Transcriptome analysis of drought-tolerant sorghum genotype SC56 in response to water stress reveals an oxidative stress defense strategy

Farida Azzouz-Olden, Arthur G. Hunt, Randy Dinkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Drought tolerance is a crucial trait for crops to curtail the yield loss inflicted by water stress, yet genetic improvement efforts are challenged by the complexity of this character. The adaptation of sorghum to abiotic stress, its genotypic variability, and relatively small genome make this species well-suited to dissect the molecular basis of drought tolerance. The use of differential transcriptome analysis provides a snapshot of the bioprocesses underlying drought response as well as genes that might be determinants of the drought tolerance trait. RNA sequencing data were analyzed via gene ontology enrichment to compare the transcriptome profiles of two sorghum lines, the drought-tolerant SC56 and the drought-sensitive Tx7000. SC56 outperformed Tx7000 in wet conditions by upregulating processes driving growth and guaranteeing homeostasis. The drought tolerance of SC56 seems to be an intrinsic trait occurring through overexpressing stress tolerance genes in wet conditions, notably genes acting in defense against oxidative stress (SOD1, SOD2, VTC1, MDAR1, MSRB2, and ABC1K1). Similarly to wet conditions, under drought, SC56 enhanced its transmembrane transport and maintained growth-promoting mechanisms. Under drought, SC56 also upregulated stress tolerance genes that heighten the antioxidant capacity (SOD1, RCI3, VTE1, UCP1, FD1, and FD2), regulatory factors (CIPK1 and CRK7), and repressors of premature senescence (SAUL1). The differential expression analysis uncovered biological processes which upregulation enables SC56 to be a better accumulator of biomass and connects the drought tolerance trait to key stress tolerance genes, making this genotype a judicious choice for isolation of tolerance genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3291-3303
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Biology Reports
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIFA under the Project Number KYX-10–13-50P, through the Evans-Allen fund, which covered all the expenses related to the greenhouse trials and wet lab supplies as well as the Principal Investigator’s salary. Funds for deep sequencing of the cDNA libraries were provided by the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching NextGen Sequencing Group (GCAT-SEEKquence). Acknowledgements

Funding Information:
We thank, Carol Von Lanken in the Hunt lab at University of Kentucky for her valuable wet lab help, and Troy Bass in the Dinkins lab for his help with the greenhouse drought trials.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


  • Drought
  • RNA-seq
  • Sorghum
  • Stay-green
  • Stress
  • Tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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