23 September 2014
This study presents the genome-wide characterization of the Populus WRKY family under biotic and abiotic stresses. Overexpression of an SA-inducible gene, PtrWRKY89, enhanced resistance to pathogens in transgenic poplar.
WRKY proteins are a large family of regulators involved in various developmental and physiological processes, especially in coping with diverse biotic and abiotic stresses. In this study, 100 putative PtrWRKY genes encoded the proteins contained in the complete WRKY domain in Populus. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the members of this superfamily among poplar, Arabidopsis, and other species were divided into three groups with several subgroups based on the structures of the WRKY protein sequences. Various cis-acting elements related to stress and defence responses were found in the promoter regions of PtrWRKY genes by promoter analysis. High-throughput transcriptomic analyses identified that 61 of the PtrWRKY genes were induced by biotic and abiotic treatments, such as Marssonina brunnea, salicylic acid (SA), methyl jasmonate (MeJA), wounding, cold, and salinity. Among these PtrWRKY genes, transcripts of 46 selected genes were observed in different tissues, including roots, stems, and leaves. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis further confirmed the induced expression of 18 PtrWRKY genes by one or more stress treatments. The overexpression of an SA-inducible gene, PtrWRKY89, accelerated expression of PR protein genes and improved resistance to pathogens in transgenic poplar, suggesting that PtrWRKY89 is a regulator of an SA-dependent defence-signalling pathway in poplar. Taken together, our results provided signiﬁcant information for improving the resistance and stress tolerance of woody plants.