Confirmation of Drought Tolerance of Ectopically Expressed AtABF3 Gene in Soybean
Hye Jeong Kim1, Hyun Suk Cho1, Jung Hun Pak1, Tackmin Kwon1, Jai-Heon Lee1, Doh-Hoon Kim1,
Dong Hee Lee2, Chang-Gi Kim3, and Young-Soo Chung1,*
1Department of Molecular Genetics, College of Natural Resources and Life Science, Dong-A University, Busan 49315, Korea,
2Genomine Advanced Biotechnology Research Institute, Genomine Inc., Pohang 37668, Korea, 3Bio-Evaluation Center, KRIBB,
Cheongju 28116, Korea
Received October 12, 2017; Revised February 18, 2018; Accepted May 7, 2018.; Published online May 10, 2018.
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Soybean transgenic plants with ectopically expressed AtABF3 were produced by Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and investigated the effects of AtABF3 expression on drought and salt tolerance. Stable Agrobacterium-mediated soybean transformation was carried based on the half-seed method (Paz et al. 2006). The integration of the transgene was confirmed from the genomic DNA of transformed soybean plants using PCR and the copy number of transgene was determined by Southern blotting using leaf samples from T2 seedlings. In addition to genomic integration, the expression of the transgenes was analyzed by RT-PCR and most of the transgenic lines expressed the transgenes introduced. The chosen two transgenic lines (line #2 and #9) for further experiment showed the substantial drought stress tolerance by surviving even at the end of the 20-day of drought treatment. And the positive relationship between the levels of AtABF3 gene expression and drought-tolerance was confirmed by qRT-PCR and drought tolerance test. The stronger drought tolerance of transgenic lines seemed to be resulted from physiological changes. Transgenic lines #2 and #9 showed ion leakage at a significantly lower level (P < 0.01) than nontransgenic (NT) control. In addition, the chlorophyll contents of the leaves of transgenic lines were significantly higher (P < 0.01). The results indicated that their enhanced drought tolerance was due to the prevention of cell membrane damage and maintenance of chlorophyll content. Water loss by transpiration also slowly proceeded in transgenic plants. In microscopic observation, higher stomata closure was confirmed in transgenic lines. Especially, line #9 had 56% of completely closed stomata whereas only 16% were completely open. In subsequent salt tolerance test, the apparently enhanced salt tolerance of transgenic lines was measured in ion leakage rate and chlorophyll contents. Finally, the agronomic characteristics of ectopically expressed AtABF3 transgenic plants (T2) compared to NT plants under regular watering (every 4 days) or low rate of watering condition (every 10 days) was investigated. When watered regularly, the plant height of droughttolerant line (#9) was shorter than NT plants. However, under the drought condition, total seed weight of line #9 was significantly higher than in NT plants (P < 0.01). Moreover, the pods of NT plants showed severe withering, and most of the pods failed to set normal seeds. All the evidences in the study clearly suggested that overexpression of the AtABF3 gene conferred drought and salt tolerance in major crop soybean, especially under the growth condition of low watering.
Keywords: Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, AtABF3,
drought tolerance, soybean, stomatal closure

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30 April 2018 Volume 41,
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