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Keywords:

  • drought stress;
  • GAMT1;
  • stomata;
  • transpiration

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that reduced gibberellin (GA) level or signal promotes plant tolerance to environmental stresses, including drought, but the underlying mechanism is not yet clear. Here we studied the effects of reduced levels of active GAs on tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plant tolerance to drought as well as the mechanism responsible for these effects. To reduce the levels of active GAs, we generated transgenic tomato overexpressing the Arabidopsis thaliana GA METHYL TRANSFERASE 1 (AtGAMT1) gene. AtGAMT1 encodes an enzyme that catalyses the methylation of active GAs to generate inactive GA methyl esters. Tomato plants overexpressing AtGAMT1 exhibited typical GA-deficiency phenotypes and increased tolerance to drought stress. GA application to the transgenic plants restored normal growth and sensitivity to drought. The transgenic plants maintained high leaf water status under drought conditions, because of reduced whole-plant transpiration. The reduced transpiration can be attributed to reduced stomatal conductance. GAMT1 overexpression inhibited the expansion of leaf-epidermal cells, leading to the formation of smaller stomata with reduced stomatal pores. It is possible that under drought conditions, plants with reduced GA activity and therefore, reduced transpiration, will suffer less from leaf desiccation, thereby maintaining higher capabilities and recovery rates.