Ghd2, a CONSTANS-like gene, confers drought sensitivity through regulation of senescence in rice

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CONSTANS (CO)-like genes have been intensively investigated for their roles in the regulation of photoperiodic flowering, but very limited information has been reported on their functions in other biological processes. Here, we found that a CO-like gene, Ghd2 (Grain number, plant height, and heading date2), which can increase the yield potential under normal growth condition just like its homologue Ghd7, is involved in the regulation of leaf senescence and drought resistance. Ghd2 is expressed mainly in the rice (Oryza sativa) leaf with the highest level detected at the grain-filling stage, and it is down-regulated by drought stress conditions. Overexpression of Ghd2 resulted in significantly reduced drought resistance, while its knockout mutant showed the opposite phenotype. The earlier senescence symptoms and the transcript up-regulation of many senescence-associated genes (SAGs) in Ghd2-overexpressing transgenic rice plants under drought stress conditions indicate that Ghd2 plays essential roles in accelerating drought-induced leaf senescence in rice. Moreover, developmental and dark-induced leaf senescence was accelerated in the Ghd2-overexpressing rice and delayed in the ghd2 mutant. Several SAGs were confirmed to be regulated by Ghd2 using a transient expression system in rice protoplasts. Ghd2 interacted with several regulatory proteins, including OsARID3, OsPURα, and three 14-3-3 proteins. OsARID3 and OsPURα showed expression patterns similar to Ghd2 in rice leaves, with the highest levels at the grain-filling stage, whereas OsARID3 and the 14-3-3 genes responded differently to drought stress conditions. These results indicate that Ghd2 functions as a regulator by integrating environmental signals with the senescence process into a developmental programme through interaction with different proteins.

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