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Keywords:

  • abscisic acid;
  • 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase ;
  • tetracycline-inducible expression;
  • guttation;
  • seed dormancy

Summary

The tomato mutant notabilis has a wilty phenotype as a result of abscisic acid (ABA) deficiency. The wild-type allele of notabilis, LeNCED1, encodes a putative 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase (NCED) with a potential regulatory role in ABA biosynthesis. We have created transgenic tobacco plants in which expression of the LeNCED1 coding region is under tetracycline-inducible control. When leaf explants from these plants were treated with tetracycline, NCED mRNA was induced and bulk leaf ABA content increased by up to 10-fold. Transgenic tomato plants were also produced containing the LeNCED1 coding region under the control of one of two strong constitutive promoters, either the doubly enhanced CaMV 35S promoter or the chimaeric ‘Super-Promoter’. Many of these plants were wilty, suggesting co-suppression of endogenous gene activity; however three transformants displayed a common, heritable phenotype that could be due to enhanced ABA biosynthesis, showing increased guttation and seed dormancy. Progeny from two of these transformants were further characterized, and it was shown that they also exhibited reduced stomatal conductance, increased NCED mRNA and elevated seed ABA content. Progeny of one transformant had significantly higher bulk leaf ABA content compared to the wild type. The increased seed dormancy was reversed by addition of the carotenoid biosynthesis inhibitor norflurazon. These data provide strong evidence that NCED is indeed a key regulatory enzyme in ABA biosynthesis in leaves, and demonstrate for the first time that plant ABA content can be increased through manipulating NCED.