News Release

Unlocking salt resistance: sea lavender's genetic secret revealed

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nanjing Agricultural University The Academy of Science

Growth status and indicators of CR lines of L. bicolor.


Growth status and indicators of CR lines of L. bicolor. a Growth status of transgenic plants growing in 200 mM NaCl medium at 0, 10, and 20 days. Scale bar = 5 mm. b Leaf lethality rates of transgenic lines. Data are means ± standard deviation of nine replicates. c Staining of leaves of regenerated lines. Scale bar = 1 mm. d Statistics of the degree of staining. Data are means ± standard deviation of nine replicates. SPSS was used to determine the statistical significance of the data in the t-test. ***P < 0.001. e Sequence alignment of Lb1G07934 from the CRISPR mutants CR-2 and CR-4, showing DNA alignments. Red lines indicate the CRISPR target sites; yellow boxes indicate the PAM sequence. f Appearance comparison of three lines before and after treatment with 200 mM NaCl. Scale bar = 5 cm. g Na+, K+, MDA, and proline contents in three lines before and after 200 mM NaCl treatment. Data are means ± standard deviation of three replicates. SPSS was used to determine the statistical significance of the data. Different letters indicate significant differences (p = 0.05; Duncan’s multiple range test).

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Credit: Horticulture Research

Recent research has uncovered the genetic mechanisms behind sea lavender's (Limonium bicolor) salt tolerance by studying basic helix–loop–helix (bHLH) transcription factors. Identifying 187 bHLH  genes, the study highlights their roles in salt gland development and stress responses. CRISPR-Cas9 validation demonstrated specific bHLH genes' critical role in enhancing salt tolerance, paving the way for future applications in crop improvement and saline soil management.

Basic helix–loop–helix (bHLH) transcription factors are essential for various plant processes, including growth, development, and stress responses. Sea lavender, a recretohalophyte with unique salt glands, exhibits high salt tolerance, making it an ideal model for studying salt resistance mechanisms. With soil salinization posing an increasing threat to global agriculture, understanding the genetic basis of salt tolerance is crucial. Given these challenges, exploring the bHLH gene family in Limonium bicolor could reveal valuable applications for enhancing crop resilience and improving saline soils.

Researchers from Shandong Normal University have made significant strides in understanding sea lavender's salt tolerance mechanisms, publishing their findings (DOI: 10.1093/hr/uhae036) in Horticulture Research on February 2, 2024. The study focuses on the genome-wide identification of bHLH transcription factors in sea lavender and their role in salt gland development. By analyzing the characteristics, localization, and phylogenetic relationships of 187 bHLH genes, the researchers uncovered their significant roles in regulating plant growth and stress responses.

The study identified 187 bHLH transcription factor genes in the Limonium bicolor genome, revealing their roles in plant growth, development, and stress responses. Bioinformatics analyses highlighted conserved bHLH domains and cis-regulatory elements linked to stress tolerance and epidermal structure development. Researchers focused on nine key bHLH genes, examining their localization and expression. CRISPR-Cas9 knockout and overexpression lines highlighted the critical role of Lb1G07934 in salt gland formation and salt resistance. Knockout lines showed enhanced salt tolerance and Na+ efflux, while overexpression lines exhibited reduced salt tolerance. These findings suggest a complex regulatory network and pave the way for future agricultural applications.

Dr. Baoshan Wang, a leading researcher in plant stress biology at Shandong Normal University, stated, "This study marks a significant advancement in our understanding of the genetic mechanisms behind salt tolerance in halophytes. The identification and functional analysis of bHLH genes in Limonium bicolor open new avenues for developing salt-tolerant crops, which is crucial for global food security amidst increasing soil salinization."

This research has profound implications: integrating sea lavender's salt tolerance into crops can enhance productivity on saline lands, boosting global food security and sustainable land use. The study's genomic analysis and genetic modification approach also pave the way for improving crop resilience to various stress factors.





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Funding information

The National Natural Science Research Foundation of China (NSFC, projects 32370304 and 32170301) and the MOE Layout Foundation of Humanities and Social Sciences (21YJAZH108) supported this study.

About Horticulture Research

Horticulture Research is an open access journal of Nanjing Agricultural University and ranked number one in the Horticulture category of the Journal Citation Reports ™ from Clarivate, 2022. The journal is committed to publishing original research articles, reviews, perspectives, comments, correspondence articles and letters to the editor related to all major horticultural plants and disciplines, including biotechnology, breeding, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, genetics, inter-species interactions, physiology, and the origination and domestication of crops.

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