Delayed leaf senescence induces extreme drought tolerance in a flowering plant

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Dec 4;104(49):19631-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0709453104. Epub 2007 Nov 28.


Drought, the most prominent threat to agricultural production worldwide, accelerates leaf senescence, leading to a decrease in canopy size, loss in photosynthesis and reduced yields. On the basis of the assumption that senescence is a type of cell death program that could be inappropriately activated during drought, we hypothesized that it may be possible to enhance drought tolerance by delaying drought-induced leaf senescence. We generated transgenic plants expressing an isopentenyltransferase gene driven by a stress- and maturation-induced promoter. Remarkably, the suppression of drought-induced leaf senescence resulted in outstanding drought tolerance as shown by, among other responses, vigorous growth after a long drought period that killed the control plants. The transgenic plants maintained high water contents and retained photosynthetic activity (albeit at a reduced level) during the drought. Moreover, the transgenic plants displayed minimal yield loss when watered with only 30% of the amount of water used under control conditions. The production of drought-tolerant crops able to grow under restricted water regimes without diminution of yield would minimize drought-related losses and ensure food production in water-limited lands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens / genetics
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Cytokinins / metabolism
  • Disasters*
  • Flowers
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Nicotiana / genetics
  • Nicotiana / growth & development*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / growth & development*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Water / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytokinins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Water
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases
  • adenylate isopentenyltransferase
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases