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Open Access Research article

Reduction of photosynthetic sensitivity in response to abiotic stress in tomato is mediated by a new generation plant activator

Jason J Wargent1*, Douglas A Pickup2, Nigel D Paul2 and Michael R Roberts2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand

2 Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK

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BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:108  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-108

Published: 30 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Yield losses as a result of abiotic stress factors present a significant challenge for the future of global food production. While breeding technologies provide potential to combat negative stress-mediated outcomes over time, interventions which act to prime plant tolerance to stress, via the use of phytohormone-based elicitors for example, could act as a valuable tool for crop protection. However, the translation of fundamental biology into functioning solution is often constrained by knowledge-gaps.

Results

Photosynthetic and transcriptomic responses were characterised in young tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) seedlings in response to pre-treatment with a new plant health activator technology, ‘Alethea’, followed by a subsequent 100 mM salinity stress. Alethea is a novel proprietary technology composed of three key constituent compounds; the hitherto unexplored compound potassium dihydrojasmonate, an analogue of jasmonic acid; sodium benzoate, a carboxylic acid precursor to salicylic acid, and the α-amino acid L-arginine. Salinity treatment led to a maximal 47% reduction in net photosynthetic rate 8 d following NaCl treatment, yet in Alethea pre-treated seedlings, sensitivity to salinity stress was markedly reduced during the experimental period. Microarray analysis of leaf transcriptional responses showed that while salinity stress and Alethea individually impacted on largely non-overlapping, distinct groups of genes, Alethea pre-treatment substantially modified the response to salinity. Alethea affected the expression of genes related to biotic stress, ethylene signalling, cell wall synthesis, redox signalling and photosynthetic processes. Since Alethea had clear effects on photosynthesis/chloroplastic function at the physiological and molecular levels, we also investigated the ability of Alethea to protect various crop species against methyl viologen, a potent generator of oxidative stress in chloroplasts. Alethea pre-treatment produced dramatic reductions in visible foliar necrosis caused by methyl viologen compared with non-primed controls.

Conclusions

‘Alethea’ technology mediates positive recovery of abiotic stress-induced photosynthetic and foliar loss of performance, which is accompanied by altered transcriptional responses to stress.

Keywords:
Photosynthesis; Abiotic stress; Priming; Tomato; Transcriptomics; Potassium dihydrojasmonate; Sodium benzoate; L-arginine