Abiotic stresses (e.g., salinity, drought, cold, oxidative stress) can be major factors limiting plant productivity worldwide. We sought to increase abiotic stress resistance in cucumber by expressing the A. thaliana transcription factors CBF1and CBF3, which regulate genes responsible for enhanced dehydration-stress resistance in Arabidopsis. Our previous studies in the greenhouse and field demonstrated increased salinity tolerance in CBF-expressing cucumber lines. In the current studies, we tested response of CBF-cucumber plants to drought, chilling, and oxidative stresses. Transgenic cucumber plants subjected to drought stress in the greenhouse showed elevated levels of the stress-inducible compatible solute, proline, compared to the nontransgenic controls. Preliminary results also indicate greater photochemical efficiency in CBF-expressing plants under drought stress conditions compared to the nontransgenic controls. Under nonstressed conditions, there were no significant differences in growth between the transgenic and the nontransgenic cucumber plants; however, after a cycle of drought stress, CBF-cucumber lines had less growth reduction compared to the nontransgenic counterparts. The advantage in growth was less pronounced after a second cycle of drought. We also evaluated the transgenic cucumber plants under chilling conditions (i.e., low, nonfreezing temperatures within the 0 to 12 °C range). Based on plant height and cotyledon and leaf damage measurements, transgenic cucumber seedlings did not show chilling tolerance compared to the wild-type control. The response of transgenic CBF-cucumber plants to oxidative stress using methyl viologen is also being evaluated.
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