Investigation of the link between drought-induced changes in the expression of a novel sterol biosynthesis gene and drought tolerance in soybean
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Glycine max (soybean) is an important crop species globally as it is used as a protein-rich food and feed crop and as a source of oils used in the food and biofuel industry. However, the growth and yield of soybean is adversely affected by drought. Exposure of soybean to drought leads to accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cell membrane instability. Sterols are membrane components that regulates membrane fluidity and permeability. Besides being major components of the cell membranes, sterols such as lanosterol appear to play a role in the regulation of ROS scavenging and some are precursors to brassinosteroids that act as signaling molecules with hormonal function that regulate growth, development and responses to abiotic stresses such as drought and salinity. In this study, the involvement of plant sterols, also known as phytosterols, in the regulation of soybean responses to drought stress was investigated in Glycine max by determining the effects of drought on the expression of a candidate lanosterol synthase gene (Glyma08g24160) and the content of a subset of phytosterols in soybean. The effects of inhibition of sterol synthesis on ROS production and on superoxide dismutase (SOD), ascorbate peroxidase (APX), catalase (CAT) and dehydroascorbate reductase (DHAR) were investigated. The concentration of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as well as superoxide (O2-) increased in response to drought and sterol synthesis inhibition, however, O2- concentration and sterol contents declined under drought stress and sterol synthesis inhibition.