Background: Apple is among the most widely cultivated perennial fruit crops worldwide. It is sensitive to salt stress, which seriously affects the growth and productivity of apple trees by destroying the homeostasis of Na+ and K+. Previous studies focused on the molecular mechanism underlying NaCl stress. However, signaling transduction under KCl stress has not been thoroughly studied.
Results: We comprehensively analyzed the salt tolerance of Malus hupehensis Rehd., which is a widely used rootstock in apple orchards, by using RNA-Seq. Roots and leaves were treated with NaCl and KCl. Based on mapping analyses, a total of 762 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) related to NaCl and KCl stress in the roots and leaves were identified. The Gene Ontology (GO) terms were enriched in ion transmembrane transporter and oxidoreductase activity under NaCl and KCl stress. The Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathways focused on the plant hormone signal transduction and mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway. We also screened out 28 candidate genes from 762 DEGs and verified their expression by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). All of these enriched genes were closely related to NaCl and KCl stress and take part in mediating the Na+ and K+ homeostasis in M. hupehensis.
Conclusions: This transcriptome analysis provides a valuable resource for elucidating the signaling pathway of NaCl and KCl stress and is a substantial genetic resource for discovering genes related to the NaCl and KCl stress response of M. hupehensis.