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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Background: Soil salinization is a worldwide problem that is intensifying because of the effects of climate change. An effective method for the reclamation of salt-affected soils involves initiating plant succession using fast growing, nitrogen fixing actinorhizal trees such as the Casuarina. The salt tolerance of Casuarina is enhanced by the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis that they form with the actinobacterium Frankia. Identification and molecular characterization of salt-tolerant Casuarina species and associated Frankia is imperative for the successful utilization of Casuarina trees in saline soil reclamation efforts. In this study, salt-tolerant and salt-sensitive Casuarina associated Frankia strains were identified and comparative genomics, transcriptome profiling, and proteomics were employed to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of salt and osmotic stress tolerance.

Results: Salt-tolerant Frankia strains (CcI6 and Allo2) that could withstand up to 1000 mM NaCl and a salt-sensitive Frankia strain (CcI3) which could withstand only up to 475 mM NaCl were identified. The remaining isolates had intermediate levels of salt tolerance with MIC values ranging from 650 mM to 750 mM. Comparative genomic analysis showed that all of the Frankia isolates from Casuarina belonged to the same species (Frankia casuarinae). Pangenome analysis revealed a high abundance of singletons among all Casuarina isolates. The two salt-tolerant strains contained 153 shared single copy genes (most of which code for hypothetical proteins) that were not found in the salt-sensitive(CcI3) and moderately salt-tolerant (CeD) strains. RNA-seq analysis of one of the two salt-tolerant strains (Frankia sp. strain CcI6) revealed hundreds of genes differentially expressed under salt and/or osmotic stress. Among the 153 genes, 7 and 7 were responsive to salt and osmotic stress, respectively. Proteomic profiling confirmed the transcriptome results and identified 19 and 8 salt and/or osmotic stress-responsive proteins in the salt-tolerant (CcI6) and the salt-sensitive (CcI3) strains, respectively.

Conclusion: Genetic differences between salt-tolerant and salt-sensitive Frankia strains isolated from Casuarina were identified. Transcriptome and proteome profiling of a salt-tolerant strain was used to determine molecular differences correlated with differential salt-tolerance and several candidate genes were identified. Mechanisms involving transcriptional and translational regulation, cell envelop remodeling, and previously uncharacterized proteins appear to be important for salt tolerance. Physiological and mutational analyses will further shed light on the molecular mechanism of salt tolerance in Casuarina associated Frankia isolates.


Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences

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BMC Genomics


BioMed Central (BMC)

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© The Author(s). 2017


This is an article published by BioMed Central (BMC) in BMC Genomics in 2017, available online: