in roots by salinity-stress, and downregulated there by drought-stress (Forsthoefel et al., 1995). A mitogen-activated protein kinase gene ([p44.sup.MMK4]) was expressed under drought or cold stress, but not in response to high salinity (Jonak et al., 1996).

The 13 partial cDNAs reported here can be organized into three groups on the basis of their different expression patterns in response to osmotic stress. The first pattern (Pattern I, Table 3) is illustrated by genes whose expression is either exclusively up- or downregulated in all organs in response to both stresses (i.e., clones RSC1-U, RSC5-U, SG2-U, RSG11-U, RSG15-U, RSG 22-D, and GAp1-D), or whose expression is up- or downregulated in an organ-specific manner (i.e., clones SA3-U and SC7-U). The expression of CAp1-1U and VC2-D, which represents the second pattern (Pattern II, Table 3), was up- or downregulated by drought stress only, and not affected by salinity. The third pattern (Pattern III, Table 3) demonstrates a differential effect between drought and salinity stress and between organs. Pattern III was observed when characterizing the expression of the gene corresponding to RSG10-U. For this pattern, expression is up- or downregulated depending on the organ and/or the stress.

Response to osmotic stress stimuli is very likely mediated by one or more signal transduction pathways. In vegetative tissues, endogenous ABA levels increase in response to dehydration (Zeevaart and Creelman, 1988) or by exposure to high salinity (Moons et al., 1997). Recent studies on the promoters of drought- and ABA-responsive genes suggest that both ABA-independent and -dependent signal pathways are involved in the dehydration response of plant cells (Shinozaki and Yamaguchi-Shinozaki, 2000). It is interesting that the expression of genes [i.e., Lea (Espelund et al., 1995) and rd29A and rd29B (Yamaguchi-Shinozaki and Shinozaki, 1993)] that can be induced by both drought stress and by salinity stress, are also induced by ABA. However, other drought- or salinity-stress-specific responsive genes are expressed in an ABA-independent manner (Binzel and Dunlap, 1995; Forsthoefel et al., 1995; Jonak et al., 1996; Nemoto and Sasakuma, 2000). Therefore, understanding how the 13 genes reported here respond to exogenous ABA is important for a more complete understanding of the drought-stress, salinity-stress and ABA-responsive pathways. Our analyses showed that transcription of genes with expression pattern I (i.e., clones RSC1-U, RSC5-U and RSG11-U) was up-regulated by exogenous ABA in both seedling roots and shoots, but transcription of genes with expression Patterns II or III (i.e., clones VC2-D, CAp1-1U and RSG10-U) was not affected by ABA treatment (Liu, 2002). These results suggest that plants respond to drought or salinity stress by different pathways, and cross-talk between both stresses is mediated through an ABA-responsive pathway.

VC2-D is homologous to the lytB genes from both plants and bacteria (Cunningham et al., 2000; Gustafson et al., 1993; Wosten et al., 1997; Ham et al., 1999; Lopez et al., 2000). In those studies involving bacteria, lytB was found to be related to nutritional- and temperaturestress response, and it was reported to encode a pneumococcal murein hydrolase, which plays an important role in cell division (Wosten et al., 1997). In tobacco (Nicotiana spp.), a lytB homolog was expressed constitutively in various organs, and at an increased level in response to viral (CaMV) infection. It was suggested that lytB is a novel host factor interacting with the viral coat protein CMV2b (Ham et al., 1999). Recently, Cunningham et al. (2000), working with A. aestivalis, proposed that lytB encodes an enzyme of the deoxyxylulose-5-phosphate pathway, which catalyzes a step at or subsequent to the branch point to form isopentenyl diphosphate and dimethylallyl diphosphate. Transformation of a Synechocystis lytB gene and a lytB gene from A. aestivalis each enhanced accumulation of carotenoids in Escherichia coli (Cunningham et al., 2000). The function of the lytB gene product in plant cells exposed to abiotic stress is unknown, and our finding, that expression of the lytB-like gene was specifically downregulated, suggests that its role in stress response is likely to be complex.

CAp1-1U shows a high level of homology to a tobacco guanylate kinase (GK) gene (Kumar, 2000), which encodes an enzyme critical to the biosynthesis of nucleotides. Guanylate kinase (ATP:GMP phosphotransferase, EC2.7.4.8) catalyzes the reaction (d)GMP + ATP [right arrow] (d)GDP + ADP (Miech and Parks, 1965). This step is very important in the recovery of cyclic-GMP, and the balance of ATP and GTP concentrations within the cell. Therefore, GK is thought to be an important enzyme that is fundamental to second-messenger signal transduction pathways (Brady et al., 1996). Recently, genes for GK have been preliminarily characterized from three plant species (i.e., Arabidopsis, Kumar et al., 2000; lily and tobacco, Kumar, 2000). AGK-1 and AGK-2, were shown to be constitutively expressed in all tissues of Arabidopsis, but their transcription level is highest in roots. However, nothing is known about expression of GK in response to environmental stresses. In the work reported here for sunflower, expression of the GK-like gene corresponding to CAp1-1U was up-regulated in drought-stressed leaves, seedling roots and seedling shoots, but not in those same organs when plants were exposed to high salinity. This implies that the expression of GK may be specifically related to signaling the onset and/or immediate effects of water deficit throughout the plant.

Expression of the gene corresponding to GAp1-D was downregulated by both stress conditions in all organs examined. GAp1-D was found to be highly homologous to a selenium-binding protein from Arabidopsis. Selenium (Se) plays an important role in the growth and development of mammals. Selenium binding protein (SBP) is reported to be involved in mediating the anticarcinogenic effects of Se, and it is expressed differentially in various organs and cell lines (Lanfear et al., 1993; Yang and Sytkowski, 1998). The function of a SBP in plants is unknown. Recently, a SBP gene was obtained from ESTs of a moss treated with exogenous ABA (Machuka et al., 1999). In tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreber), uptake and accumulation of Se is affected by soil moisture (Tennant and Wu, 2000). These recent results, together with our findings, show that a SBP may be important in regulating the Se concentration of plant cells in response to environmental stresses.

Transposable elements, which can cause genetic variation and alter gene expression, are important in host adaptations to environmental changes (Kunze et al., 1997). Expression of plant retrotransposons has been reported to be activated at the transcriptional level in response to different biotic and abiotic stresses (Grandbastien, 1998). For example, expression of the Tnt1 and Ttol retrotransposons is induced by wounding, methyl jasmonate, CuC12 and salicylic acid (Kumar and Bennetzen, 1999). However, activation of transposable elements by drought- and/or salinity-stress has not been clearly documented. Here we report on two partial cDNA clones, similar to two different types of transposable elements, that represent genes differentially expressed in response to drought and/or salinity stress. Clone CAp2-U shows homology to the activator-like transposable element of Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Brown, and clone RSG10-U is orthologous to a polyprotein (reverse transcriptase) of S. bicolor (Fig. 2D and 2E). Further characterization of these two genes will provide information on the role of transposable elements in the host plant's adaptation or response to environmental stress.

Cloning and characterization of full-length cDNAs and promoter regions of the genomic sequences corresponding to the stress-regulated clones reported here will be necessary to fully understand the response mechanism(s) of plant cells to different environmental stresses. Such studies should identify common and/or unique regulatory elements, and thus provide insight into the mechanism of a gene's individual expression, as well as its potential role in stress response. This information will in turn help us to understand better signaling and interactions between the major osmotic stress-response pathways.
Table 1. Gene-specific primer pairs used for Quantitative RT-PCR.

DD-PCR clone                                                     (base
(base pairs)    Primer pair    Sequence (5' [right arrow] 3')   pairs)

VC2-D (280)     VC2RT5'       GTCACATCTGGCGCATCTACTCCTGA          177
CAp1-2U (369)   CAp1-2RT5'    CGGGTGTTGTGACACATGCTTGCAGCC         230
RSC1-U (181)    RSC1RT5'      CAGGGAGAATTAACATTGAC                161
                RSC1RT3'      TTCGCACAGAAAGTAACATT
SG2-U (125)     SG2RT5'       AGTTGTAAACTAAGCCAAACGGGTGG          108
SG4-U (174)     SG4RT5'       GGTATAAAGAGAGATCAGAT                130
SC7-U (160)     SC7RT5'       GAGGTTATCAAGAAAATCTGGGACG            64
RSA1-U (256)    RSA1RT5'      AGTCAAGGTGGATGTTATAATCGGG           249
SA3-U (137)     SA3RT5'       TTGGTCAGGTAGGGGGTGAATAG             116
RSG10-U (368)   RSG10RT5'     ACTTGACGAAATCCGTGTCGATAA            116
RSG11-U (331)   RSG11RT5'     ATTCCATCCATTTGAATAAAATCCG           175
RSG13-U (205)   RSG13RT5'     GGCTCCTGACGATTATGGTAATCA            109
RSG15-U (318)   RSG15RT5'     AGGGTCTGGAAAAGTGGGTACTGTG           148
RSG22-D (186)   RSG22RT5'     TTTGATCCTAGTAGCAGGTTTGGGT           169

Table 2. DD-PCR products and homology search results.

DD-PCR      Clone
clone       size      Homology search results ([dagger])       GenBank
design-    in base    (GenBank accession number;,             accession
ation       pairs     E-value; Reference)                      number

VC2-D        280      LytB-like gene of Adonis aestivalis
                        (AAG21984; 4.2e-12; Cunningham
                        et al., 2000)                         BG734514
CAp1-1U      378      Guanylate kinase of Nicotiana
                        tabacum (AAG12251; 5.8e-08;
                        Kumar 2000)                           BG734515
CAp1-2U      369      Ribosomal protein L41 of Candida
                        maltosa (AAA34366; 1.5e-34)           BG734516
CAp2-U       297      Activator transposase homolog of
                        Arabidopsis thaliana (AAD39658;
                        1.4e-06)                              BG734517
GAp1-D       297      Putative selenium-binding protein-
                        like of Arabidopsis thaliana
                        (BAB01225; 3.8e-09)                   BG734518
RSC1-U       181      No homology identified                  BG734519
SG2-U        125      No homology identified                  BG734520
SG4-U        174      No homology identified                  BG734521
RSC5-U       329      No homology identified                  BG734522
SC7-U        160      No homology identified                  BG734523
RSA1-U       256      No homology identified                  BG734524
SA3-U        137      No homology identified                  BG734525
RSG10-U      368      Polyprotein (Reverse Transcriptase)
                        of Sorghum bicolor (AAD22158;
                        2.7e-11)                              BG734526
RSG11-U      331      No homology identified                  BG734527
RSG13-U      205      No homology identified                  BG734528
RSG15-U      318      No homology identified                  BG734529
RSG22-D      186      No homology identified                  BG734530

([dagger]) BCM Launcher: WU-BLASTX + BEAUTY/nr protein

Table 3. Expression patterns of genes corresponding to drought-
and salinity-regulated clones.

                                           Seedling roots

             Expression        Control         250 mM         Drought
Clone          pattern       ([dagger])    NaCl ([dagger])   ([dagger])

CAp2-U     ND ([section])         +               N              N
GAp1-D     I                      +               D              D
RSG22-D    I                      +               D              D
RSC1-U     I                  [+ or -]            U              NE
RSC5-U     I                  [+ or -]            U              U
SG2U       I                  [+ or -]            U              U
RSG11-U    I                  [+ or -]            U              U
RSG15-U    I                      +               U              U
SA3-U      I                      +               D              D
SC7-U      I                  [+ or -]            U              U
VC2-D      II                 [+ or -]            NE             NE
CAp1-1U    II                     +               N              U
RSC10-U    III                    +               U              D

                                           Seedling shoots

             Expression        Control         250 mM         Drought
Clone          pattern       ([dagger])    NaCl ([dagger])   ([dagger])

CAp2-U     ND ([section])         +               N              N
GAp1-D     I                      +               D              D
RSG22-D    I                      +               D              D
RSC1-U     I                      +               U              U
RSC5-U     I                      +               U              U
SG2U       I                  [+ or -]            U              U
RSG11-U    I                  [+ or -]            U              U
RSG15-U    I                  [+ or -]            U              U
SA3-U      I                      +               U              U
SC7-U      I                     ++               OE             D
VC2-D      II                     +               N              D
CAp1-1U    II                     +               N              U
RSC10-U    III                    +               D              U


             Expression        Control      Drought
Clone          pattern       ([dagger])    ([dagger])

CAp2-U     ND ([section])         +            U
GAp1-D     I                      +            D
RSG22-D    I                      +            D
RSC1-U     I                     ++            OE
RSC5-U     I                      +            U+
SG2U       I                  [+ or -]         U
RSG11-U    I                  [+ or -]         U+
RSG15-U    I                  [+ or -]         U+
SA3-U      I                      +            U
SC7-U      I                      +            D
VC2-D      II                     +            D
CAp1-1U    II                     +            U
RSC10-U    III                    +            U

([dagger]) Gene expression in control leaves, seedling roots and
shoots: ++, highly expressed; +, expressed; [+ or -], not expressed
or expressed at a very low level.

([double dagger]) Regulation of gene expression in salinity-treated
seedling roots and shoots, or drought-treated leaves, seedling roots
and shoots: U+, strongly up-regulated; U, up-regulated; D,
downregulated; N, not regulated; NE, no expression detected; OE, over
expressed (saturated band intensity).

([section]) ND, Not determined.


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Xianan Liu and Wm. Vance Baird *

Xianan Liu, Department of Plant Biology, 190 ERML, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA; William Vance Baird, Horticulture Department, Poole Agriculture Center, Box 340375, 50 Cherry Rd., Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-0375, USA. This article is technical contribution number 4814 of the South Carolina Agriculture Experiment Station, Clemson University. This work was supported by the South Carolina Agriculture Experiment Station and a grant from U.S.-A.I.D. University Linkages Project II (93/01/35; 263-0211) to WVB. Received 10 July 2002. * Corresponding author (VBAIRD@ CLEMSON.EDU).
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Author:Liu, Xianan; Baird, Vance
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Date:Mar 1, 2003
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