Transgenic expression of late embryogenesis abundant proteins improves tolerance to water stress in

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Four lines of were created that expressed transgenes encoding selected late embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins originally identified in embryos of the anhydrobiote The overall aim was to extend our understanding of the protective properties of LEA proteins documented with isolated cells to a desiccation-sensitive organism during exposure to drying and hyperosmotic stress. Embryos of were dried at 57% relative humidity to promote a loss of 80% tissue water and then rehydrated. Embryos that expressed AfrLEA2 or AfrLEA3m eclosed 2 days earlier than wild-type embryos or embryos expressing green fluorescent protein (Gal4GFP control). For the third instar larval stage, all lines and Gal4GFP controls experienced substantial drops in survivorship as desiccation proceeded. When results for all lines were combined, Kaplan-Meier survival curves indicated a significant improvement in survivorship in fly lines expressing AfrLEA proteins compared with Gal4GFP controls. The percent water lost at the LT (lethal time for 50% mortality) for the AfrLEA lines was 78% versus 52% for Gal4GFP controls. Finally, offspring of fly lines that expressed AfrLEA2, AfrLEA3m or AfrLEA6 exhibited significantly greater success in reaching pupation, compared with wild-type flies, when adults were challenged with hyperosmotic stress (NaCl-fortified medium) and progeny forced to develop under these conditions. In conclusion, the gain of function studies reported here show that LEA proteins can improve tolerance to water stress in a desiccation-sensitive species that normally lacks these proteins, and, simultaneously, underscore the complexity of desiccation tolerance across multiple life stages in multicellular organisms.

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The Journal of experimental biology

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