Decoding Potato DNA Uncovers Drought Survival Tactics

Greg Howard
8th March, 2024

Decoding Potato DNA Uncovers Drought Survival Tactics

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • German researchers found genes linked to drought tolerance in potatoes
  • They identified 10 key genes that help potatoes survive dry conditions
  • This discovery could lead to breeding drought-resistant potato varieties
Potatoes are a staple food for millions worldwide, but they are sensitive to drought due to their shallow root system. With climate change causing longer periods of drought, there's an urgent need to breed potato varieties that can withstand these harsh conditions. Researchers at the University of Rostock in Germany have taken a significant step towards this goal by identifying genetic markers associated with drought tolerance in potatoes[1]. The study focused on two German potato cultivars known for their differing responses to drought. The researchers created a first-generation (F1) progeny from these cultivars and subjected them to various drought conditions. By using a method called Bulked Segregant Analysis (BSA) combined with whole-genome sequencing, they were able to compare groups (bulks) of F1-clones that were either tolerant or sensitive to drought. Through this innovative approach, the team identified 15 regions in the potato genome, called quantitative trait loci (QTLs), that are linked to drought stress tolerance. These QTLs contained over half a million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are variations at a single position in DNA among individuals. SNPs can be used as markers to track traits like drought tolerance in breeding programs. The researchers narrowed down the list of potential genes involved in drought tolerance by analyzing these SNPs in an additional panel of 34 potato varieties, primarily used for starch production. Using a technique known as SeqSNP, they reduced the number of candidate genes to 10. This step is crucial as it allows breeders to focus on the most promising genes for developing drought-tolerant potatoes. Among the genes identified, eight are involved in plant development, such as StABP1 and StBRI1, which have been linked to growth and response to plant hormones like gibberellins[2]. These hormones play a significant role in plant development and stress responses, including drought tolerance. Reduced levels or activity of gibberellins have been shown to improve drought resistance in plants like tomatoes, which could provide insights into similar strategies for potatoes. Another gene, StSYP, is related to the regulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in root growth and development[3]. ROS are molecules that can cause damage to cells but also act as signals to help plants respond to stress. The study's findings suggest that StSYP and related genes might help potatoes cope with drought by managing ROS levels. Furthermore, the role of these genes in plant protection under drought stress was highlighted, which could be vital for breeding programs. The study also found a gene, ent-kaurene synthase B, under one of the QTLs, which could be a specific target for future research. DNA fingerprinting techniques, like those used in the study of South African potato cultivars[4], were essential in identifying the SNP markers that differentiate between drought-tolerant and drought-sensitive varieties. This method is more efficient and accurate than previous techniques, making it easier to track and select for desired traits in breeding programs. In conclusion, the University of Rostock's research has paved the way for the development of potato varieties that can better withstand drought. By identifying specific genes associated with drought tolerance, breeders have new tools to create crops that can thrive despite the challenges posed by climate change. This advancement not only helps secure food production but also conserves water resources, aligning with the need to optimize agricultural practices for sustainability[5]. The study's findings could lead to more resilient potato crops, ensuring food security and supporting farmers' livelihoods in the face of a changing climate.

GeneticsPlant ScienceAgriculture


Main Study

1) Whole-genome sequencing of tetraploid potato varieties reveals different strategies for drought tolerance.

Published 5th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Gibberellin in tomato: metabolism, signaling and role in drought responses.

3) SYNTAXIN OF PLANTS81 regulates root meristem activity and stem cell niche maintenance via ROS signaling.

4) Potato Cultivar Identification in South Africa Using a Custom SNP Panel.

5) Responses of yield, quality and water use efficiency of potato grown under different drip irrigation and nitrogen levels.

Related Articles

An unhandled error has occurred. Reload 🗙