Drought tolerance of the wheat cultivar Bobwhite was previously enhanced by transformation with a construct containing the wheat DREB3 gene driven by the stress-inducible maize Rab17 promoter. Progeny of a single T2 transgenic line were used as pollinators in crosses with four elite bread wheat cultivars from Western Australia: Bonnie Rock, IGW-2971, Magenta and Wyalkatchem, with the aim of evaluating transgene performance in different genetic backgrounds. The selected pollinator line, BW8-9-10-3, contained multiple transgene copies, had significantly improved drought tolerance compared with wild-type plants and showed no growth and development penalties or abnormalities. A single hybrid plant was selected from each cross-combination for three rounds of backcrossing with the corresponding maternal wheat cultivar. The transgene was detected in all four F1BC3 combinations, but stress-inducible transgene expression was found in only three of the four combinations. Under well-watered conditions, the phenotypes and grain yield components of the F2BC3 transgene-expressing lines were similar to those of corresponding recurrent parents and null-segregants. Under severe drought conditions, the backcross lines demonstrated 12-18% higher survival rates than the corresponding control plants. Two from four F3BC3 transgenic lines showed significantly higher yield (18.9% and 21.5%) than control plants under limited water conditions. There was no induction of transgene expression under cold stress, and therefore, no improvement of frost tolerance observed in the progenies of drought-tolerant F3BC3 lines.
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- DREB transcription factor
- Transgenic wheat