To ensure global food security under the changing climate, there is a strong need for developing ‘climate resilient crops’ that can thrive and produce better yields under extreme environmental conditions such as drought, salinity, and high temperature. To enhance plant productivity under the adverse conditions, we constitutively overexpressed a bifunctional wax synthase/acyl-CoA:diacylglycerol acyltransferase (WSD1) gene, which plays a critical role in wax ester synthesis in Arabidopsis stem and leaf tissues. The qRT-PCR analysis showed a strong upregulation of WSD1 transcripts by mannitol, NaCl, and abscisic acid (ABA) treatments, particularly in Arabidopsis thaliana shoots. Gas chromatography and electron microscopy analyses of Arabidopsis seedlings overexpressing WSD1 showed higher deposition of epicuticular wax crystals and increased leaf and stem wax loading in WSD1 transgenics compared to wildtype (WT) plants. WSD1 transgenics exhibited enhanced tolerance to ABA, mannitol, drought and salinity, which suggested new physiological roles for WSD1 in stress response aside from its wax synthase activity. Transgenic plants were able to recover from drought and salinity better than the WT plants. Furthermore, transgenics showed reduced cuticular transpirational rates and cuticle permeability, as well as less chlorophyll leaching than the WT. The knowledge from Arabidopsis was translated to the oilseed crop Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz. Similar to Arabidopsis, transgenic Camelina lines overexpressing WSD1 also showed enhanced tolerance to drought stress. Our results clearly show that the manipulation of cuticular waxes will be advantageous for enhancing plant productivity under a changing climate.
Journal or Book Title
International Journal of Molecular Sciences
Mechanisms of Drought, Temperature and Salinity Tolerance in Plants