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Article|01 Mar 2020|OPEN
MdATG18a overexpression improves basal thermotolerance in transgenic apple by decreasing damage to chloroplasts
Liuqing Huo1, Xun Sun2, Zijian Guo1, Xin Jia1, Runmin Che1, Yiming Sun1, Yanfei Zhu1, Ping Wang1, Xiaoqing Gong1, & Fengwang Ma1,
1State Key Laboratory of Crop Stress Biology for Arid Areas/Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Apple, College of Horticulture, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100 Shaanxi, China
2Center of Pear Engineering Technology Research, State Key Laboratory of Crop Genetics and Germplasm Enhancement, College of Horticulture, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, China

Horticulture Research 7,
Article number: 21 (2020)
doi: 10.1038/hortres.2020.21
Views: 728

Received: 30 Jul 2019
Revised: 01 Jan 2020
Accepted: 04 Jan 2020
Published online: 01 Mar 2020


High temperature is an abiotic stress factor that threatens plant growth and development. Autophagy in response to heat stress involves the selective removal of heat-induced protein complexes. Previously, we showed that a crucial autophagy protein from apple, MdATG18a, has a positive effect on drought tolerance. In the present study, we treated transgenic apple (Malus domestica) plants overexpressing MdATG18a with high temperature and found that autophagy protected them from heat stress. Overexpression of MdATG18a in apple enhanced antioxidase activity and contributed to the production of increased beneficial antioxidants under heat stress. Transgenic apple plants exhibited higher photosynthetic capacity, as shown by the rate of CO2 assimilation, the maximum photochemical efficiency of photosystem II (PSII), the effective quantum yield, and the electron transport rates in photosystems I and II (PSI and PSII, respectively). We also detected elevated autophagic activity and reduced damage to chloroplasts in transgenic plants compared to WT plants. In addition, the transcriptional activities of several HSP genes were increased in transgenic apple plants. In summary, we propose that autophagy plays a critical role in basal thermotolerance in apple, primarily through a combination of enhanced antioxidant activity and reduced chloroplast damage.