Asis Shrestha

and 7 more

Breeding drought stress tolerance is an integral part of our current and future goals of sustainable agricultural production. In the present study, we examined the natural variation of HvP5cs1 and demonstrated the utility of a wild barley allele for drought stress adaptation in cultivated barley. Sequencing the 5-end regulatory region among 49 barley accessions identified a genetically distinct allele of HvP5cs1 promoter from a wild barley ISR42-8. Allele mining of HvP5cs1 indicated quantitative variation in proline accumulation which was associated with promoter polymorphisms across the cluster of abscisic acid-responsive elements (ABRE), ABRE-related coupling elements, and MYB binding motifs. A near-isogenic line (NIL-143) harboring the HvP5cs1 allele from the highest proline accumulating wild barley ISR42-8 was developed in cultivated barley Scarlett through marker-assisted backcrossing (BC6). NIL-143 preserved the genetic competence of ISR42-8 to accumulate proline in higher concentrations under drought conditions at seedling and reproductive stages. Under drought stress, NIL-143 maintained superior membrane integrity, reduced pigment damage, and sustained photosynthetic health compared to Scarlett. NIL-143 presented a remarkable improvement in drought stress recovery than Scarlett. Further, the introgression line exhibited improved yield attributes, especially superior grain weight compared to Scarlett under field drought conditions. In conclusion, the present data uncover the genetic regulation of HvP5cs1 mediated proline accumulation and elucidate its role in drought stress adaptation and yield stability in barley.