Transcription factors as tools to engineer enhanced drought stress tolerance in plants

Biotechnol Prog. Mar-Apr 2011;27(2):297-306. doi: 10.1002/btpr.514. Epub 2011 Feb 7.


Plant growth and productivity are greatly affected by abiotic stresses such as drought, salinity, and temperature. Drought stress is one of the major limitations to crop productivity worldwide due to its multigene nature, making the production of transgenic crops a challenging prospect. To develop crop plant with enhanced tolerance of drought stress, a basic understanding of physiological, biochemical, and gene regulatory networks is essential. In the signal transduction network that leads from the perception of stress signals to the expression of stress-responsive genes, transcription factors (TFs) play an essential role. Because TFs, as opposed to most structural genes, tend to control multiple pathways steps, they have emerged as powerful tools for the manipulation of complex metabolic pathways in plants. One such class of TFs is DREB/CBF that binds to drought responsive cis-acting elements. Transgenic plants have been developed with enhanced stress tolerance by manipulating the expression of DREB/CBF. Recently the functions of an increasing number of plant TFs are being elucidated and increased understanding of these factors in controlling drought stress response has lead to practical approaches for engineering stress tolerance in plants. The utility of the various TFs in plant stress research we review is illustrated by several published examples. The manipulation of native plant regularity networks therefore represents a new era for genetically modified crops. This review focuses on the recent understanding, latest advancements related to TFs and present status of their deployment in developing stress tolerant transgenic plants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / genetics*
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics*
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology


  • Transcription Factors