Overexpression of BplERD15 enhances drought tolerance in Betula platyphylla Suk

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© 2020 by the authors. In this study, we report the cloning and functional characterization of an early responsive gene, BplERD15, from Betula platyphylla Suk to dehydration. BplERD15 is located in the same branch as Morus indica Linnaeus ERD15 and Arabidopsis Heynh ERD15 in the phylogenetic tree built with ERD family protein sequences. The tissue-specific expression patterns of BplERD15 were characterized using qRT-PCR and the results showed that the transcript levels of BplERD15 in six tissues were ranked from the highest to the lowest levels as the following: mature leaves (ML) > young leaves (YL) > roots (R) >buds (B) >young stems (YS) >mature stems (MS). Multiple drought experiments were simulated by adding various osmotica including polyethylene glycol, mannitol, and NaCl to the growth media to decrease their water potentials, and the results showed that the expression of BplERD15 could be induced to 12, 9, and 10 folds, respectively, within a 48 h period. However, the expression level of BplERD15 was inhibited by the plant hormone abscisic acid in the early response and then restored to the level of control. The BplERD15 overexpression (OE) transgenic birch lines were developed and they did not exhibit any phenotypic anomalies and growth deficiency under normal condition. Under drought condition, BplERD15-OE1, 3, and 4 all displayed some drought tolerant characteristics and survived from the drought while the wild type (WT) plants withered and then died. Analysis showed that all BplERD15-OE lines had significant lower electrolyte leakage levels as compared to WT. Our study suggests that BplERD15 is a drought-responsive gene that can reduce mortality under stress condition.

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