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Article|27 Jul 2022|OPEN
The C4 protein of tomato yellow leaf curl Sardinia virus primes drought tolerance in tomato through morphological adjustments
Chiara Pagliarani1 , Amedeo Moine1 , Walter Chitarra1,2 , Luca Nerva1,2 , Marco Catoni1,3 , Raffaela Tavazza4 and Slavica Matic1 , , Marta Vallino1 , Francesca Secchi5 , Emanuela Noris,1 ,
1Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection, National Research Council, Strada delle Cacce 73, 10135 Torino, Italy
2Council for Agricultural Research and Economics Centre of Viticultural and Enology Research (CREA-VE). Viale XXVIII Aprile 26, 31015 Conegliano (TV), Italy
3School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
4Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), C.R. Casaccia, Rome, Italy
5Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, University of Torino, Largo Paolo Braccini 2, 10095 Grugliasco (TO), Italy
*Corresponding author. E-mail:,

Horticulture Research 9,
Article number: uhac164 (2022)
Views: 92

Received: 08 Mar 2022
Accepted: 20 Jul 2022
Published online: 27 Jul 2022


Viruses can interfere with the ability of plants to overcome abiotic stresses, indicating the existence of common molecular networks that regulate stress responses. A begomovirus causing the tomato yellow leaf curl disease was recently shown to enhance heat tolerance in tomato and drought tolerance in tomato and Nicotiana benthamiana and experimental evidence suggested that the virus-encoded protein C4 is the main trigger of drought responses. However, the physiological and molecular events underlying C4-induced drought tolerance need further elucidation. In this study, transgenic tomato plants expressing the tomato yellow leaf curl Sardinia virus (TYLCSV) C4 protein were subjected to severe drought stress, followed by recovery. Morphometric parameters, water potential, gas exchanges, and hormone contents in leaves were measured, in combination with molecular analysis of candidate genes involved in stress response and hormone metabolism. Collected data proved that the expression of TYLCSV C4 positively affected the ability of transgenic plants to tolerate water stress, by delaying the onset of stress-related features, improving the plant water use efficiency and facilitating a rapid post-rehydration recovery. In addition, we demonstrated that specific anatomical and hydraulic traits, rather than biochemical signals, are the keynote of the C4-associated stress resilience. Our results provide novel insights into the biology underpinning drought tolerance in TYLCSV C4-expressing tomato plants, paving the way for further deepening the mechanism through which such proteins tune the plant-virus interaction.