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Ectopically expressing MdPIP1;3, an aquaporin gene, increased fruit size and enhanced drought tolerance of transgenic tomatoes

Wang, Lin, Li, Qing-Tian, Lei, Qiong, Feng, Chao, Zheng, Xiaodong, Zhou, Fangfang, Li, Lingzi, Liu, Xuan, Wang, Zhi, Kong, Jin
BMC plant biology 2017 v.17 no.1 pp. 246
tomatoes, crop production, income, aquaporins, apples, fruits, transgenic plants, drought tolerance, breeding, drought, water stress, fruit quality, water flow, global warming, genes, water transportation, Malus domestica, plasma membrane, stomata
BACKGROUND: Water deficit severely reduces apple growth and production, is detrimental to fruit quality and size. This problem is exacerbated as global warming is implicated in producing more severe drought stress. Thus water-efficiency has becomes the major target for apple breeding. A desired apple tree can absorb and transport water efficiently, which not only confers improved drought tolerance, but also guarantees fruit size for higher income returns. Aquaporins, as water channels, control water transportation across membranes and can regulate water flow by changing their amount and activity. The exploration of molecular mechanism of water efficiency and the gene wealth will pave a way for molecular breeding of drought tolerant apple tree. RESULTS: In the current study, we screened out a drought inducible aquaporin gene MdPIP1;3, which specifically enhanced its expression during fruit expansion in ‘Fuji’ apple (Malus domestica Borkh. cv. Red Fuji). It localized on plasma membranes and belonged to PIP1 subfamily. The tolerance to drought stress enhanced in transgenic tomato plants ectopically expressing MdPIP1;3, showing that the rate of losing water in isolated transgenic leaves was slower than wild type, and stomata of transgenic plants closed sensitively to respond to drought compared with wild type. Besides, length and diameter of transgenic tomato fruits increased faster than wild type, and in final, fruit sizes and fresh weights of transgenic tomatoes were bigger than wild type. Specially, in cell levels, fruit cell size from transgenic tomatoes was larger than wild type, showing that cell number per mm² in transgenic fruits was less than wild type. CONCLUSIONS: Altogether, ectopically expressing MdPIP1;3 enhanced drought tolerance of transgenic tomatoes partially via reduced water loss controlled by stomata closure in leaves. In addition, the transgenic tomato fruits are larger and heavier with larger cells via more efficient water transportation across membranes. Our research will contribute to apple production, by engineering apples with big fruits via efficient water transportation when well watered and enhanced drought tolerance in transgenic apples under water deficit.