One of the primary objectives of plant biotechnology is to increase resistance to abiotic stresses, such as salinity. Salinity is a major abiotic stress and increasing crop resistant to salt continues to the present day as a major challenge. Salt stress disturbs cellular environment leading to protein misfolding, affecting normal plant growth and causing agricultural losses worldwide. The advent of state-of-the-art technologies such as high throughput mRNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has revolutionized whole-transcriptome analysis by allowing, with high precision, to measure changes in gene expression. In this work, we used tissue-specific RNA-seq to gain insight into the Petunia hybrida transcriptional responses under NaCl stress using a controlled hydroponic system. Roots and leaves samples were taken from a continuum of 48 h of acute 150 mM NaCl. This analysis revealed a set of tissue and time point specific differentially expressed genes, such as genes related to transport, signal transduction, ion homeostasis as well as novel and undescribed genes, such as Peaxi162Scf00003g04130 and Peaxi162Scf00589g00323 expressed only in roots under salt stress. In this work, we identified early and late expressed genes in response to salt stress while providing a core of differentially express genes across all time points and tissues, including the trehalose-6-phosphate synthase 1 (TPS1), a glycosyltransferase reported in salt tolerance in other species. To test the function of the novel petunia TPS1 allele, we cloned and showed that TPS1 is a functional plant gene capable of complementing the trehalose biosynthesis pathway in a yeast tps1 mutant. The list of candidate genes to enhance salt tolerance provided in this work constitutes a major effort to better understand the detrimental effects of salinity in petunia with direct implications for other economically important Solanaceous species.
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