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Xunzhong Zhang, Erik H. Ervin, Yiming Liu, Guofu Hu, Chao Shang, Takeshi Fukao and Jasper Alpuerto

Water deficit is a major limiting factor for grass culture in many regions with physiological mechanisms of tolerance not yet well understood. Antioxidant isozymes and hormones may play important roles in plant tolerance to water deficit. This study was designed to investigate antioxidant enzymes, isozymes, abscisic acid (ABA), and indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) responses to deficit irrigation in two perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) cultivars contrasting in drought tolerance. The plants were subjected to well-watered {100% container capacity, 34.4% ± 0.21% volumetric moisture content (VWC), or deficit irrigation [30% evapotranspiration (ET) replacement; 28.6% ± 0.15% to 7.5% ± 0.12% VWC]} conditions for up to 8 days and rewatering for 4 days for recovery in growth chambers. Deficit irrigation increased leaf malondialdehyde (MDA) content in both cultivars, but drought-tolerant Manhattan-5 exhibited lower levels relative to drought-sensitive Silver Dollar. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity declined and then increased during water-deficit treatment. ‘Manhattan-5’ had higher SOD activity and greater abundance of SOD1 isozyme than ‘Silver Dollar’ under water deficit. Deficit irrigation increased catalase (CAT) and ascorbate peroxidase (APX) activity in ‘Manhattan-5’, but not in ‘Silver Dollar’. ‘Manhattan-5’ had higher CAT, APX, and peroxidase (POD) activity than ‘Silver Dollar’ during water limitation. Deficit irrigation increased mRNA accumulation of cytosolic cupper/zinc SOD (Cyt Cu/Zn SOD), whereas gene expression of manganese SOD (Mn SOD) and peroxisome APX (pAPX) were not significantly altered in response to deficit irrigation. No differences in Cyt Cu/Zn SOD, Mn SOD, and pAPX gene expression were found between the two cultivars under deficit irrigation. Water limitation increased leaf ABA and IAA contents in both cultivars, with Silver Dollar having a higher ABA content than Manhattan-5. Change in ABA level may regulate stomatal opening and oxidative stress, which may trigger antioxidant defense responses. These results indicate that accumulation of antioxidant enzymes and ABA are associated with perennial ryegrass drought tolerance. Activity and isozyme assays of key antioxidant enzymes under soil moisture limitation can be a practical screening approach to improve perennial ryegrass drought tolerance and quality.

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Xunzhong Zhang, Wenli Wu, Erik H. Ervin, Chao Shang and Kim Harich

Plant hormones play an important role in plant adaptation to abiotic stress, but hormonal responses of cool-season turfgrass species to salt stress are not well documented. This study was carried out to investigate the responses of hormones to salt stress and examine if salt stress-induced injury was associated with hormonal alteration in kentucky bluegrass (KBG, Poa pratensis L.). The grass was grown in a growth chamber for 6 weeks and then subjected to salt stress (170 mm NaCl) for 28 days. Salt stress caused cell membrane damage, resulting in photosynthetic rate (Pn), chlorophyll (Chl), and turf quality decline in KBG. Salt stress increased leaf abscisic acid (ABA) and ABA/cytokinin (CK) ratio; reduced trans-zeatin riboside (ZR), isopentenyl adenosine (iPA), and indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), but did not affect gibberellin A4 (GA4). On average, salt stress reduced ZR by 67.4% and IAA by 58.6%, whereas it increased ABA by 398.5%. At the end of the experiment (day 28), turf quality, Pn, and stomatal conductance (g s) were negatively correlated with ABA and ABA/CK ratio, but positively correlated with ZR, iPA, and IAA. Electrolyte leakage (EL) was positively correlated with ABA and ABA/CK and negatively correlated with ZR, iPA, IAA, and GA4. GA4 was also positively correlated with turf quality and g s. The results of this study suggest that salt stress-induced injury of the cell membrane and photosynthetic function may be associated with hormonal alteration and imbalance in KBG.