Agronomy and Horticulture, Department of



Harkamal Walia

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Campbell MT, Bandillo N, Al Shiblawi FRA, Sharma S, Liu K, Du Q, et al. (2017) Allelic variants of OsHKT1;1 underlie the divergence between indica and japonica subspecies of rice (Oryza sativa) for root sodium content. PLoS Genet 13(6): e1006823. pgen.1006823


Copyright © 2017 Campbell et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.


Salinity is a major factor limiting crop productivity. Rice (Oryza sativa), a staple crop for the majority of the world, is highly sensitive to salinity stress. To discover novel sources of genetic variation for salt tolerance-related traits in rice, we screened 390 diverse accessions under 14 days of moderate (9 dS m-1) salinity. In this study, shoot growth responses to moderate levels of salinity were independent of tissue Na+ content. A significant difference in root Na+ content was observed between the major subpopulations of rice, with indica accessions displaying higher root Na+ and japonica accessions exhibiting lower root Na+ content. The genetic basis of the observed variation in phenotypes was elucidated through genomewide association (GWA). The strongest associations were identified for root Na+:K+ ratio and root Na+ content in a region spanning ~575 Kb on chromosome 4, named Root Na+ Content 4 (RNC4). Two Na+ transporters, HKT1;1 and HKT1;4 were identified as candidates for RNC4. Reduced expression of both HKT1;1 and HKT1;4 through RNA interference indicated that HKT1;1 regulates shoot and root Na+ content, and is likely the causal gene underlying RNC4. Three non-synonymous mutations within HKT1;1 were present at higher frequency in the indica subpopulation. When expressed in Xenopus oocytes the indica-predominant isoform exhibited higher inward (negative) currents and a less negative voltage threshold of inward rectifying current activation compared to the japonica-predominant isoform. The introduction of a 4.5kb fragment containing the HKT1;1 promoter and CDS from an indica variety into a japonica background, resulted in a phenotype similar to the indica subpopulation, with higher root Na+ and Na+:K+. This study provides evidence that HKT1;1 regulates root Na+ content, and underlies the divergence in root Na+ content between the two major subspecies in rice.