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Dehydrins (DHNs) are a sub-family of the late embryogenesis abundant proteins generally induced during development of desiccation tolerance in seeds and water deficit or salinity stress in plants. Nevertheless, a detailed understanding of the DHNs function is still lacking. In this work we investigated the possible protective role during salt stress of a Dhn from Hordeum vulgare (L.), aba2. The coding sequence of the aba2 gene was constitutively expressed in transgenic lines of Arabidopsis thaliana (L.). During salt stress conditions germination rate, cotyledon expansion and greening were greatly improved in the transgenic lines as compared to the wild type. Between 98 and 100% of the transgenic seeds germinated after two weeks in media containing up to 250 mM NaCl, and 90% after 22 days at 300 mM NaCl. In conditions of 200 mM NaCl 93% of the transgenic cotyledons had greened after two weeks, outperforming the wild type by 45%. Our study provides further evidence that DHNs have an important role in salt stress tolerance. The production of plants constitutively expressing DHNs could be an effective strategy to improve plant breeding programs.
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