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Variation in relative water content, proline accumulation and stress gene expression in two cowpea landraces under drought

Abstract : Many landraces of cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] are adapted to particular geographical and climatic conditions. Here we describe two landraces grown respectively in arid and temperate areas of Algeria and assess their physiological and molecular responses to drought stress. As expected, when deprived of water cowpea plants lose water over time with a gradual reduction in transpiration rate. The landraces differed in their relative water content (RWC) and whole plant transpiration rate. The landrace from Menia, an arid area, retained more water in adult leaves. Both landraces responded to drought stress at the molecular level by increasing expression of stress-related genes in aerial parts, including proline metabolism genes. Expression of gene(s) encoding proline synthesis enzyme P5CS was up regulated and gene expression of ProDH, a proline catabolism enzyme, was down regulated. Relatively low amounts of proline accumulated in adult leaves with slight differences between the two landraces. During drought stress the most apical part of plants stayed relatively turgid with a high RWC compared to distal parts that wilted. Expression of key stress genes was higher and more proline accumulated at the apex than in distal leaves indicating that cowpea has a non-uniform stress response at the whole plant level. Our study reveals a developmental control of water stress through preferential proline accumulation in the upper tier of the cowpea plant. We also conclude that cowpea landraces display physiological adaptations to water stress suited to the arid and temperate climates in which they are cultivated.
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Zahia Zegaoui, Séverine Planchais, Cécile Cabassa, Reda Djebbar, Ouzna Abrous Belbachir, et al.. Variation in relative water content, proline accumulation and stress gene expression in two cowpea landraces under drought. Journal of Plant Physiology, Elsevier, 2017, 218, pp.26-34. ⟨10.1016/j.jplph.2017.07.009⟩. ⟨hal-01677429⟩

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