Ecology and evolution

Expression of major photosynthetic and salt-resistance genes in invasive reed lineages grown under elevated CO2 and temperature.

PMID 25505541


It is important to investigate the molecular causes of the variation in ecologically important traits to fully understand phenotypic responses to climate change. In the Mississippi River Delta, two distinct, sympatric invasive lineages of common reed (Phragmites australis) are known to differ in several ecophysiological characteristics and are expected to become more salt resistant due to increasing atmospheric CO2 and temperature. We investigated whether different patterns of gene expression can explain their ecophysiological differences and increased vigor under future climatic conditions. We compared the transcript abundance of photosynthetic genes of the Calvin cycle (Rubisco small subunit, RbcS; Phosphoglycerate kinase, PGK; Phosphoribulokinase, PRK), genes related with salt transport (Na(+)/H(+) antiporter, PhaNHA) and oxidative stress response genes (Manganese Superoxide dismutase, MnSOD; Glutathione peroxidase, GPX), and the total aboveground biomass production between two genotypes representing the two lineages. The two genotypes (Delta-type, Mediterranean lineage, and EU-type, Eurasian lineage) were grown under an ambient and a future climate scenario with simultaneously elevated CO2 and temperature, and under two different soil salinities (0‰ or 20‰). We found neither differences in the aboveground biomass production nor the transcript abundances of the two genotypes, but soil salinity significantly affected all the investigated parameters, often interacting with the climatic conditions. At 20‰ salinity, most genes were higher expressed in the future than in the ambient climatic conditions. Higher transcription of the genes suggests higher abundance of the protein they code for, and consequently increased photosynthate production, improved stress responses, and salt exclusion. Therefore, the higher expression of these genes most likely contributed to the significantly ameliorated salinity impact on the aboveground biomass production of both P. australis genotypes under elevated temperature and CO2. Although transcript abundances did not explain differences between the lineages, they correlated with the increased vigor of both lineages under anticipated future climatic conditions.