Cassava is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, however, the underlying mechanism for its ability to survive and produce under drought remains obscure. In this study, two cassava cultivars, SC124 and Arg7, were treated by gradually reducing the soil water content. Their responses to the drought stress were examined through their morphological and physiological traits and isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantitation (iTRAQ)-based proteomic analysis. SC124 plants adapted a 'survival' mode under mild drought stress as evidenced by early stomatal closure and a reduction in the levels of various photosynthetic proteins and photosynthetic capacity, resulting in early growth quiescence. In contrast, Arg7 plants underwent senescence of older leaves but continued to grow, although at a reduced rate, under mild drought. SC124 plants were more capable of surviving prolonged severe drought than Arg7. The iTRAQ analysis identified over 5000 cassava proteins. Among the drought-responsive proteins identified in the study were an aquaporin, myo-inositol 1-phosphate synthases, and a number of proteins involved in the antioxidant systems and secondary metabolism. Many proteins that might play a role in signalling or gene regulation were also identified as drought-responsive proteins, which included several protein kinases, two 14-3-3 proteins, several RNA-binding proteins and transcription factors, and two histone deacetylases. Our study also supports the notion that linamarin might play a role in nitrogen reallocation in cassava under drought.
Keywords: Cassava; cyanogenic glycosides; drought tolerance; drought-responsive protein; proteomics; stress response..
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