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Open Access Research article

A stress inducible SUMO conjugating enzyme gene (SaSce9) from a grass halophyte Spartina alterniflora enhances salinity and drought stress tolerance in Arabidopsis

Ratna Karan and Prasanta K Subudhi*

Author Affiliations

School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 104 Sturgis Hall, Baton Rouge, LA, 70803, USA

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BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:187  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-187

Published: 10 October 2012

Abstract

Background

SUMO (Small Ubiquitin related Modifier) conjugation is a post translational regulatory process found in all eukaryotes, mediated by SUMO activating enzyme, SUMO conjugating enzyme, and SUMO ligase for the attachment of SUMO to its target protein. Although the mechanism for regulation of SUMO conjugation pathway genes under abiotic stress has been studied to certain extent, the role of SUMO conjugating enzyme in improving abiotic stress tolerance to plant is largely unexplored. Here, we have characterized a SUMO conjugating enzyme gene ‘SaSce9’ from a halophytic grass Spartina alterniflora and investigated its role in imparting abiotic stress tolerance.

Results

SaSce9 gene encodes for a polypeptide of 162 amino acids with a molecular weight of ~18 kD and isoelectric point 8.43. Amino acid sequence comparisons of SaSce9 with its orthologs from other plant species showed high degree (~85-93%) of structural conservation among each other. Complementation analysis using yeast SCE mutant, Ubc9, revealed functional conservation of SaSce9 between yeast and S. alterniflora. SaSce9 transcript was inducible by salinity, drought, cold, and exogenously supplied ABA both in leaves and roots of S. alterniflora. Constitutive overexpression of SaSce9 in Arabidopsis through Agrobacterium mediated transformation improved salinity and drought tolerance of Arabidopsis. SaSce9 overexpressing Arabidopsis plants retained more chlorophyll and proline both under salinity and drought stress. SaSce9 transgenic plants accumulated lower levels of reactive oxygen under salinity stress. Expression analysis of stress responsive genes in SaSce9 Arabidopsis plants revealed the increased expression of antioxidant genes, AtSOD and AtCAT, ion antiporter genes, AtNHX1 and AtSOS1, a gene involved in proline biosynthesis, AtP5CS, and a gene involved in ABA dependent signaling pathway, AtRD22.

Conclusions

These results highlight the prospect of improving abiotic stress tolerance in plants through genetic engineering of the sumoylation pathway. The study provides evidence that the overexpression of SaSce9 in plant can improve salinity and drought stress tolerance by protecting the plant through scavenging of ROS, accumulation of an osmolyte, proline, and expression of stress responsive genes. In addition, this study demonstrates the potential of the halophyte grass S. alterniflora as a reservoir of abiotic stress related genes for crop improvement.

Keywords:
Abiotic stress tolerance; Halophyte; Stress inducible; SUMO conjugating gene; Spartina alterniflora