The glutathione transferases (GSTs) are members of a superfamily of enzymes with pivotal role in the detoxification of both xenobiotic and endogenous compounds. In this work, the generation and characterization of transgenic tobacco plants over-expressing tau glutathione transferases from Citrus sinensis (CsGSTU1 and CsGSTU2) and several cross-mutate forms of these genes are reported. Putative transformed plants were verified for the presence of the transgenes and the relative quantification of transgene copy number was evaluated by Taqman real time PCR. The analysis of gene expression revealed that transformed plants exhibit high levels of CsGSTU transcription suggesting that the insertion of the transgenes occurred in transcriptional active regions of the tobacco genome. In planta studies demonstrate that transformed tobacco plants gain tolerance against fluorodifen. Simultaneously, the wild type CsGSTU genes were in vitro expressed and their kinetic properties were determined using fluorodifen as substrate. The results show that CsGSTU2 follows a Michaelis-Menten hyperbolic kinetic, whereas CsGSTU1 generates a sigmoid plot typical of the regulatory enzymes, thus suggesting that when working at sub-lethal fluorodifen concentrations CsGSTU2 can counteract the herbicide injury more efficiently than the CsGSTU1. Moreover, the transgenic tobacco plant over-expressing CsGSTs exhibited both drought and salinity stress tolerance. However, as we show that CsGSTUs do not function as glutathione peroxidase in vitro, the protective effect against salt and drought stress is not due to a direct scavenging activity of the oxidative stress byproducts. The transgenic tobacco plants, which are described in the present study, can be helpful for phytoremediation of residual xenobiotics in the environment and overall the over-expression of CsGSTUs can be helpful to develop genetically modified crops with high resistance to abiotic stresses.
Keywords: Abiotic stress; Citrus sinensis; Genetic transformation; Glutathione transferase; Herbicide detoxification; Tobacco.
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