Overexpression of a zeaxanthin epoxidase gene from Medicago sativa enhances the tolerance to low light in transgenic tobacco

  • Yuman Cao
  • Zhiqiang Zhang
  • Tong Zhang
  • Zhang You
  • Jincai Geng
  • Yafang Wang
  • Tianming Hu Northwest A&F University
  • Peizhi Yang Northwest A&F University
Keywords: Medicago sativa, low light tolerance, zeaxanthin epoxidase, overexpression


Zeaxanthin epoxidase (ZEP) plays an important role in xanthophyll cycle which is a process closely related to photosynthesis. However, an impact of ZEP on low light stress has not been reported. In this study, the functions of an alfalfa (Medicago sativa) zeaxanthin epoxidase gene, MsZEP, in response to low light stress were investigated by heterologous expression in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). Under normal light condition, parameters measured were not significantly different between transgenic and wild-type (WT) plants except for non-photochemical quenching value and chlorophyll a content, while difference existed in low light stress. We found that MsZEP-overexpression tobacco grew faster than WT (p≤0.05). The leaf fresh weight and leaf area of transgenic plants were significantly higher, and the number of stoma was greater in MsZEP-overexpression tobacco. As for photosynthetic characteristics, quantum yield of PSII (ΦPSII) and maximal photochemical efficiency of PSII (Fv/Fm) were not significantly different, wherase non-photochemical quenching (NPQ), net photosynthetic rate (Pn), stomata conductance (Gs) and transpiration rate (Tr) of MsZEP-overexpression tobacco were significantly higher than WT plants. However, no significant difference was existed between the two types of tobacco in chlorophyll and carotenoids content. In conclusion, MsZEP can improve the ability of tobacco to withstand low light stress, which might be due to its stronger photosynthetic activity and the improvement of stomata density under low light.