Molecular and Physiological Analysis of Growth-Limiting Drought Stress in Brachypodium distachyon Leaves

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Abstract

The drought-tolerant grass Brachypodium distachyon is an emerging model species for temperate grasses and cereal crops. To explore the usefulness of this species for drought studies, a reproducible in vivo drought assay was developed. Spontaneous soil drying led to a 45% reduction in leaf size, and this was mostly due to a decrease in cell expansion, whereas cell division remained largely unaffected by drought. To investigate the molecular basis of the observed leaf growth reduction, the third Brachypodium leaf was dissected in three zones, namely proliferation, expansion, and mature zones, and subjected to transcriptome analysis, based on a whole-genome tiling array. This approach allowed us to highlight that transcriptome profiles of different developmental leaf zones respond differently to drought. Several genes and functional processes involved in drought tolerance were identified. The transcriptome data suggest an increased energy availability in the proliferation zones, along with an up-regulation of sterol synthesis that may influence membrane fluidity. This information may be used to improve the tolerance of temperate cereals to drought, which is undoubtedly one of the major environmental challenges faced by agriculture today and in the near future.

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