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An apple transcription factor, MdDREB76, confers salt and drought tolerance in transgenic tobacco by activating the expression of stress-responsive genes

Sharma, Vishal, Goel, Parul, Kumar, Sanjay, Singh, Anil Kumar
Plant cell reports 2019 v.38 no.2 pp. 221-241
Malus domestica, antioxidants, apples, ascorbate peroxidase, catalase, crops, drought tolerance, electrolytes, gene expression regulation, gene overexpression, genes, genetic engineering, lipid peroxidation, osmotic stress, physiological state, proline, salinity, sugar content, superoxide dismutase, tobacco, transcription factors, transgenic plants, water content, water stress
KEY MESSAGE: An apple gene, MdDREB76 encodes a functional transcription factor and imparts salinity and drought stress endurance to transgenic tobacco by activating expression of stress-responsive genes. The dehydration-responsive element (DRE)-binding protein (DREB) transcription factors are well known to be involved in regulating abiotic stress-mediated gene expression in plants. In this study, MdDREB76 gene was isolated from apple (Malus x domestica), which encodes a functional transcription factor protein. Overexpression of MdDREB76 in tobacco conferred salt and drought stress tolerance to transgenic lines by inducing antioxidant enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase, ascorbate peroxidase and catalase. The higher membrane stability index, relative water content, proline, total soluble sugar content and lesser H₂O₂content, electrolyte leakage and lipid peroxidation in transgenics support the improved physiological status of transgenic plants as compared to WT plants under salinity and drought stresses. The MdDREB76 overexpression upregulated the expression of stress-responsive genes that provide salinity and drought stress endurance to the plants. Compared to WT plants, transgenic lines exhibited healthy growth and higher yield under stress conditions. The present study reports MdDREB76 as a key regulator that switches on the battery of downstream genes which impart salt and osmotic stress endurance to the transgenic plants and can be used for genetic engineering of crop plants to combat salinity and drought stresses.