Drought is one of the major abiotic stresses that affect productivity in soybean (Glycine max L.) Several genes induced by drought stress include functional genes and regulatory transcription factors. The Arabidopsis thaliana DREB1D transcription factor driven by the constitutive and ABA-inducible promoters was introduced into soybean through Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated gene transfer. Several transgenic lines were generated and molecular analysis was performed to confirm transgene integration. Transgenic plants with an ABA-inducible promoter showed a 1.5- to two-fold increase of transgene expression under severe stress conditions. Under well-watered conditions, transgenic plants with constitutive and ABA-inducible promoters showed reduced total leaf area and shoot biomass compared to non-transgenic plants. No significant differences in root length or root biomass were observed between transgenic and non-transgenic plants under non-stress conditions. When subjected to gradual water deficit, transgenic plants maintained higher relative water content because the transgenic lines used water more slowly as a result of reduced total leaf area. This caused them to wilt slower than non-transgenic plants. Transgenic plants showed differential drought tolerance responses with a significantly higher survival rate compared to non-transgenic plants when subjected to comparable severe water-deficit conditions. Moreover, the transgenic plants also showed improved drought tolerance by maintaining 17–24 % greater leaf cell membrane stability compared to non-transgenic plants. The results demonstrate the feasibility of engineering soybean for enhanced drought tolerance by expressing stress-responsive genes.
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Acknowledgments We thank Dr. Zhanyuan Zhang, Plant Transformation Core Facility, University of Missouri for the soybean transformation and Dr. Thomas Clemente, University of Nebraska for providing sub-cloning vectors. This work was supported by the United Soybean Board and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council funding to HTN.
- Cell membrane stability
- Drought tolerance
- Environmental stresses
- Transcription factor