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Transcriptional activation of rice CINNAMOYL-CoA REDUCTASE 10 by OsNAC5, contributes to drought tolerance by modulating lignin accumulation in roots
Plant Biotechnology Journal  (IF9.803),  Pub Date : 2021-11-17, DOI: 10.1111/pbi.13752
Seung Woon Bang, Seowon Choi, Xuanjun Jin, Se Eun Jung, Joon Weon Choi, Jun Sung Seo, Ju-Kon Kim

Drought is a common abiotic stress for terrestrial plants and often affects crop development and yield. Recent studies have suggested that lignin plays a crucial role in plant drought tolerance; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms are still largely unknown. Here, we report that the rice (Oryza sativa) gene CINNAMOYL-CoA REDUCTASE 10 (OsCCR10) is directly activated by the OsNAC5 transcription factor, which mediates drought tolerance through regulating lignin accumulation. CCR is the first committed enzyme in the monolignol synthesis pathway, and the expression of 26 CCR genes was observed to be induced in rice roots under drought. Subcellular localisation assays revealed that OsCCR10 is a catalytically active enzyme that is localised in the cytoplasm. The OsCCR10 transcript levels were found to increase in response to abiotic stresses, such as drought, high salinity, and abscisic acid (ABA), and transcripts were detected in roots at all developmental stages. In vitro enzyme activity and in vivo lignin composition assay suggested that OsCCR10 is involved in H- and G-lignin biosynthesis. Transgenic rice plants overexpressing OsCCR10 showed improved drought tolerance at the vegetative stages of growth, as well as higher photosynthetic efficiency, lower water loss rates, and higher lignin content in roots compared to non-transgenic (NT) controls. In contrast, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated OsCCR10 knock-out mutants exhibited reduced lignin accumulation in roots and less drought tolerance. Notably, transgenic rice plants with root-preferential overexpression of OsCCR10 exhibited higher grain yield than NT controls plants under field drought conditions, indicating that lignin biosynthesis mediated by OsCCR10 contributes to drought tolerance.