Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata), an evergreen conifer, is the most commonly grown afforestation species in southeast China due to its rapid growth and good wood qualities. To gain a better understanding of the drought-signalling pathway and the molecular metabolic reactions involved in the drought response, we performed a genome-wide transcription analysis using RNA sequence data. In this study, Chinese fir plantlets were subjected to progressively prolonged drought stress, up to 15 d, followed by rewatering under controlled environmental conditions. Based on observed morphological changes, plantlets experienced mild, moderate, or severe water stress before rehydration. Transcriptome analysis of plantlets, representing control and mild, moderate, and severe drought-stress treatments, and the rewatered plantlets, identified several thousand genes whose expression was altered in response to drought stress. Many genes whose expression was tightly coupled to the levels of drought stress were identified, suggesting involvement in Chinese fir drought adaptation responses. These genes were associated with transcription factors, signal transport, stress kinases, phytohormone signalling, and defence/stress response. The present study provides the most comprehensive transcriptome resource and the first dynamic transcriptome profiles of Chinese fir under drought stress. The drought-responsive genes identified in this study could provide further information for understanding the mechanisms of drought tolerance in Chinese fir.
Keywords: Cunninghamia lanceolata; drought stress; gene expression; rewatering; transcriptome.