Differential regulation of the banana stress NAC family by individual and combined stresses of drought and heat in susceptible and resistant genotypes

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Banana, an important tropical fruit crop, often faces drought, heat and its combination during its growth, leading to decreased yields. The combined stresses caused 100% yield loss in Grand Nain (GN) as compared to only 46% in Hill Banana (HB). To understand the response of combined stresses, we studied the stress-responsive NAC gene sub-family under individual and combined drought/heat stresses under controlled and field conditions in the stress-sensitive GN (AAA genotype) and stress-tolerant HB (AAB genotype). Under drought, expression of most stress-NACs increased with progression of drought in either one or the other genotype with little overlap. Heat stress caused a continuous decline in expression of most genes in HB unlike in GN where many NACs were up-regulated although to a lesser scale than for drought. Combination of the two stresses elicited a very different response compared with individual stresses. GN responded strongly to the combined stress with up-regulation of most genes unlike that seen in drought. Surprisingly, NAC genes in HB did not respond much to the more severe combination of the stresses despite being up-regulated strongly by drought. The response of the NACs to combined field stress was similar to that under controlled conditions. Most of the stress-NACs were strongly up-regulated upon treatment with exogenous ABA within 30–60 min, the increase being more prominent in GN. The studies suggest that the B genome in the stress-tolerant HB may counter more drastic combined stresses without taking recourse to the expression of stress NACs.

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Plant Physiology and Biochemistry