Pleiotropic phenotypes of the salt-tolerant and cytosine hypomethylated leafless inflorescence, evergreen dwarf and irregular leaf lamina mutants of Catharanthus roseus possessing Mendelian inheritance
In Catharanthus roseus, three morphological cum salt-tolerant chemically induced mutants ofMendelian inheritance and their wild-type parent cv Nirmal were characterized for overall cytosine methylation at DNA repeats, expression of 119 protein-coding and seven miRNA-coding genes and 50 quantitative traits. The mutants, named after their principal morphological feature(s), were leafless inflorescence (lli), evergreen dwarf (egd) and irregular leaf lamina (ill). The Southern-blot analysis of MspI digested DNAs of mutants probed with centromeric and 5S and 18S rDNA probes indicated that, in comparison to wild type, the mutants were extensively demethylated at cytosine sites. Among the 126 genes investigated for transcriptional expression, 85 were upregulated and 41 were downregulated in mutants. All of the five genes known to be stress responsive had increased expression in mutants. Several miRNA genes showed either increased or decreased expression in mutants. The C. roseus counterparts of CMT3, DRM2 and RDR2 were downregulated in mutants. Among the cell, organ and plant size, photosynthesis and metabolism related traits studied, 28 traits were similarly affected in mutants as compared to wild type. Each of the mutants also expressed some traits distinctively. The egd mutant possessed superior photosynthesis and water retention abilities. Biomass was hyperaccumulated in roots, stems, leaves and seeds of the lli mutant. The ill mutant was richest in the pharmaceutical alkaloids catharanthine, vindoline, vincristine and vinblastine. The nature of mutations, origins of mutant phenotypes and evolutionary importance of these mutants are discussed.