Transcriptomic Analysis Reveals Vacuolar Na + (K +)/H + Antiporter Gene Contributing to Growth, Development, and Defense in Switchgrass (Panicum Virgatum L.)

BMC Plant Biol. 2018 Apr 10;18(1):57. doi: 10.1186/s12870-018-1278-5.


Background: Intracellular Na+ (K+)/H+ antiporters (NHXs) have pivotal functions in regulating plant growth, development, and resistance to a range of stresses. To gain insight into the molecular events underlying their actions in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), we analyzed transcriptomic changes between PvNHX1-overexpression transgenic lines and wild-type (WT) plants using RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) technology.

Results: The comparison of transcriptomic data from the WT and transgenic plants revealed a large number of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in the latter. Gene ontology (GO) and KEGG pathway analyses showed that these DEGs were associated with a wide range of functions, and participated in many biological processes. For example, we found that PvNHX1 had an important role in plant growth through its regulation of photosynthetic activity and cell expansion. In addition, PvNHX1 regulated K+ homeostasis, cell expansion and pollen development, indicating that it has unique and specific roles in flower development. We also found that transgenic switchgrass exhibited a higher level of transcription of defense-related genes, especially those involved in disease resistance.

Conclusion: We showed that PvNHX1 had an important role in plant growth and development through its regulation of photosynthetic activity, cell expansion, K+ homeostasis, and pollen development. Additionally, PvNHX1 overexpression activated a complex signal transduction network in response to various biotic and abiotic stresses. In relation to plant growth, development, and defense responses, PvNHX1 also had a vital regulatory role in the formation of a series of plant hormones and transcription factors (TFs). The reliability of the RNA-seq data was confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR. Our data provide a valuable foundation for further research into the molecular mechanisms and physiological roles of NHXs in plants.

Keywords: Growth and development; Plant defense; PvNHX1; RNA-seq; Switchgrass.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / physiology
  • Panicum / genetics
  • Panicum / metabolism*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism*
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers / genetics
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome / genetics*
  • Vacuoles / metabolism*


  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers