Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Aug 22;24(17):13061. doi: 10.3390/ijms241713061.
In plants, expansin genes are responsive to heavy metal exposure. To study the bioremediary potential of this important gene family, we discovered a root-expressed expansin gene in sorghum, SbEXPA11, which is notably upregulated following cadmium (Cd) exposure. However, the mechanism underlying the Cd detoxification and accumulation mediated by SbEXPA11 in sorghum remains unclear. We overexpressed SbEXPA11 in sorghum and compared wild-type (WT) and SbEXPA11-overexpressing transgenic sorghum in terms of Cd accumulation and physiological indices following Cd. Compared with the WT, we found that SbEXPA11 mediates Cd tolerance by exerting reactive oxygen species (ROS)-scavenging effects through upregulating the expression of antioxidant enzymes. Moreover, the overexpression of SbEXPA11 rescued biomass production by increasing the photosynthetic efficiency of transgenic plants. In the pot experiment with a dosage of 10 mg/kg Cd, transgenic sorghum plants demonstrated higher efficacy in reducing the Cd content of the soil (8.62 mg/kg) compared to WT sorghum plants (9.51 mg/kg). Subsequent analysis revealed that the SbbHLH041 transcription factor has the ability to induce SbEXPA11 expression through interacting with the E-box located within the SbEXPA11 promoter. These findings suggest that the SbbHLH041-SbEXPA11 cascade module may be beneficial for the development of phytoremediary sorghum varieties.