The transcription factor OsbHLH035 mediates seed germination and enables seedling recovery from salt stress through ABA-dependent and ABA-independent pathways, respectively

Rice (N Y). 2018 Sep 10;11(1):50. doi: 10.1186/s12284-018-0244-z.


Background: Many transcription factors (TFs), such as those in the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family, are important for regulating plant growth and plant responses to abiotic stress. The expression of OsbHLH035 is induced by drought and salinity. However, its functional role in rice growth, development, and the salt response is still unknown.

Results: The bHLH TF OsbHLH035 is a salt-induced gene that is primarily expressed in germinating seeds and seedlings. Stable expression of GFP-fused OsbHLH035 in rice transgenic plants revealed that this protein is predominantly localized to the nucleus. Osbhlh035 mutants show delayed seed germination, particularly under salt-stress conditions. In parallel, abscisic acid (ABA) contents are over-accumulated, and the expression of the ABA biosynthetic genes OsABA2 and OsAAO3 is upregulated; furthermore, compared with that in wild-type (WT) seedlings, the salt-induced expression of OsABA8ox1, an ABA catabolic gene, in germinating Osbhlh035 mutant seeds is downregulated. Moreover, Osbhlh035 mutant seedlings are unable to recover from salt-stress treatment. Consistently, sodium is over-accumulated in aerial tissues but slightly reduced in terrestrial tissues from Osbhlh035 seedlings after salt treatment. Additionally, the expression of the sodium transporters OsHKT1;3 and 1;5 is reduced in Osbhlh035 aerial and terrestrial tissues, respectively. Furthermore, genetic complementation can restore both the delayed seed germination and the impaired recovery of salt-treated Osbhlh035 seedlings to normal growth.

Conclusion: OsbHLH035 mediates seed germination and seedling recovery after salt stress relief through the ABA-dependent and ABA-independent activation of OsHKT pathways, respectively.

Keywords: ABA; OsHKT; Salt stress; Transcription factor; bHLH.