Differential Regulation of Genes Involved in Root Morphogenesis and Cell Wall Modification is Associated with Salinity Tolerance in Chickpea
Salinity is a major constraint for intrinsically salt sensitive grain legume chickpea. Chickpea exhibits large genetic variation amongst cultivars, which show better yields in saline conditions but still need to be improved further for sustainable crop production. Based on previous multi-location physiological screening, JG 11 (salt tolerant) and ICCV 2 (salt sensitive) were subjected to salt stress to evaluate their physiological and transcriptional responses. A total of ~480 million RNA-Seq reads were sequenced from root tissues which resulted in identification of 3,053 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in response to salt stress. Reproductive stage shows high number of DEGs suggesting major transcriptional reorganization in response to salt to enable tolerance. Importantly, cationic peroxidase, Aspartic ase, NRT1/PTR, phosphatidylinositol phosphate kinase, DREB1E and ERF genes were significantly up-regulated in tolerant genotype. In addition, we identified a suite of important genes involved in cell wall modification and root morphogenesis such as dirigent proteins, expansin and casparian strip membrane proteins that could potentially confer salt tolerance. Further, phytohormonal cross-talk between ERF and PIN-FORMED genes which modulate the root growth was observed. The gene set enrichment analysis and functional annotation of these genes suggests they may be utilised as potential candidates for improving chickpea salt tolerance.