Elucidating the relationships between gene expression and the physiological mechanisms remains a bottleneck in breeding for resistance to salinity and drought. This study related the expression of key target genes with the physiological performance of durum wheat under different combinations of salinity and irrigation. The candidate genes assayed included two encoding for the DREB (dehydration responsive element binding) transcription factors TaDREB1A and TaDREB2B, another two for the cytosolic and plastidic glutamine synthetase (TaGS1 and TaGS2), and one for the specific Na+/H+ vacuolar antiporter (TaNHX1). Expression of these genes was related to growth and different trait indicators of nitrogen metabolism (nitrogen content, stable nitrogen isotope composition, and glutamine synthetase and nitrate reductase activities), photosynthetic carbon metabolism (stable carbon isotope composition and different gas exchange traits) and ion accumulation. Significant interaction between genotype and growing conditions occurred for growth, nitrogen content, and the expression of most genes. In general terms, higher expression of TaGS1, TaGS2, TaDREB2B, and to a lesser extent of TaNHX1 were associated with a better genotypic performance in growth, nitrogen, and carbon photosynthetic metabolism under salinity and water stress. However, TaDREB1A was increased in expression under stress compared with control conditions, with tolerant genotypes exhibiting lower expression than susceptible ones.
Yousﬁ S, Marquez AJ, Betti M, Araus JL, Serret MD (2016) Gene expression and physiological responses to salinity and water stress of contrasting durum wheat genotypes. J Integr Plant Biol 58: 48–66 doi: 10.1111/jipb.12359