Four cDNA clones named CPRD (cowpea responsive to dehydration) corresponding to genes that are responsive to dehydration were isolated using differential screening of a cDNA library prepared from 10-h dehydrated drought-tolerant cowpea ( Vigna unguiculata ) plants. One of the cDNA clones has a homology to 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase (named VuNCED1 ), which is supposed to be involved in abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis. The GST (glutathione S -transferase)-fused protein indicates a 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase activity, which catalyzes the cleavage of 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid. The N-terminal region of the VuNCED1 protein directed the fused sGFP (synthetic green-fluorescent protein) into the plastids of the protoplasts, indicating that the N-terminal sequence acts as a transit peptide. Both the accumulation of ABA and expression of VuNCED1 were strongly induced by drought stress in the 8-d-old cowpea plant, whereas drought stress did not trigger the expression of VuABA1 (accession no. AB030295 ) gene that encodes zeaxanthin epoxidase. These results indicate that the VuNCED1 cDNA encodes a 9-cis-epoxycarotenoid dioxygenase and that its product has a key role in the synthesis of ABA under drought stress.
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