Drought is the most important environmental stress limiting crop yields. The C4 cereal sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] is a critical food, forage, and emerging bioenergy crop that is notably drought-tolerant. We conducted a large-scale field experiment, imposing preflowering and postflowering drought stress on 2 genotypes of sorghum across a tightly resolved time series, from plant emergence to postanthesis, resulting in a dataset of nearly 400 transcriptomes. We observed a fast and global transcriptomic response in leaf and root tissues with clear temporal patterns, including modulation of well-known drought pathways. We also identified genotypic differences in core photosynthesis and reactive oxygen species scavenging pathways, highlighting possible mechanisms of drought tolerance and of the delayed senescence, characteristic of the stay-green phenotype. Finally, we discovered a large-scale depletion in the expression of genes critical to arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis, with a corresponding drop in AM fungal mass in the plants' roots.
Keywords: RNA-Seq; S. bicolor; arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; drought.