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Identification and characterization of a salt stress-inducible zinc finger protein from Festuca arundinacea

Ruth C Martin1*, Kira Glover-Cutter1, James C Baldwin2 and James E Dombrowski1

Author Affiliations

1 USDA-ARS National Forage Seed Production Research Center, 3450 S.W. Campus Way, Corvallis, OR 97331

2 Applied Technology Center, 1050 Forrer Blv., Kettering, OH 45429

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:66  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-66

Published: 24 January 2012



Increased biotic and abiotic plant stresses due to climate change together with an expected global human population of over 9 billion by 2050 intensifies the demand for agricultural production on marginal lands. Soil salinity is one of the major abiotic stresses responsible for reduced crop productivity worldwide and the salinization of arable land has dramatically increased over the last few decades. Consequently, as land becomes less amenable for conventional agriculture, plants grown on marginal soils will be exposed to higher levels of soil salinity. Forage grasses are a critical component of feed used in livestock production worldwide, with many of these same species of grasses being utilized for lawns, erosion prevention, and recreation. Consequently, it is important to develop a better understanding of salt tolerance in forage and related grass species.


A gene encoding a ZnF protein was identified during the analysis of a salt-stress suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) expression library from the forage grass species Festuca arundinacea. The expression pattern of FaZnF was compared to that of the well characterized gene for delta 1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthetase (P5CS), a key enzyme in proline biosynthesis, which was also identified in the salt-stress SSH library. The FaZnF and P5CS genes were both up-regulated in response to salt and drought stresses suggesting a role in dehydration stress. FaZnF was also up-regulated in response to heat and wounding, suggesting that it might have a more general function in multiple abiotic stress responses. Additionally, potential downstream targets of FaZnF (a MAPK [Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase], GST [Glutathione-S-Transferase] and lipoxygenase L2) were found to be up-regulated in calli overexpressing FaZnF when compared to control cell lines.


This work provides evidence that FaZnF is an AN1/A20 zinc finger protein that is involved in the regulation of at least two pathways initiated by the salt stress response, thus furthering our understanding of the mechanisms of cellular action during a stress that is applicable to commercial crops worldwide.