Newswise — Cold stress is a major challenge for tomato cultivation, severely affecting plant growth and yield. Tomatoes are highly sensitive to low temperatures, leading to significant agricultural losses. Previous studies have shown that exogenous substances like 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) can mitigate abiotic stress in plants. However, the specific molecular mechanisms by which ALA enhances cold tolerance were not well understood. Due to these challenges, there is a need to conduct in-depth research on the molecular pathways involved in ALA-mediated cold resistance.

Researchers from Nanjing Agricultural University have made a significant stride in agricultural science, as their study on ALA's role in improving tomato cold tolerance was published (DOI: 10.1093/hr/uhae026) in Horticulture Research on January 19, 2024. The study delves into the molecular mechanisms that can fortify tomatoes against the detrimental effects of cold stress.

The study identifies the glutathione S-transferase gene SlGSTU43 as a crucial player in tomato cold resistance. Researchers found that ALA strongly induces SlGSTU43 expression under cold stress. Overexpressing SlGSTU43 in tomato plants significantly improved their cold resistance by enhancing reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging abilities. Conversely, slgstu43 mutant lines displayed increased sensitivity to cold stress, and ALA treatment did not improve their cold tolerance. Further analysis revealed that the transcription factors SlMYB4 and SlMYB88 bind to the promoter region of SlGSTU43, regulating its expression. Electrophoretic mobility shift, yeast one-hybrid, dual luciferase, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays confirmed the binding of SlMYB4 and SlMYB88 to the SlGSTU43 promoter. These transcription factors were found to play a pivotal role in ALA-mediated cold tolerance, as ALA treatment increased SlGSTU43 expression, enhancing ROS scavenging capacity. It suggests that the SlMYB4/SlMYB88-SlGSTU43 module could be targeted in genetic engineering to develop cold-resistant tomato varieties, offering a promising solution to mitigate the effects of cold stress on tomato crops.

Dr. Xiaohui Hu, a lead scientist on the project, emphasizes the importance of these findings, stating, "This breakthrough is not just about enhancing tomato cultivation; it's about rewriting the rules of crop survival in the face of climate adversity."

The application of these findings could lead to developing cold-resistant tomato varieties, ensuring stable yields even in adverse conditions. This advancement addresses crop vulnerability to climate fluctuations, enhancing global food security. By improving tomato cold tolerance, this research paves the way for similar studies on other temperature-sensitive crops, contributing to more sustainable agricultural practices.





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We are grateful to Professor Mingjun Li (College of Horticulture, Northwest A&F University) for his help in paper writing, Miss Beibei He and Miss Yangyang Yuan (Horticulture Science Research Center, Northwest A&F University) for providing professional technical assistance with Fluorescence Microscope analysis. This work was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2019YFD1001902), the China Agriculture Research System (CARS-23-D06), and the Scientific & Technological Innovative Research Team of Shaanxi Province (2021TD-34).

About Horticulture Research

Horticulture Research is an open access journal of Nanjing Agricultural University and ranked number one in the Horticulture category of the Journal Citation Reports ™ from Clarivate, 2022. The journal is committed to publishing original research articles, reviews, perspectives, comments, correspondence articles and letters to the editor related to all major horticultural plants and disciplines, including biotechnology, breeding, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, genetics, inter-species interactions, physiology, and the origination and domestication of crops.

Journal Link: Horticulture Research

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