WRKY is a transcription factor family unique to plants with diverse functions in defense pathways, abiotic stress tolerance and developmental programs. Family members are characterized by the conserved WRKY domain and significant sequence variation in the remainder of the protein, which is translated into distinct functions even for closely related genes. We utilized the extensive functional characterization of the Arabidopsis thaliana WRKY family to identify tomato homologues of Arabidopsis WRKY genes that are involved in defense responses (AtWRKY 11, 29, 48, 70 and 72). In total 13 tomato WRKY homologues were identified for these genes, of which 9 were successfully over-expressed, and 12 stably silenced via RNAi in transgenic tomato lines. The transgenic lines were evaluated for their response to salt stress, powdery mildew resistance and the combination of these stresses. Lines overexpressing SlWRKY11 and SlWRKY23, and RNAi lines of SlWRKY7 and SlWRKY9 showed both increased biomass and improved salt tolerance. For SlWRKY11 and SlWRKY23 overexpression (OE) lines, this was accompanied by a moderate increase in oxidative stress tolerance. The SlWRKY6-OE line showed strongly improved salt stress tolerance, but a growth penalty under control conditions. Exceptional phenotypes were observed for the SlWRKY10-OE line (stunted growth) and the RNAi line SlWRKY23-RNAi (necrotic symptoms), but these phenotypes were partly restored to normal under salt stress. Both these lines exhibited increased resistance to powdery mildew, but this was compromised when the plants were put under salt-stress as well. Important functions for tomato WRKY genes were revealed in both the abiotic and biotic stress response and several genes should be further explored to elucidate their downstream regulatory functions that lead to increased stress tolerance.
|Date made available||2016|