Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is more sensitive to drought stress than other cereals. To dissect molecular mechanisms underlying drought-tolerant yield in rice, we applied differential expression and co-expression network approaches to transcriptomes from flag-leaf and emerging panicle tissues of a drought-tolerant yield introgression line, DTY-IL, and the recurrent parent Swarna, under moderate reproductive-stage drought stress. Protein turnover and efficient reactive oxygen species scavenging were found to be the driving factors in both tissues. In the flag-leaf, the responses further included maintenance of photosynthesis and cell wall reorganization, while in the panicle biosynthesis of secondary metabolites was found to play additional roles. Hub genes of importance in differential drought responses included an expansin in the flag-leaf and two peroxidases in the panicle. Overlaying differential expression data with allelic variation in DTY-IL quantitative trait loci allowed for the prioritization of candidate genes. They included a differentially regulated auxin-responsive protein, with DTY-IL-specific amino acid changes in conserved domains, as well as a protein kinase with a DTY-IL-specific frameshift in the C-terminal region. The approach highlights how the integration of differential expression and allelic variation can aid in the discovery of mechanism and putative causal contribution underlying quantitative trait loci for drought-tolerant yield.
- co-expression network
- reproductive-stage drought