HAK/KUP/KT family potassium transporter genes are involved in potassium deficiency and stress responses in tea plants (Camellia sinensis L.): expression and functional analysis
Tianyuan Yang, Xin Lu, Yan Wang, Yunxia Xie, Jingzhen Ma, Xunmin Cheng, Enhua Xia, Xiaochun Wan* and Zhaoliang Zhang*
Background: Tea plant is one of the most important non-alcoholic beverage crops worldwide. While potassium (K+ ) is an essential macronutrient and greatly affects the growth and development of plants, the molecular mechanism underlying K+ uptake and transport in tea plant root, especially under limited-K+ conditions, is still poorly understood. In plants, HAK/KUP/KT family members play a crucial role in K+ acquisition and translocation, growth and development, and response to stresses. Nevertheless, the biological functions of these genes in tea plant are still in mystery, especially their roles in K+ uptake and stress responses.
Results: In this study, a total of 21 non-redundant HAK/KUP/KT genes (designated as CsHAKs) were identified in tea plant. Phylogenetic and structural analysis classified the CsHAKs into four clusters (I, II, III, IV), containing 4, 8, 4 and 5 genes, respectively. Three major categories of cis-acting elements were found in the promoter regions of CsHAKs. Tissue-specific expression analysis indicated extremely low expression levels in various tissues of cluster I CsHAKs with the exception of a high root expression of CsHAK4 and CsHAK5, a constitutive expression of clusters II and III CsHAKs, and a moderate cluster IV CsHAKs expression. Remarkably, the transcript levels of CsHAKs in roots were significantly induced or suppressed after exposure to K+ deficiency, salt and drought stresses, and phytohormones treatments. Also notably, CsHAK7 was highly expressed in all tissues and was further induced under various stress conditions. Therefoe,functional characterization of CsHAK7 was performed, and the results demostrated that CsHAK7 locates on plasma membrane and plays a key role in K+ transport in yeast. Taken together, the results provide promising candidate CsHAKs for further functional studies and contribute to the molecular breeding for new tea plants varieties with highly efficient utilization of K+.
Conclusion: This study demonstrated the first genome-wide analysis of CsHAK family genes of tea plant and provides a foundation for understanding the classification and functions of the CsHAKs in tea plants.
Keywords: Camellia sinensis, HAK/KUP/KT family, K+ acquisition, Stress responses, Gene expression profiles