Sumoylation is a posttranslational regulatory process in higher eukaryotes modifying substrate proteins through conjugation of small ubiquitin-related modifiers (SUMOs). Sumoylation modulates protein stability, subcellular localization and activity; thus, it regulates most cellular functions including response to environmental stress in plants. To study the feasibility of manipulating SUMO E3 ligase, one of the important components in the sumoylation pathway in transgenic (TG) crop plants for improving overall plant performance under adverse environmental conditions, we have analysed TG creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.) plants constitutively expressing OsSIZ1, a rice SUMO E3 ligase. Overexpression of OsSIZ1 led to increased photosynthesis and overall plant growth. When subjected to water deficiency and heat stress, OsSIZ1 plants exhibited drastically enhanced performance associated with more robust root growth, higher water retention and cell membrane integrity than wild-type (WT) controls. OsSIZ1 plants also displayed significantly better growth than WT controls under phosphate-starvation conditions, which was associated with a higher uptake of phosphate (Pi) and other minerals, such as potassium and zinc. Further analysis revealed that overexpression of OsSIZ1 enhanced stress-induced SUMO conjugation to substrate in TG plants, which was associated with modified expression of stress-related genes. This strongly supports a role sumoylation plays in regulating multiple molecular pathways involved in plant stress response, establishing a direct link between sumoylation and plant response to environmental adversities. Our results demonstrate the great potential of genetic manipulation of sumoylation process in TG crop species for improved resistance to broad abiotic stresses.
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