Molecular basis of distinct responses to drought between rice and wheat genotypes

Purushothama Chaitanya, Preethi Vijayaraghavareddy, Sankarapillai Lekshmy, Nagaraju Spoorthi, Raviswamy G.H. Math, Dhananjay D. Shinde, Paul C. Struik, Sheshshayee Sreeman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The water-intensive cultivation of rice in flooded conditions poses a great challenge to global water resources, particularly in the face of climate change. Wheat requires significantly less water than rice with fairly high yields. A main research question is whether there are any drought adaptive mechanisms in rice similar to those existing in wheat. We report a study, where precise moisture stress was imposed at the vegetative stage using a high-throughput drought simulator phenomics facility. Variability in stress response was captured through untargeted metabolome analysis. In the first experiment, using two rice cultivars with contrasting drought responses (IR64 and Apo) and a wheat cultivar, Weebill, we found distinct variations in regulation of metabolite levels under well-watered or water-limited conditions, both between and within species. Several biosynthetic pathways, including those of polyamines, flavonoids, flavones, and specific metabolites like sphinganine-1-phosphate and anthranilate were enhanced under water-limited conditions. These metabolites were more abundant in wheat than in rice. Among the rice cultivars, Apo had higher abundance of metabolites than IR64. Regulatory patterns governing these metabolic pathways provided basis for stress responses of the tolerant rice cultivar and wheat. A second experiment was conducted to screen rice germplasm lines for acquired tolerance traits contrasting for drought responsiveness. Eight genotypes (four sensitive and four tolerant ones) were selected to validate the candidate metabolites from the first experiment. In the third experiment, an RT-PCR analysis of the key regulatory genes governing the metabolic pathways was conducted, using plant materials from both experiments. The results of this third experiment provided a strong validation for the relevance of these metabolic pathways under stress in rice. We identified promising rice genotypes that exhibited fold change levels of stress resistance metabolites comparable to those of the wheat cultivar Weebill. This study helped identify key candidate metabolites that can be either developed as markers or as elicitors, and genotypes that can be used as trait donor lines for rice improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105734
JournalEnvironmental and Experimental Botany
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Acquired tolerance traits
  • Drought
  • Metabolomics
  • Phenomics
  • Rice


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