Comparative transcriptome profiling provides insights into plant salt tolerance in seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum)


Abstract Background Seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum), a halophytic warm-seasoned perennial grass, is tolerant of many environmental stresses, especially salt stress. To investigate molecular mechanisms underlying salinity tolerance in seashore paspalum, physiological characteristics and global transcription profiles of highly (Supreme) and moderately (Parish) salinity-tolerant cultivars under normal and salt stressed conditions were analyzed. Results Physiological characterization comparing highly (Supreme) and moderately (Parish) salinity-tolerant cultivars revealed that Supreme’s higher salinity tolerance is associated with higher Na+ and Ca2+ accumulation under normal conditions and further increase of Na+ under salt-treated conditions (400 mM NaCl), possibly by vacuolar sequestration. Moreover, K+ retention under salt treatment occurs in both cultivars, suggesting that it may be a conserved mechanism for prevention of Na+ toxicity. We sequenced the transcriptome of the two cultivars under both normal and salt-treated conditions (400 mM NaCl) using RNA-seq. De novo assembly of about 153 million high-quality reads and identification of Open Reading Frames (ORFs) uncovered a total of 82,608 non-redundant unigenes, of which 3250 genes were identified as transcription factors (TFs). Gene Ontology (GO) annotation revealed the presence of genes involved in diverse cellular processes in seashore paspalum’s transcriptome. Differential expression analysis identified a total of 828 and 2222 genes that are responsive to high salinity for Supreme and Parish, respectively. “Oxidation-reduction process” and “nucleic acid binding” are significantly enriched GOs among differentially expressed genes in both cultivars under salt treatment. Interestingly, compared to Parish, a number of salt stress induced transcription factors are enriched and show higher abundance in Supreme under normal conditions, possibly due to enhanced Ca2+ signaling transduction out of Na+ accumulation, which may be another contributor to Supreme’s higher salinity tolerance. Conclusion Physiological and transcriptome analyses of seashore paspalum reveal major molecular underpinnings contributing to plant response to salt stress in this halophytic warm-seasoned perennial grass. The data obtained provide valuable molecular resources for functional studies and developing strategies to engineer plant salinity tolerance.

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