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Improvement of Drought Tolerance and Grain Yield in Common Bean by Overexpressing Trehalose-6-Phosphate Synthase in Rhizobia

July 2008 , Volume 21 , Number  7
Pages  958 - 966

Ramón Suárez,1 Arnoldo Wong,1 Mario Ramírez,2 Aarón Barraza,1 María del Carmen Orozco,1 Miguel A. Cevallos,2 Miguel Lara,2 Georgina Hernández,2 and Gabriel Iturriaga1

1Centro de Investigación en Biotecnología, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Av. Universidad 1001, Col. Chamilpa, Cuernavaca Mor. 62209, Mexico; 2Centro de Ciencias Genómicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Av. Universidad 2001, Col. Chamilpa, Cuernavaca Mor. 62210, Mexico

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Accepted 4 March 2008.

Improving stress tolerance and yield in crops are major goals for agriculture. Here, we show a new strategy to increase drought tolerance and yield in legumes by overexpressing trehalose-6-phosphate synthase in the symbiotic bacterium Rhizobium etli. Phaseolus vulgaris (common beans) plants inoculated with R. etli overexpressing trehalose-6-phosphate synthase gene had more nodules with increased nitrogenase activity and higher biomass compared with plants inoculated with wild-type R. etli. In contrast, plants inoculated with an R. etli mutant in trehalose-6-phosphate synthase gene had fewer nodules and less nitrogenase activity and biomass. Three-week-old plants subjected to drought stress fully recovered whereas plants inoculated with a wild-type or mutant strain wilted and died. The yield of bean plants inoculated with R. etli overexpressing trehalose-6-phosphate synthase gene and grown with constant irrigation increased more than 50%. Macroarray analysis of 7,200 expressed sequence tags from nodules of plants inoculated with the strain overexpressing trehalose-6-phosphate synthase gene revealed upregulation of genes involved in stress tolerance and carbon and nitrogen metabolism, suggesting a signaling mechanism for trehalose. Thus, trehalose metabolism in rhizobia is key for signaling plant growth, yield, and adaptation to abiotic stress, and its manipulation has a major agronomical impact on leguminous plants.

Additional keywords:OtsA, otsA--, TPS.

© 2008 The American Phytopathological Society