Water deficit arises as a result of low temperature, salinity and dehydration, thereby affecting plant growth adversely and making it imperative for plants to surmount such situations by acclimatizing/adapting at various levels. Water deficit stress results in significant changes in gene expression, mediated by interconnected signal transduction pathways that may be triggered by calcium, and regulated via ABA dependent and/or independent pathways. Hence, adaptation of plants to such stresses involves maintaining cellular homeostasis, detoxification of harmful elements and also growth alterations. Stress in general cause excess production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the plants overcome the same by either preventing the accumulation of ROS or by eliminating the ROS formed. Ion homeostasis includes processes such as cellular uptake, sequestration and export in conjunction with long distance transport. Requisite amounts of osmolytes are hence synthesized under stress to maintain turgor along with maintaining the macromolecular structures and also for scavenging ROS. Another noteworthy response is the accumulation of novel proteins, including enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of osmoprotectants, heat-shock proteins (HSPs), late embryogenesis abundant (LEA) proteins, antifreeze proteins, chaperones, detoxification enzymes, transcription factors, kinases and phosphatases. The LEAs belong to a redundant protein family and are highly hydrophilic, boiling-soluble, non-globular and therefore have been defined and classified accordingly. The precise function of LEAs is still unknown, but substantial evidence indicates their involvement in dessication tolerance as the expression of LEAs confers increased resistance to stress in heterologous yeast system and also significantly improves water deficit tolerance in transgenic plants. Genetic manipulation of plants towards conferring abiotic stress tolerance is a daunting task, as the abiotic stress tolerance mechanism is highly complex and various strategies have been exploited to address and evaluate the stress tolerance mechanism, and the molecular responses to water deficit via complex signaling networks. Genomic technologies have recently been useful in integrating the multigenicity of the plant stress responses through, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolite profilling and their interactions. This review deals with the recent developments on genetic approaches for water stress tolerance in plants, with special emphasis on LEAs.
P. Khurana, Dr. Dalia Vishnudasan, and Chhibbar, A. K., “Genetic approaches towards overcoming water deficit in plants - special emphasis on LEAs”, Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants, vol. 14, pp. 277–298, 2008.