Preharvest aflatoxin contamination has been identified by the peanut industry as a serious issue in food safety and human health because of the carcinogenic toxicity. Drought stress is the most important environmental factor exacerbating Aspergillus infection and aflatoxin contamination in peanut. The development of drought-tolerant peanut cultivars could reduce aflatoxin contamination and would represent a major advance in the peanut industry. In this study, we identified a novel PLD gene in peanut (Arachis hypogaea), encoding a putative phospholipase D (PLD, EC 18.104.22.168). The completed cDNA sequence was obtained by using the consensus-degenerated hybrid oligonucleotide primer strategy. The deduced amino acid sequence shows high identity with known PLDs, and has similar conserved domains. The PLD gene expression under drought stress has been studied using four peanut lines: Tifton 8 and A13 (both drought tolerant) and Georgia Green (moderate) and PI 196754 (drought sensitive). Northern analysis showed that PLD gene expression was induced faster by drought stress in the drought-sensitive lines than the drought tolerance lines. Southern analysis showed that cultivated peanut has multiple copies (3 to 5 copies) of the PLD gene. These results suggest that peanut PLD may be involved in drought sensitivity and tolerance responses. Peanut PLD gene expression may be useful as a tool in germplasm screening for drought tolerance.
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