Drought and salinity are the major factors that limit chickpea production worldwide. We performed whole transcriptome analyses of chickpea genotypes to investigate the molecular basis of drought and salinity stress response/adaptation. Phenotypic analyses confirmed the contrasting responses of the chickpea genotypes to drought or salinity stress. RNA-seq of the roots of drought and salinity related genotypes was carried out under control and stress conditions at vegetative and/or reproductive stages. Comparative analysis of the transcriptomes revealed divergent gene expression in the chickpea genotypes at different developmental stages. We identified a total of 4954 and 5545 genes exclusively regulated in drought-tolerant and salinity-tolerant genotypes, respectively. A significant fraction (~47%) of the transcription factor encoding genes showed differential expression under stress. The key enzymes involved in metabolic pathways, such as carbohydrate metabolism, photosynthesis, lipid metabolism, generation of precursor metabolites/energy, protein modification, redox homeostasis and cell wall component biogenesis, were affected by drought and/or salinity stresses. Interestingly, transcript isoforms showed expression specificity across the chickpea genotypes and/or developmental stages as illustrated by the AP2-EREBP family members. Our findings provide insights into the transcriptome dynamics and components of regulatory network associated with drought and salinity stress responses in chickpea.
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