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Open Access Research article

Individual vs. combinatorial effect of elevated CO2 conditions and salinity stress on Arabidopsis thaliana liquid cultures: Comparing the early molecular response using time-series transcriptomic and metabolomic analyses

Harin Kanani13, Bhaskar Dutta14 and Maria I Klapa12*

Author Affiliations

1 Metabolic Engineering and Systems Biology Laboratory, Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

2 Metabolic Engineering and Systems Biology Laboratory, Institute of Chemical Engineering and High Temperature Chemical Processes (ICE-HT), Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH), GR-265 04 Patras, Greece

3 Neogen Chemicals Limited, Thane, MH 400601, India

4 Biotechnology HPC Software Applications Institute, Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Ft. Detrick, Maryland, USA

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BMC Systems Biology 2010, 4:177  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-4-177

Published: 29 December 2010

Abstract

Background

In this study, we investigated the individual and combinatorial effect of elevated CO2 conditions and salinity stress on the dynamics of both the transcriptional and metabolic physiology of Arabidopsis thaliana liquid hydroponic cultures over the first 30 hours of continuous treatment. Both perturbations are of particular interest in plant and agro-biotechnological applications. Moreover, within the timeframe of this experiment, they are expected to affect plant growth to opposite directions. Thus, a major objective was to investigate whether this expected "divergence" was valid for the individual perturbations and to study how it is manifested under the combined stress at two molecular levels of cellular function, using high-throughput analyses.

Results

We observed that a) high salinity has stronger effect than elevated CO2 at both the transcriptional and metabolic levels, b) the transcriptional responses to the salinity and combined stresses exhibit strong similarity, implying a robust transcriptional machinery acting to the salinity stress independent of the co-occurrence of elevated CO2, c) the combinatorial effect of the two perturbations on the metabolic physiology is milder than of the salinity stress alone. Metabolomic analysis suggested that the beneficial role of elevated CO2 on salt-stressed plants within the timeframe of this study should be attributed to the provided additional resources; these allow the plants to respond to high salinity without having to forfeit other major metabolic functions, and d) 9 h-12 h and 24 h of treatment coincide with significant changes in the metabolic physiology under any of the investigated stresses. Significant differences between the acute and longer term responses were observed at both molecular levels.

Conclusions

This study contributes large-scale dynamic omic data from two levels of cellular function for a plant system under various stresses. It provides an additional example of the power of integrated omic analyses for the comprehensive study of the molecular physiology of complex biological systems. Moreover, taking into consideration the particular interest of the two investigated perturbations in plant biotechnology, enhanced understanding of the molecular physiology of the plants under these conditions could lead to the design of novel metabolic engineering strategies to increase the resistance of commercial crops to salinity stress.