Date of Award

8-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Plant Sciences

Major Professor

Zong-Ming Cheng

Committee Members

Timothy Tschaplinski, Jennifer Franklin

Abstract

The economic feasibility of producing biomass-based fuels requires high-yielding feedstocks to supply biomass to biorefineries. Populus trees are a potential biomass feedstock due to their high yield, but their high water requirement limits productivity under drought conditions.

The number of genes controlling drought tolerance, and the long generation time for perennial species, slows cultivar development. Accelerated domestication proposes using the sequenced Populus genome to quickly incorporate target traits into productive clones by transgenesis.

Six putative drought tolerance transcription factors: DREB2A, DREB2B, AtMYB, AREB1/ABF2, MYB, and NAC, had been previously identified and manipulated in eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides). Three constructs of each gene were transformed into a P. deltoides background clone, including constitutive overexpression (OE), drought inducible OE, and knockdown. This greenhouse study examines the effect of these previously transformed constructs on drought tolerance by characterizing leaf abscission, leaf water potential, and growth under drought and well-watered conditions.

AREB1/ABF2 constitutive OE lost significantly fewer leaves under drought than the Vector control, and had one of the lowest rates of leaf loss overall. Both DREB2A inducible OE and AREB1/ABF2 constitutive OE plants were more productive than the Vector control under drought conditions. MYB inducible OE was a productive construct and initially appeared to be drought tolerant. It is possible that this construct experienced xylem cavitation early on due to the severity of drought experienced by the large trees containing this construct.

DREB2A inducible OE, AREB1/ABF2 constitutive OE, and MYB inducible OE were the most productive constructs as well as being likely to confer drought tolerance. Field trials would be the next step, providing a clearer picture of how these constructs would perform under natural conditions.

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