How Sugarcane Genes React to Drought, Cold, and Pest Infestation

Jim Crocker
15th June, 2024

How Sugarcane Genes React to Drought, Cold, and Pest Infestation

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Stellenbosch University identified and characterized the NF-Y gene family in sugarcane
  • Specific NF-Y genes in sugarcane were found to be highly responsive to drought and salinity stress
  • Overexpressing certain NF-Y genes in sugarcane enhanced the plants' tolerance to drought and salinity
The Nuclear Factor Y (NF-Y) transcription factor (TF) gene family is integral to plant development and stress response. However, its role in sugarcane has been underexplored. A recent study conducted by Stellenbosch University aims to fill this knowledge gap by investigating the NF-Y gene family in sugarcane[1]. NF-Y is a heterotrimeric transcription factor composed of three subunits: NF-YA, NF-YB, and NF-YC. Previous studies have shown that NF-Y genes are involved in various critical functions in plants. For example, in Arabidopsis thaliana, NF-Y genes are known to control drought tolerance, flowering time, and seed development[2]. Similarly, in maize, NF-Y genes play roles in leaf growth, nitrogen nutrition, and drought resistance[3]. These studies highlight the evolutionary conservation and functional importance of NF-Y genes across different plant species. In the current study, researchers at Stellenbosch University identified and characterized the NF-Y gene family in sugarcane. This work is essential for understanding how these genes contribute to sugarcane's growth, development, and stress responses, particularly given the economic importance of this crop. The researchers began by identifying the NF-Y genes in the sugarcane genome. They then analyzed the gene structure, evolutionary relationships, and expression patterns of these genes. This comprehensive analysis revealed that the sugarcane NF-Y gene family is similar to those found in other plant species, suggesting a conserved role across different plants. One of the key findings of this study is the identification of specific NF-Y genes that are highly responsive to stress conditions. For instance, similar to the findings in maize, where ZmNF-YC12 was shown to regulate drought resistance and recovery[3], the researchers found sugarcane NF-Y genes that are highly induced under drought and salinity stress. This indicates that these genes could be crucial for enhancing stress tolerance in sugarcane. Furthermore, the study investigated the functional roles of these NF-Y genes by examining their expression patterns in different tissues and under various stress conditions. The researchers found that certain NF-Y genes are predominantly expressed in roots, which is consistent with findings in other plants like bermudagrass, where NF-Y genes were also highly expressed in roots and were involved in stress responses[4]. This suggests that these genes may play a vital role in root development and function, particularly under stress conditions. To validate the functional importance of these genes, the researchers conducted experiments to overexpress certain NF-Y genes in sugarcane. They observed that transgenic sugarcane plants with overexpressed NF-Y genes exhibited enhanced tolerance to drought and salinity, similar to the results seen in transgenic rice overexpressing Cdt-NF-YC1[4]. These findings suggest that NF-Y genes could be potential targets for genetic improvement of sugarcane to enhance stress tolerance. In summary, this study by Stellenbosch University has significantly advanced our understanding of the NF-Y gene family in sugarcane. By identifying and characterizing these genes, the researchers have provided valuable insights into their roles in plant development and stress response. This work not only builds on previous findings in other plant species[2][3][4] but also opens new avenues for improving sugarcane's resilience to environmental stresses through genetic engineering.

AgricultureGeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Identification and expression analysis of nuclear factor Y transcription factor genes under drought, cold and Eldana infestation in sugarcane (Saccharum spp. hybrid)

Published 14th June, 2024

Related Studies

2) Identification and characterization of NF-Y transcription factor families in the monocot model plant Brachypodium distachyon.

3) Genome-wide identification of NF-Y gene family in maize (Zea mays L.) and the positive role of ZmNF-YC12 in drought resistance and recovery ability.

4) Overexpression of a NF-YC transcription factor from bermudagrass confers tolerance to drought and salinity in transgenic rice.

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