Medicago truncatula, a model for legume genomics, can be regenerated by somatic embryogensis by the use of a suitable genotype and an auxin plus cytokinin. The stress response induced by explant wounding and culture is increasingly recognized as an important component of somatic embryo induction. We have cloned and investigated the stress kinase gene MtSK1 in relation to somatic embryogenesis in M. truncatula, using the highly embryogenic mutant Jemalong 2HA (2HA) and its progenitor Jemalong. The main features of the MtSK1 protein of 351 amino acids are an N-terminal kinase domain and a C-terminal glutamic acid-rich region, which is predicted to be a coiled-coil. MtSK1 is a member of the SnRK2 subgroup of the SnRK group of plant kinases. Members of the SnRK2 kinases play a role in stress responses of plants. MtSKI expression is induced by wounding in the cultured tissue independent of auxin or cytokinin. However, in both 2HA and Jemalong, as the callus develops in response to auxin plus cytokinin, MtSK1 expression continues to increase. MtSK1 responds to salt stress in vivo, consistent with its role as a stress kinase. The likely role of MtSK1 in stress-induced signaling will facilitate the relating of stress–response pathways to auxin and cytokinin-induced signaling in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the induction of somatic embryogenesis in M. truncatula
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