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Yiming Liu, Hongmei Du, Kai Wang, Bingru Huang, and Zhaolong Wang

Salinity is a detrimental abiotic stress for plant growth in salt-affected soils. The objective of this study was to examine photosynthetic responses to salinity stress in two warm-season turfgrasses differing in salinity tolerance. Salt-tolerant species seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) and salt-sensitive species centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) were exposed to salinity at three NaCl concentrations (0, 300, and 500 mm) in a growth chamber. Turf quality, relative water content (RWC), and leaf photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm) declined, whereas electrolyte leakage (EL) increased under the two NaCl regimes for both grass species, and the changes were more dramatic in centipedegrass than that in seashore paspalum as well as in the higher salinity concentration. Two grass species showed different phytosynthetic responses to salinity stress. The earlier inhibition of photosynthesis in seashore paspalum was mainly associated with stomatal closure. As salinity increased and salinity stress prolonged, the inhibition of photosynthesis in seashore paspalum was mainly associated with non-stomatal factors. The inhibition of photosynthesis in centipedegrass was associated with both stomatal closure and non-stomatal factors at both salinity levels. The sodium dodecyl sulfate–polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) analysis demonstrated the Rubisco large subunit had no obvious decrease during the whole stress period under the 300-mm and 500-mm treatments in seashore paspalum, whereas it significantly decreased in centipedegrass under both the 300-mm and 500-mm treatments. The results indicated that the superior salinity tolerance in seashore paspalum, compared with centipedegrass, could be attributed to its maintenance of Rubisco stability, chlorophyll content, photochemical efficiency as well as photosynthetic rate (Pn) capacity under salinity stress.

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Jianming Sun, Yiming Liu, Xianglin Li, and Bingru Huang

Protein metabolism plays an important role in plant adaptation to drought stress. The objective of this study was to identify drought-responsive proteins associated with differential drought tolerance for a tolerant genotype (RU9) and a sensitive genotype (RU18) of tall fescue (Lolium arundinacea). Plants of both genotypes were grown under well-watered conditions or subjected to drought stress by withholding irrigation for 12 days in a growth chamber controlled at the optimal growth temperatures of 23/18 °C (day/night). Physiological analysis demonstrated that RU9 was relatively more drought tolerant than RU18, as shown by the higher leaf net photosynthetic rate (Pn) and photochemical efficiency at 12 days of drought treatment. Differentially expressed proteins between RU9 and RU18 exposed to drought stress were identified by two-dimensional electrophoresis and mass spectrometry (MS). Several proteins [photosystem I reaction center subunit II, Rubisco small subunit, and Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GADPH)] in photosynthesis, respiration, or oxidative regulation exhibited higher abundance in RU9 than RU18 under drought stress. These results suggested the critical importance of energy and oxidative metabolism in tall fescue adaptation to drought stress. Those abundant proteins in the drought-tolerant genotype could be used as biomarkers or developed to molecular markers to develop elite drought-tolerant germplasm in tall fescue and other cool-season perennial grass species.

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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.