Sweetpotato is a significant crop which is widely cultivated particularly in the developing countries with high and stable yield. However, drought stress is a major limiting factor that antagonistically influences the crop's productivity. Dehydration stress caused by drought causes aggregation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in plants, and aldose reductases are first-line safeguards against ROS caused by oxidative stress. In the present study, we generated transgenic sweetpotato plants expressing aldose reductase, XvAld1 isolated from Xerophyta viscosa under the control of a stress-inducible promoter via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. Our results demonstrated that the transgenic sweetpotato lines displayed significant enhanced tolerance to simulated drought stress and enhanced recuperation after rehydration contrasted with wild-type plants. In addition, the transgenic plants exhibited improved photosynthetic efficiency, higher water content and more proline accumulation under dehydration stress conditions compared with wild-type plants. These results demonstrate that exploiting the XvAld1 gene is not only a compelling and attainable way to improve sweetpotato tolerance to drought stresses without causing any phenotypic imperfections but also a promising gene candidate for more extensive crop improvement.
Keywords: Drought stress; Genetic transformation; Ipomoea batatas; Reactive oxygen species; Sweetpotato; Xerophyta viscosa.