COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Pakistan
Zahid Ali has completed his PhD in 2007 from Leibniz University of Hanover Germany and Post doctorate from Leibniz Institute German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures (DSMZ) Germany. He has published several research articles in reputed journals. Since 2012 he is serving as an Assistant Professor in Department of Biosciences COMSATS IIT Islamabad Pakistan and designed different MS/PhD courses. He is working on abiotic stress tolerance in higher plants through genetic engineering and environment risk assessment of GE plants and developed transgenic pea plants against abiotic stresses which are stable in multiple subsequent generations.
Plants are permanently exposed to various sometimes quite diverse-environmental constraints. Plants respond to combined stresses largely to ensure their individual survival. The complex interplay of stress responsive genes and their cross talk to depict various physiological stresses through induced adaptation systems has been a subject of intensive research to gain insights in to convergence of abiotic stress induced signal transduction in plants. By up-regulating a transgene responsible for osmotic stress tolerance (Atnhx1) driven by the P-MAS promoter in a dicistronic binary vector, we observed the multiple stress tolerance responses in transgenic pea plants. Results indicated that besides enhanced salt stress tolerance (up to 100 mM NaCl), surprisingly, the transgenic plants also showed enhanced frost and heat stress tolerance in comparison to wild type (WT) plants. The WT plant growth was significantly reduced under heat stress. Low temperature effect (0-2 °C) depicted decreased leaf chlorophyll contents in WT plants. The flowering was delayed for about 3 weeks in WT plants; however, the transgenic plants were flowered normal. The frost stress tolerance of the transgenic plants was unexpected, yet an important economic trait conferred by a known salt tolerance gene. The intimate difference in chlorophyll content of transgenic vs. WT plants under frost acclimation employs a presence of convergence at molecular/biochemical level in stress responsive pathways and will unveil the interaction of various stress induced pathways for overall stress adaptation in plants. Computational gene functional association networks studies on model plant A. thaliana suggested that Atnhx1 is co-expressing with Dreb1, which might also be responsible for an improved frost tolerance in the transgenic pea plants. The genetic stability of transgene was also observed in subsequent transgenic generations.