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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Marc Knight

Johnson, Stephanie M., Cummins, Ian, Lim, Fei Ling, Slabas, Antoni R. & Knight, Marc R. (2015). Transcriptomic analysis comparing stay-green and senescent Sorghum bicolor lines identifies a role for proline biosynthesis in the stay-green trait. Journal of Experimental Botany 66(22): 7061-7073.

Author(s) from Durham


Sorghum bicolor is an important cereal crop grown on the arid and semi-arid regions of >98 different countries. These regions are such that this crop is often subjected to low water conditions, which can compromise yields. Stay-green sorghum plants are able to retain green leaf area for longer under drought conditions and as such have higher yields than their senescent counterparts. However, the molecular and physiological basis of this drought tolerance is yet to be fully understood. Here, a transcriptomic approach was used to compare gene expression between stay-green (B35) and senescent (R16) sorghum varieties. Ontological analysis of the differentially expressed transcripts identified an enrichment of genes involved with the ‘response to osmotic stress’ Gene Ontology (GO) category. In particular, delta1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthase 2 (P5CS2) was highly expressed in the stay-green line compared with the senescent line, and this high expression was correlated with higher proline levels. Comparisons of the differentially expressed genes with those that lie in known stay-green qualitative trait loci (QTLs) revealed that P5CS2 lies within the Stg1 QTL. Polymorphisms in known cis-elements were identified in the putative promoter region of P5CS2 and these could be responsible for the differences in the expression of this gene. This study provides greater insight into the stay-green trait in sorghum. This will be greatly beneficial not only to improve our understanding of drought tolerance mechanisms in sorghum, but also to facilitate the improvement of future sorghum cultivars by marker-assisted selection (MAS).