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Open Access Research article

Genome-wide analysis of the GH3 family in apple (Malus × domestica)

Huazhao Yuan, Kai Zhao, Hengjiu Lei, Xinjie Shen, Yun Liu, Xiong Liao and Tianhong Li*

Author affiliations

Department of Fruit Science, College of Agriculture and Biotechnology/Key Laboratory of Stress Physiology and Molecular Biology for Tree Fruits of Beijing, China Agricultural University, 2 Yuanmingyuan West Road, Haidian District, Beijing, 100193, People’s Republic of China

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:297  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-297

Published: 2 May 2013



Auxin plays important roles in hormone crosstalk and the plant’s stress response. The auxin-responsive Gretchen Hagen3 (GH3) gene family maintains hormonal homeostasis by conjugating excess indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), salicylic acid (SA), and jasmonic acids (JAs) to amino acids during hormone- and stress-related signaling pathways. With the sequencing of the apple (Malus × domestica) genome completed, it is possible to carry out genomic studies on GH3 genes to indentify candidates with roles in abiotic/biotic stress responses.


Malus sieversii Roem., an apple rootstock with strong drought tolerance and the ancestral species of cultivated apple species, was used as the experimental material. Following genome-wide computational and experimental identification of MdGH3 genes, we showed that MdGH3s were differentially expressed in the leaves and roots of M. sieversii and that some of these genes were significantly induced after various phytohormone and abiotic stress treatments. Given the role of GH3 in the negative feedback regulation of free IAA concentration, we examined whether phytohormones and abiotic stresses could alter the endogenous auxin level. By analyzing the GUS activity of DR5::GUS-transformed Arabidopsis seedlings, we showed that ABA, SA, salt, and cold treatments suppressed the auxin response. These findings suggest that other phytohormones and abiotic stress factors might alter endogenous auxin levels.


Previous studies showed that GH3 genes regulate hormonal homeostasis. Our study indicated that some GH3 genes were significantly induced in M. sieversii after various phytohormone and abiotic stress treatments, and that ABA, SA, salt, and cold treatments reduce the endogenous level of axuin. Taken together, this study provides evidence that GH3 genes play important roles in the crosstalk between auxin, other phytohormones, and the abiotic stress response by maintaining auxin homeostasis.

Malus sieversii Roem; Phytohormone; Biotic stress; GH3; DR5; GUS