Soil salinity and heat stress are two major abiotic stresses affecting plant growth and yield. Transcription factors (TFs) are key regulators in stress responses. They link stress sensing with many tolerance mechanisms by translating stress signals into changes in gene expression that ultimately contribute to stress tolerance. The NAC (NAM, ATAF and CUC) TF family have been found to be involved in responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. In this PhD project, the role of NAC TFs in response to heat and salt stress was studied in the model system Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis), and in two agriculturally relevant species, Solanum lycopersicum (tomato) and Chenopodium quinoa (quinoa). Plants have the ability to acquire thermotolerance if they are pre-exposed to a mild, non-lethal high temperature. The maintenance of acquired thermotolerance for several days is known as thermomemory. Here we investigated the role of NAC TFs in thermotolerance. The expression profiles of 104 Arabidopsis NAC TFs were measured and compared between primed and unprimed plants. Some NACs with a distinctive expression pattern in response to thermopriming were selected for further phenotypic analysis. Knock-out (KO) mutants of the ATAF1 gene showed an enhanced thermomemory phenotype compared with wild type plants (WT) and from this work, the functions of the ATAF1 gene were studied further. RNAseq co-expression analyses of ATAF1 overexpressor and ataf1 KO plants found that ANAC055 expression was co-regulated with that of ATAF1. JUBGBRUNNEN1 (JUB1) is another NAC TF involved in responses to heat, drought and salinity. In this study, the role of AtJUB1 overexpression in salinity was investigated in tomato plants. AtJUB1 overexpression resulted in higher proline levels and improved maintenance of water content and biomass in AtJUB1-overexpressing plants grown hydroponically under salinity compared with WT plants. Quinoa has recently gained much attention because of its high nutritional value and high tolerance to several stresses including drought and salinity. NAC TFs are hypothesized to play a major role in quinoa’s tolerance to abiotic stresses. In this study, the NAC TFs family were identified and investigated in the genome of quinoa. 107 NAC TF genes were identified and their transcriptional responses to different stresses including salt, drought and heat were investigated.
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