DIW1 encoding a clade I PP2C phosphatase negatively regulates drought tolerance by de-phosphorylating TaSnRK1.1 in wheat
Drought seriously impacts wheat production (Triticum aestivum L.), while the exploitation and utilization of genes for drought tolerance are insufficient. Leaf wilting is a direct reflection of drought tolerance in plants. Clade A PP2Cs are abscisic acid (ABA) co-receptors playing vital roles in the ABA signaling pathway, regulating drought response. However, the roles of other clade PP2Cs in drought tolerance, especially in wheat, remain largely unknown. Here, we identified a gain-of-function drought-induced wilting 1 (DIW1) gene from the wheat Aikang 58 mutant library by map-based cloning, which encodes a clade I protein phosphatase 2C (TaPP2C158) with enhanced protein phosphatase activity. Phenotypic analysis of overexpression and CRISPR/Cas9 mutant lines demonstrated that DIW1/TaPP2C158 is a negative regulator responsible for drought resistance. We found that TaPP2C158 directly interacts with TaSnRK1.1 and de-phosphorylates it, thus inactivating the TaSnRK1.1–TaAREB3 pathway. TaPP2C158 protein phosphatase activity is negatively correlated with ABA signaling. Association analysis suggested that C-terminal variation of TaPP2C158 changing protein phosphatase activity is highly correlated with the canopy temperature, and seedling survival rate under drought stress. Our data suggest that the favorable allele with lower phosphatase activity of TaPP2C158 has been positively selected in Chinese breeding history. This work benefits us in understanding the molecular mechanism of wheat drought tolerance, and provides elite genetic resources and molecular markers for improving wheat drought tolerance.