Intertwined signatures of desiccation and drought tolerance in grasses

Research Highlight

A kernel of drought resistance

© Drbouz/Getty

© Drbouz/Getty

Drought-tolerant grasses derive their hardiness from changes in the expression of a handful of seed-related genes.

Major crops such as wheat, corn and rice are grasses, so understanding these pathways could help engineer more resilient crops.

Seed-related genes are activated in plants lacking water, but it is not clear whether these changes are a response to water stress or a desiccation-tolerance pathway.

To address this, a team led by researchers at the University of Cape Town grew a desiccation-tolerant and a desiccation-sensitive species under drought conditions and monitored the changes in gene expression in response to the lack of water.

They found that changes in the expression of seed-related genes were broadly shared between the tolerant and sensitive species, but a small set of genes only changed in the sensitive species.

The analysis also showed that many of the expression changes resulted from altered methylation, which may be a sign of chromatin remodelling.

Supported content

  1. PNAS 117, 10079–10088 (2020). doi: 10.1073/pnas.2001928117
Institutions Share
Department of Horticulture, MSU, United States of America (USA) 0.33
UCT Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, South Africa 0.29
Plant Resilience Institute, MSU, United States of America (USA) 0.19
Laboratory of Plant Physiology (PPH), WUR, Netherlands 0.14
Department of Plant Biology, MSU, United States of America (USA) 0.05