The wild wheat Aegilops tauschii
Coss. has extensive natural variation available for breeding of common wheat. Drought stress tolerance is closely related to abscisic acid (ABA) sensitivity. In this study, 17 synthetic hexaploid wheat lines, produced by crossing the tetraploid wheat cultivar Langdon with 17 accessions of Ae. tauschii,
were used for comparative analysis of natural variation in drought tolerance and ABA sensitivity. Ae. tauschii
showed wide natural variation, with weak association between the traits. Drought-sensitive accessions of Ae. tauschii
exhibited significantly less ABA sensitivity. D-genome variations observed at the diploid genome level were not necessarily reflected in synthetic wheats. However, synthetic wheats derived from the parental Ae. tauschii
accessions with high drought tolerance were significantly more tolerant to drought stress than those from drought-sensitive accessions. Moreover, synthetic wheats with high drought tolerance showed significantly higher ABA sensitivity than drought-sensitive synthetic lines. In the hexaploid genetic background, therefore, weak association of ABA sensitivity with drought tolerance wasobserved. To study differences in gene expression patterns between stress-tolerant and -sensitive lines, levels of two Cor
and three transcription factor gene transcripts were compared. The more tolerant accession of Ae. tauschii
tended to accumulate more abundant transcripts of the examined genes than the sensitive accession under stress conditions. The expression patterns in the synthetic wheats seemed to be additive for parental lines exposed to drought and ABA treatments. However, the transcript levels of transcription factor genes in the synthetic wheats did not necessarily correspond to the postulated levels based on expression in parental lines. Allopolyploidization altered the expression levels of the stress-responsive genes in synthetic wheats.