An Arabidopsis β-glucosidase, AtBG1 is known to hydrolyze glucose-conjugated, biologically inactive abscisic acid (ABA) to produce active ABA, which increases the level of ABA in plants. Since an increase of ABA in plants confers tolerance against abiotic stress such as drought, we introduced the pCAMBIA3301 vector harboring the AtBG1 gene into creeping bentgrass through Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. After transformation, putative transgenic plants were selected using the BASTA resistance assay at a concentration of 0.8%. Genomic integration of the AtBG1 gene was confirmed by genomic PCR and Southern blot analysis, and gene expression was validated by Northern blot and Western blot analyses. Interestingly, the transgenic bentgrass plants overexpressing AtBG1 had a dwarf phenotype with reduced growth rates when compared to wild-type creeping bentgrass. In addition, the transgenic plants accumulated higher ABA levels and displayed enhanced drought tolerance. These results suggest that the expression of AtBG1 in plants induces the accumulation of higher ABA levels, which results in the formation of dwarf creeping bentgrass and enhances the survival in water-limiting environments.
Key message: We used an Arabidopsis β-glucosidase AtBG1 to engineer a crop with elevated active ABA levels, and developed transgenic creeping bentgrass with enhanced drought tolerance and dwarf phenotype.