To investigate early salt acclimation mechanisms in a salt-tolerant poplar species ( Populus euphratica ), the kinetics of molecular, metabolic, and physiological changes during a 24-h salt exposure were measured. Three distinct phases of salt stress were identified by analyses of the osmotic pressure and the shoot water potential: dehydration, salt accumulation, and osmotic restoration associated with ionic stress. The duration and intensity of these phases differed between leaves and roots. Transcriptome analysis using P. euphratica -specific microarrays revealed clusters of coexpressed genes in these phases, with only 3% overlapping salt-responsive genes in leaves and roots. Acclimation of cellular metabolism to high salt concentrations involved remodeling of amino acid and protein biosynthesis and increased expression of molecular chaperones (dehydrins, osmotin). Leaves suffered initially from dehydration, which resulted in changes in transcript levels of mitochondrial and photosynthetic genes, indicating adjustment of energy metabolism. Initially, decreases in stress-related genes were found, whereas increases occurred only when leaves had restored the osmotic balance by salt accumulation. Comparative in silico analysis of the poplar stress regulon with Arabidopsis ( Arabidopsis thaliana ) orthologs was used as a strategy to reduce the number of candidate genes for functional analysis. Analysis of Arabidopsis knockout lines identified a lipocalin-like gene ( AtTIL ) and a gene encoding a protein with previously unknown functions ( AtSIS ) to play roles in salt tolerance. In conclusion, by dissecting the stress transcriptome of tolerant species, novel genes important for salt endurance can be identified.
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