Rice, being a major staple food crop and sensitive to salinity conditions, bears heavy yield losses due to saline soil. Although some salt responsive genes have been identified in rice, their applications in developing salt tolerant cultivars have resulted in limited achievements. Herein, we used bioinformatic approaches to perform a meta-analysis of three transcriptome datasets from salinity and control conditions in order to reveal novel genes and the molecular pathways underlying rice response to salt. From a total of 28,432 expressed genes, we identify 457 core differentially expressed genes (DEGs) constitutively responding to salt, regardless of the stress duration, genotype, or the tissue. Gene co-expression analysis divided the core DEGs into three different modules, each of them contributing to salt response in a unique metabolic pathway. Gene ontology and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) analyses highlighted key biological processes and metabolic pathways involved in the salt response. We identified important novel hub genes encoding proteins of different families including CAM, DUF630/632, DUF581, CHL27, PP2-13, LEA4-5, and transcription factors, which could be functionally characterized using reverse genetic experiments. This novel repertoire of candidate genes related to salt response in rice will be useful for engineering salt tolerant varieties.
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