Transcriptome Analysis of Pyrus betulaefolia Seedling Root Responses to Short-Term Potassium Deficiency

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 23;21(22):8857. doi: 10.3390/ijms21228857.


Potassium (K) plays a crucial role in multiple physiological and developmental processes in plants. Its deficiency is a common abiotic stress that inhibits plant growth and reduces crop productivity. A better understanding of the mechanisms involved in plant responses to low K could help to improve the efficiency of K use in plants. However, such responses remain poorly characterized in fruit tree species such as pears (Pyrus sp). We analyzed the physiological and transcriptome responses of a commonly used pear rootstock, Pyrus betulaefolia, to K-deficiency stress (0 mM). Potassium deprivation resulted in apparent changes in root morphology, with short-term low-K stress resulting in rapidly enhanced root growth. Transcriptome analyses indicated that the root transcriptome was coordinately altered within 6 h after K deprivation, a process that continued until 15 d after treatment. Potassium deprivation resulted in the enhanced expression (up to 5-fold) of a putative high-affinity K+ transporter, PbHAK5 (Pbr037826.1), suggesting the up-regulation of mechanisms associated with K+ acquisition. The enhanced root growth in response to K-deficiency stress was associated with a rapid and sustained decrease in the expression of a transcription factor, PbMYB44 (Pbr015309.1), potentially involved in mediating auxin responses, and the increased expression of multiple genes associated with regulating root growth. The concentrations of several phytohormones including indoleacetic acid (IAA), ABA, ETH, gibberellin (GA3), and jasmonic acid (JA) were higher in response to K deprivation. Furthermore, genes coding for enzymes associated with carbon metabolism such as SORBITOL DEHYDROGENASE (SDH) and SUCROSE SYNTHASE (SUS) displayed greatly enhanced expression in the roots under K deprivation, presumably indicating enhanced metabolism to meet the increased energy demands for growth and K+ acquisition. Together, these data suggest that K deprivation in P. betulaefolia results in the rapid re-programming of the transcriptome to enhance root growth and K+ acquisition. These data provide key insights into the molecular basis for understanding low-K-tolerance mechanisms in pears and in other related fruit trees and identifying potential candidates that warrant further analyses.

Keywords: DEGs; RNA-seq; pear; potassium deficiency; potassium transporters and channels; root; transcriptome analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Potassium / metabolism*
  • Potassium Deficiency / genetics*
  • Pyrus / genetics*
  • Pyrus / growth & development
  • Seedlings / genetics
  • Seedlings / growth & development
  • Transcriptome / genetics*


  • Potassium