The ERECTA gene regulates plant transpiration efficiency in Arabidopsis

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Assimilation of carbon by plants incurs water costs. In the many parts of the world where water is in short supply, plant transpiration efficiency, the ratio of carbon fixation to water loss, is critical to plant survival, crop yield and vegetation dynamics1. When challenged by variations in their environment, plants often seem to coordinate photosynthesis and transpiration2, but significant genetic variation in transpiration efficiency has been identified both between and within species3,4. This has allowed plant breeders to develop effective selection programmes for the improved transpiration efficiency of crops5, after it was demonstrated that carbon isotopic discrimination, Δ, of plant matter was a reliable and sensitive marker negatively related to variation in transpiration efficiency3,4,6. However, little is known of the genetic controls of transpiration efficiency. Here we report the isolation of a gene that regulates transpiration efficiency, ERECTA. We show that ERECTA, a putative leucine-rich repeat receptor-like kinase (LRR-RLK)7,8 known for its effects on inflorescence development7,9, is a major contributor to a locus for Δ on Arabidopsis chromosome 2. Mechanisms include, but are not limited to, effects on stomatal density, epidermal cell expansion, mesophyll cell proliferation and cell–cell contact.

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Figure 1: ERECTA , a transpiration efficiency gene.
Figure 2: ERECTA regulates leaf gas exchange.
Figure 3: Leaf anatomical features contributing to the effects of ERECTA on transpiration efficiency.
Figure 4: ERECTA improved transpiration efficiency under both well-watered and drought conditions.


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We thank K. Torii for the pKUT196 plasmid, T. Baskin for Coler105 seeds, and S. May, C. Somerville, S. C. Wong, R. Jost and O. Berkowitz for helpful discussions, encouragement and/or comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Josette Masle.

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Reprints and permissions information is available at The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Figure S1

Relative abundance of ERECTA transcripts in several independent gentamycin resistant T3 transgenic lines (TEReri) obtained by complementation of erecta mutants Coler105 (null mutant), Coler2, and Ler with Col-0 ERECTA. (PDF 332 kb)

Supplementary Figure S2

Phylogram of ERECTA and ERECTA-like genes based on analysis of sequence homology with Arabidopsis AtER and ATERL proteins. ERECTA homologues are identified in a number of C3 and C4, dicot and monocot species, including major crop species. (PDF 310 kb)

Supplementary Table S1

Characteristics of TE1 locus in four different experiments. TE1 was identified by QTL analysis of 100 F9 Recombinant Inbred Lines derived from a cross between Col-4 and Ler. (DOC 33 kb)

Supplementary Table S2

Comparison of carbon isotope discrimination, δ, in 3 erecta mutants and several independent T3 transgenic lines complemented with the Col-0 ERECTA allele. (DOC 50 kb)

Supplementary Methods

This file contains additional methods used in the study, including the determination of carbon isotope composition and discrimination, the relationship between δ and TE, mutant complementation and real-time quantitative PCR assays. (DOC 30 kb)

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Masle, J., Gilmore, S. & Farquhar, G. The ERECTA gene regulates plant transpiration efficiency in Arabidopsis. Nature 436, 866–870 (2005) doi:10.1038/nature03835

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