The Barley Stripe Mosaic Virus expression system reveals the wheat C2H2 zinc finger protein TaZFP1B as a key regulator of drought tolerance
Background Drought stress is one of the major factors limiting wheat production globally. Improving drought tolerance is important for agriculture sustainability. Although various morphological, physiological and biochemical responses associated with drought tolerance have been documented, the molecular mechanisms and regulatory genes that are needed to improve drought tolerance in crops require further investigation. We have used a novel 4-component version (for overexpression) and a
... on) and a 3-component version (for underexpression) of a barley stripe mosaic virus-based (BSMV) system for functional characterization of the C2H2-type zinc finger protein TaZFP1B in wheat. These expression systems avoid the need to produce transgenic plant lines and greatly speeds up functional gene characterization. Results We show that overexpression of TaZFP1B stimulates plant growth and up-regulates different oxidative stress-responsive genes under well-watered conditions. Plants that overexpress TaZFP1B are more drought tolerant at critical periods of the plant's life cycle. Furthermore, RNA-Seq analysis revealed that plants overexpressing TaZFP1B reprogram their transcriptome, resulting in physiological and physical modifications that help wheat to grow and survive under drought stress. In contrast, plants transformed to underexpress TaZFP1B are significantly less tolerant to drought and growth is negatively affected. Conclusions This study clearly shows that the two versions of the BSMV system can be used for fast and efficient functional characterization of genes in crops. The extent of transcriptome reprogramming in plants that overexpress TaZFP1B indicates that the encoded transcription factor is a key regulator of drought tolerance in wheat.