Natural variation and gene regulatory basis for the responses of asparagus beans to soil drought

Pei Xu*, Menachem Moshelion, Xiao Hua Wu, Ofer Halperin, Bao Gen Wang, Jie Luo, Rony Wallach, Xinyi Wu, Zhongfu Lu, Guojing Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Asparagus bean (Vigna unguiculata ssp. sesquipedalis) is the Asian subspecies of cowpea, a drought-resistant legume crop native to Africa. In order to explore the genetic variation of drought responses in asparagus bean, we conducted multi-year phenotyping of drought resistance traits across the Chinese asparagus bean mini-core. The phenotypic distribution indicated that the ssp. sesquipedalis subgene pool has maintained high natural variation in drought responses despite known domestic bottleneck. Thirty-nine SNP loci were found to show an association with drought resistance via a genome-wide association study (GWAS). Whole-plant water relations were compared among four genotypes by lysimetric assay. Apparent genotypic differences in transpiration patterns and the critical soil water threshold in relation to dehydration avoidance were observed, indicating a delicate adaptive mechanism for each genotype to its own climate. Microarray gene expression analyses revealed that known drought resistance pathways such as the ABA and phosphate lipid signaling pathways are conserved between different genotypes, while differential regulation of certain aquaporin genes and hormonal genes may be important for the genotypic differences. Our results suggest that divergent sensitivity to soil water content is an important mechanism configuring the genotypic specific responses to water deficit. The SNP markers identified provide useful resources for marker-assisted breeding.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number891
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Issue numberOCTOBER
StatePublished - 27 Oct 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Xu, Moshelion, Wu, Halperin, Wang, Luo, Wallach, Wu, Lu and Li.


  • Asparagus bean (Vigna unguiculata ssp. sesquipedalis)
  • Cowpea
  • Drought
  • GWAS
  • Microarray
  • Natural variation
  • Water relations


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