Abiotic stresses such as drought and high salinity adversely affect the growth and productivity of plants, including crops. The development of stress-tolerant crops will be greatly advantageous for modern agriculture in areas that are prone to such stresses. In recent years, several advances have been made towards identifying potential stress related genes which are capable of increasing the tolerance of plants to abiotic stress. NAC proteins are plant-specific transcription factors and more than 100 NAC genes have been identified in Arabidopsis and rice to date. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that the six major groups were already established at least in an ancient moss lineage. NAC transcription factors have a variety of important functions not only in plant development but also in abiotic stress responses. Stress-inducible NAC genes have been shown to be involved in abiotic stress tolerance. Transgenic Arabidopsis and rice plants overexpressing stress-responsive NAC (SNAC) genes have exhibited improved drought tolerance. These studies indicate that SNAC factors have important roles for the control of abiotic stress tolerance and that their overexpression can improve stress tolerance via biotechnological approaches. Although these transcription factors can bind to the same core NAC recognition sequence, recent studies have demonstrated that the effects of NAC factors for growth are different. Moreover, the NAC proteins are capable of functioning as homo- or hetero-dimer forms. Thus, SNAC factors can be useful for improving stress tolerance in transgenic plants, although the mechanism for mediating the stress tolerance of these homologous factors is complex in plants. Recent studies also suggest that crosstalk may exist between stress responses and plant growth. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Plant gene regulation in response to abiotic stress.
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