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Overexpression of GSK3-like Kinase 5 (OsGSK5) in rice (Oryza sativa) enhances salinity tolerance in part via preferential carbon allocation to root starch

Thitisaksakul, Maysaya, Arias, Maria C., Dong, Shaoyun, Beckles, Diane M.
Functional plant biology 2017 v.44 no.7 pp. 705-719
Arabidopsis, Medicago, Oryza sativa, biomass, carbohydrate metabolism, carbon, ecophysiology, genotype, inflorescences, leaves, polyethylene glycol, rice, roots, saline soils, salinity, salt stress, salt tolerance, seedlings, soil salinity, starch, starvation, sugars
Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is very sensitive to soil salinity. To identify endogenous mechanisms that may help rice to better survive salt stress, we studied a rice GSK3-like isoform (OsGSK5), an orthologue of a Medicago GSK3 previously shown to enhance salinity tolerance in Arabidopsis by altering carbohydrate metabolism. We wanted to determine whether OsGSK5 functions similarly in rice. OsGSK5 was cloned and sequence, expression, evolutionary and functional analyses were conducted. OsGSK5 was expressed highest in rice seedling roots and was both salt and sugar starvation inducible in this tissue. A short-term salt-shock (150mM) activated OsGSK5, whereas moderate (50mM) salinity over the same period repressed the transcript. OsGSK5 response to salinity was due to an ionic effect since it was unaffected by polyethylene glycol. We engineered a rice line with 3.5-fold higher OsGSK5 transcript, which better tolerated cultivation on saline soils (EC=8 and 10dSm-2). This line produced more panicles and leaves, and a higher shoot biomass under high salt stress than the control genotypes. Whole-plant 14C-tracing and correlative analysis of OsGSK5 transcript with eco-physiological assessments pointed to the accelerated allocation of carbon to the root and its deposition as starch, as part of the tolerance mechanism.