Vascular plant one-zinc-finger (VOZ) transcription factor, a plant specific one-zinc-finger-type transcriptional activator, is involved in regulating numerous biological processes such as floral induction and development, defense against pathogens, and response to multiple types of abiotic stress. Six VOZ transcription factor-encoding genes (GmVOZs) have been reported to exist in the soybean (Glycine max) genome. In spite of this, little information is currently available regarding GmVOZs. In this study, GmVOZs were cloned and characterized. GmVOZ genes encode proteins possessing transcriptional activation activity in yeast cells. GmVOZ1E, GmVOZ2B, and GmVOZ2D gene products were widely dispersed in the cytosol, while GmVOZ1G was primarily located in the nucleus. GmVOZs displayed a differential expression profile under dehydration, salt, and salicylic acid (SA) stress conditions. Among them, GmVOZ1G showed a significantly induced expression in response to all stress treatments. Overexpression of GmVOZ1G in soybean hairy roots resulted in a greater tolerance to drought and salt stress. In contrast, RNA interference (RNAi) soybean hairy roots suppressing GmVOZ1G were more sensitive to both of these stresses. Under drought treatment, soybean composite plants with an overexpression of hairy roots had higher relative water content (RWC). In response to drought and salt stress, lower malondialdehyde (MDA) accumulation and higher peroxidase (POD) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activities were observed in soybean composite seedlings with an overexpression of hairy roots. The opposite results for each physiological parameter were obtained in RNAi lines. In conclusion, GmVOZ1G positively regulates drought and salt stress tolerance in soybean hairy roots. Our results will be valuable for the functional characterization of soybean VOZ transcription factors under abiotic stress.
Keywords: VOZ transcription factor; drought and salt tolerance; expression characterization; soybean; stress response.