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Overexpression of a maize E3 ubiquitin ligase gene enhances drought tolerance through regulating stomatal aperture and antioxidant system in transgenic tobacco

Liu, Jianjun, Xia, Zongliang, Wang, Meiping, Zhang, Xiaoquan, Yang, Tiezhao, Wu, Jianyu
Plant physiology and biochemistry 2013 v.73 pp. 114-120
Arabidopsis thaliana, Zea mays, antioxidants, corn, crop production, crops, drought, drought tolerance, engineering, gene overexpression, genes, genetic improvement, malondialdehyde, proline, reactive oxygen species, stomatal movement, stress tolerance, superoxide dismutase, tobacco, transgenic plants, ubiquitin-protein ligase, water stress
Drought is one of the most important limiting factors in crop production. In our previous study, a putative Arabidopsis thaliana SALT- AND DROUGHT-INDUCED RING FINGER1 (AtSDIR1) homolog encoding a RING-finger protein from Zea mays (ZmRFP1) was cloned and its expression pattern and Ub E3 ligase activity were characterized. However, it is uncertain that ZmRFP1 acts as a positive regulator during drought stress. In this study, we further characterized ZmRFP1 in transgenic tobacco to investigate drought tolerance and possible function mechanisms. Overexpression of ZmRFP1 enhanced drought tolerance in tobacco. The transgenic tobacco lines had more closed stomatal pores, higher proline accumulation, but lower levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) when compared with the wild type (WT) under drought stress. Further investigation showed that ZmRFP1 transgenic plants displayed higher SOD and CAT activities, increased NtSOD and NtCAT transcript levels, and decreased reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation under drought stress. Taken together, our results demonstrate that ZmRFP1 confers drought stress tolerance in transgenic tobacco not only by increasing the ability to retain water, but also by reducing ROS accumulation and membrane damage through enhancing the antioxidant system. ZmRFP1 might serve as a candidate gene in genetic improvement for drought tolerance engineering in cereal crop plants.