IJMS, Vol. 24, Pages 2401: SbNAC9 Improves Drought Tolerance by Enhancing Scavenging Ability of Reactive Oxygen Species and Activating Stress-Responsive Genes of Sorghum (International Journal of Molecular Sciences)
Drought stress severely threatens the yield of cereal crops. Therefore, understanding the molecular mechanism of drought stress response of plants is crucial for developing drought-tolerant cultivars. NAC transcription factors (TFs) play important roles in abiotic stress of plants, but the functions of NAC TFs in sorghum are largely unknown. Here, we characterized a sorghum NAC gene, SbNAC9, and found that SbNAC9 can be highly induced by polyethylene glycol (PEG)-simulated dehydration treatments. We therefore investigated the function of SbNAC9 in drought stress response. Sorghum seedlings overexpressing SbNAC9 showed enhanced drought-stress tolerance with higher chlorophyll content and photochemical efficiency of PSII, stronger root systems, and higher reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging capability than wild-type. In contrast, sorghum seedlings with silenced SbNAC9 by virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) showed weakened drought stress tolerance. Furthermore, SbNAC9 can directly activate a putative peroxidase gene SbC5YQ75 and a putative ABA biosynthesis gene SbNCED3. Silencing SbC5YQ75 and SbNCED3 led to compromised drought tolerance and reduced ABA content of sorghum seedlings, respectively. Therefore, our findings revealed the important role of SbNAC9 in response to drought stress in sorghum and may shed light on genetic improvement of other crop species under drought-stress conditions.