Background: In Arabidopsis thaliana, the family of cyclic nucleotide-gated channels (CNGCs) is composed of 20 members. Previous studies indicate that plant CNGCs are involved in the control of growth processes and responses to abiotic and biotic stresses. According to their proposed function as cation entry pathways these channels contribute to cellular cation homeostasis, including calcium and sodium, as well as to stress-related signal transduction. Here, we studied the expression patterns and regulation of CNGC19 and CNGC20, which constitute one of the five CNGC subfamilies.
Results: GUS, GFP and luciferase reporter assays were used to study the expression of CNGC19 and CNGC20 genes from Arabidopsis thaliana in response to developmental cues and salt stress. CNGC19 and CNGC20 were differentially expressed in roots and shoots. The CNGC19 gene was predominantly active in roots already at early growth stages. Major expression was observed in the phloem. CNGC20 showed highest promoter activity in mesophyll cells surrounding the veins. Its expression increased during development and was maximal in mature and senescent leaves. Both genes were upregulated in the shoot in response to elevated NaCl but not mannitol concentrations. While in the root, CNGC19 did not respond to changes in the salt concentration, in the shoot it was strongly upregulated in the observed time frame (6-72 hours). Salt-induction of CNGC20 was also observed in the shoot, starting already one hour after stress treatment. It occurred with similar kinetics, irrespective of whether NaCl was applied to roots of intact plants or to the petiole of detached leaves. No differences in K and Na contents of the shoots were measured in homozygous T-DNA insertion lines for CNGC19 and CNGC20, respectively, which developed a growth phenotype in the presence of up to 75 mM NaCl similar to that of the wild type.
Conclusion: Together, the results strongly suggest that both channels are involved in the salinity response of different cell types in the shoot. Upon salinity both genes are upregulated within hours. CNGC19 and CNGC20 could assist the plant to cope with toxic effects caused by salt stress, probably by contributing to a re-allocation of sodium within the plant.