Plants have evolved two distinct strategies to acquire iron (Fe) from soils. However, the regulatory mechanisms underlying the Fe acquisition remain largely elusive. There is emerging evidence that small GTPases are involved in the responses of plants to environmental cues. Here, we identified a gene encoding a small GTPase, OsRab6a, in rice and characterized its role in Fe acquisition by generating transgenic rice plants with overexpression and knockdown of OsRab6a OsRab6a shared conserved functional domains with other known members of the Rab subfamily and localized ubiquitously in the cytoplasm and nucleus. The expression of OsRab6a was rapidly and transiently up-regulated by Fe deficiency. No differences in growth and development among the OsRab6a-overexpression, OsRab6a-RNAi (RNA interference) and wild-type plants were detected when grown in Fe-sufficient medium. However, overexpression of OsRab6a in rice plants conferred greater tolerance to Fe deficiency than RNAi and wild-type plants, as evidenced by higher seedling height, and greater biomass, Chl contents and Fe concentrations in shoots, roots and grains in the overexpression lines than wild-type and RNAi plants. Moreover, the overexpression lines exhibited larger root systems than wild-type and RNAi plants in Fe-deficient medium. Exposure to Fe-deficient medium led to up-regulation of OsIRO2, OsIRT1, OsNAS1 and OsNAS2 in both wild-type and transgenic rice plants, with the magnitude of up-regulation positively correlated with the expression levels of OsRab6a These results may suggest that OsRab6a plays an important role in the regulation of Fe acquisition in rice plants by modulating physiological processes involved in Fe acquisition and root system architecture in response to Fe-deficient medium.
Keywords: Fe acquisition; Fe deficiency; OsRab6a; Rice (Oryza sativa); Root system; Small GTPase.
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