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  • Author or Editor: Diheng Zhong x
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Fatty acid metabolism may be involved in plant adaptation to drought stress. The objective of this study was to identify saturated and unsaturated fatty acids associated with leaf dehydration tolerance by comparing fatty acid composition and unsaturation levels at equivalent leaf water status of two bermudagrass genotypes contrasting in drought resistance. A drought-resistant hybrid bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon × C. transvaalensis) genotype (‘Tifway’) and a drought-sensitive bermudagrass (C. dactylon) genotype (‘C299’) were maintained under well-watered (control) or water-withheld (drought) conditions. Drought treatment was imposed until soil water content decreased to 5% or leaf relative water content (RWC) dropped to 28% to 29%. ‘Tifway’ maintained higher RWC and lower electrolyte leakage (EL) at 5 and 10 days of drought stress. Leaves of ‘Tifway’ maintained lower EL when RWC of both genotypes declined to the same level of water deficit (28% to 29%) by the end of drought periods. The degree of fatty acid unsaturation, expressed as the double bond index, decreased in both genotypes during drought stress, which was mainly associated with the decline in linoleic (C18:2) and linolenic acids (C18:3) and an increase in palmitic (C16:0) and stearic acids (C18:0). A lipid composition characterized by a greater amount of unsaturated fatty acids was detected in ‘Tifway’ relative to ‘C299’ exposed to the same level of water deficit, mainly as a result of a greater content of C18:2 and a lower content of C16:0 and C18:0. Our results suggest that the ability to maintain a greater composition of unsaturated fatty acids in membrane lipids may contribute to superior leaf dehydration tolerance in bermudagrass.

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