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Expression of a novel PSK-encoding gene from soybean improves seed growth and yield in transgenic plants

Yu, Liangliang, Liu, Yumin, Zeng, Shuang, Yan, Junhui, Wang, Ertao, Luo, Li
Planta 2019 v.249 no.4 pp. 1239-1250
Arabidopsis, amino acid composition, cell walls, genes, heterologous gene expression, peptides, plant development, root growth, seed size, seedlings, seeds, soybeans, sulfonylation, tobacco, transgenic plants
MAIN CONCLUSION: Expression of GmPSKγ1 , a novel PSK-encoding gene from soybean, increases seed size and yield in transgenic plants by promoting cell expansion. Phytosulfokine-α (PSK-α), a sulfated pentapeptide hormone with the sequence YIYTQ, plays important roles in many aspects of plant growth and development. In this study, we identified a pair of putative precursor genes in soybean, GmPSKγ1 and -2, encoding a PSK-like peptide: PSK-γ. Similar to PSK-α in amino acid composition, the sequence of PSK-γ is YVYTQ, and the tyrosines undergo sulfonylation. Treatment of Arabidopsis seedlings with synthetic sulfated PSK-γ significantly enhanced root elongation, indicating that PSK-γ might be a functional analog of PSK-α. Expression pattern analysis revealed that the two GmPSKγ genes, especially GmPSKγ1, are primarily expressed in developing soybean seeds. Heterologous expression of GmPSKγ1 under the control of a seed-specific promoter markedly increased seed size and weight in Arabidopsis, and this promoting effect of PSK-γ on seed growth was further confirmed in transgenic tobacco constitutively expressing GmPSKγ1. Cytological analysis of transgenic Arabidopsis seeds revealed that PSK-γ promotes seed growth by inducing embryo cell expansion. In addition, expression analysis of downstream candidate genes suggested that PSK-γ signaling might regulate cell wall loosening to promote cell expansion in Arabidopsis seeds. Overall, our results shed light on the mechanism by which PSK-γ promotes seed growth, paving the way for the use of this new peptide for biotechnological improvement of crop seed/grain size and yield.