A leucoanthocyanidin dioxygenase gene (RTLDOX2) from the feral forage plant Reaumuria trigyna promotes the accumulation of flavonoids and improves tolerance to abiotic stresses.
Reaumuria trigyna, a Tamaricaceae archaic recretohalophyte, is an important feral forage plant in the desert steppe of northwestern China. We identified two significantly differentially expressed leucoanthocyanidin dioxygenase genes (RtLDOX/RtLDOX2) and investigated the function and characteristics of RtLDOX2. RtLDOX2 from R. trigyna was rapidly upregulated by salt, drought, and abscisic acid, consistent with the stress-related cis-regulatory elements in the promoter region. Recombinant RtLDOX2 converted dihydrokaempferol to kaempferol in vitro, and was thus interchangeable with flavonol synthase, a dioxygenase in the flavonoid pathway. Transgenic plants overexpressing RtLDOX2 accumulated more anthocyanin and flavonols under abiotic stresses, speculating that RtLDOX2 may act as a multifunctional dioxygenase in the synthesis of anthocyanins and flavonols. Overexpression of RtLDOX2 enhanced the primary root length, biomass accumulation, and chlorophyll content of salt-, drought-, and ultraviolet-B-stressed transgenic Arabidopsis. Antioxidant enzyme activity; proline content; and expression of antioxidant enzyme, proline biosynthesis, and ion-transporter genes were increased in transgenic plants. Therefore, RtLDOX2 confers tolerance to abiotic stress on transgenic Arabidopsis by promoting the accumulation of anthocyanins and flavonols. This in turn increases reactive oxygen species scavenging and activates other stress responses, such as osmotic adjustment and ion transport, and so improves tolerance to abiotic stresses.