Relationships Between Expression of Heat Shock Protein Genes and Photosynthetic Behavior During Drought Stress in Plants

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Virginia Tech

Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are expressed in response to environmental stresses. Compared to other kingdoms, plant HSP families are larger, presumably the result of adaptation to a wide range of stresses. Following on an analysis of drought stress characteristics in loblolly pine (Watkinson et al., 2003), expression patterns of HSP gene expression during photosynthetic acclimation were examined. One cycle of mild (-1Mpa) followed by two cycles of severe stress (-1.7Mpa) were probed for conditioning effects. Photosynthetic acclimation occurred after the first cycle. No acclimation occurred without the first mild cycle. Microarray/RT-PCR analyses showed that a pine homolog to GRP94 (ER-resident HSP90) was up-regulated after rehydration coincident with acclimation. This GRP94 is closely related to GRP94 from the desiccation tolerant plant X. viscosa, supporting the importance of this gene during acclimation to water deficit. HSP genes whose products localized to the mitochondrion showed gradual up-regulation after consecutive cycles of severe drought.

The Arabidopsis pine GRP94 homolog, (AtHSP90-7) was then analyzed, using bioinformatics (Pati et al., 2006) and laboratory tools. Genes encoding putative candidate co-chaperones for GRP94 and other HSP90s were discovered, which contained water stress-related cis-elements. Arabidopsis (Col-0) wild type and two T-DNA insertion mutants in HSP90-7 were used to study the importance of this gene for photosynthetic acclimation. Only the mutants were able to acclimate to drought stress, with the level of AtHSP90-7 expression in the mutants being reduced compared to the wild type. AtHSP90-7 may have a different role in Arabidopsis, and its reduced expression activated other protective genes (Klein et al., 2006).

Responses to extreme drought in resistant (Sullu) and susceptible (Negra Ojosa) lines of Andean potatoes were also compared in order to identify relationships between HSPs gene expression, and tolerance, defined as the ability to maintain photosynthesis at 50% after 25 days of drought and to recover from the stress. Tolerance was correlated with up-regulation of HSPs (mostly chaperonins) and antioxidant genes all of whose gene products are located in the chloroplast.

HSP90, photosynthesis, andean potato, drought stress, Loblolly pine, Arabidopsis, GRP94