Overexpression of Ricinus communis L. malate synthase enhances seed tolerance to abiotic stress during germination

Valdinei Carvalho Brito, Catherine P. de Almeida, Rhaíssa R. Barbosa, Maria G.A. Carosio, Antônio G. Ferreira, Luzimar G. Fernandez, Renato D. de Castro, Henk Hilhorst, Wilco Ligterink, Paulo Roberto Ribeiro*

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Ricinus communis L. seeds can germinate at high temperatures, but further development of the seedlings is negatively affected. This mainly caused by impairment of energy-generating pathways when seeds are germinated at 35 °C. Ricinus communis malate synthase (RcMLS) is a key responsive gene in lipid mobilization and gluconeogenesis and as such might have a role in sustaining successful seed germination and seedling growth. Herein, we raised the question whether RcMLS might be involved in the biochemical and molecular mechanisms required for R. communis seed germination under unfavourable environmental conditions. For that, we used a robust approach that encompassed bioinformatics analysis, transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh seeds overexpressing RcMLS, along with phenotypical characterization of seed germination under abiotic stress. The phylogenetic tree revealed important evolutionary relationship amongst MLS sequences from R. communis and from other crop species/model plants. Overexpression of RcMLS enhanced A. thaliana seed germination under high temperature and salt stress. For example, wild-type A. thaliana Columbia seeds (Col-0) showed 37 % of maximum germination at 35 °C, whereas A. thaliana seeds overexpressing RcMLS showed up to 71%. When salt stress was applied (75 mM NaCl), maximum germination of Col-0 seeds reached 37%, whereas for A. thaliana seeds overexpressing RcMLS it reached up to 93%. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Gas Chromatography coupled to Time-Of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (GC-TOF-MS) metabolomics analysis showed a robust metabolic signature of A. thaliana seeds overexpressing RcMLS in response to abiotic stress. They accumulated high levels of Met, Ile, fructose, glucose, and sucrose. Therefore, we suggested that overexpression of RcMLS has modulated the glyoxylate cycle and gluconeogenesis pathway in order to maintain cellular homeostasis under unfavorable environmental conditions. Our results provide important leads into the contribution of RcMLS to the underlying mechanism of R. communis seed germination under adverse environmental conditions. This might be helpful for breeding programs to develop more resistant R. communis cultivars which are more likely to sustain growth and high yield under the severe conditions found in arid and semi-arid areas worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112110
JournalIndustrial Crops and Products
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Abiotic stress
  • Castor bean
  • Functional characterization
  • Temperature-responsive genes

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    Brito, V. C., de Almeida, C. P., Barbosa, R. R., Carosio, M. G. A., Ferreira, A. G., Fernandez, L. G., de Castro, R. D., Hilhorst, H., Ligterink, W., & Ribeiro, P. R. (2020). Overexpression of Ricinus communis L. malate synthase enhances seed tolerance to abiotic stress during germination. Industrial Crops and Products, 145, [112110]. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indcrop.2020.112110