Metabolome and water homeostasis analysis of Thellungiella salsuginea suggests that dehydration tolerance is a key response to osmotic stress in this halophyte

Raphaël Lugan, Marie-Françoise Niogret, Laurent Leport, Jean-Paul Guégan, François Robert Larher, Arnould Savouré, Joachim Kopka, Alain Bouchereau
Plant Journal 2010, 64 (2): 215-29
Thellungiella salsuginea, a Brassicaceae species closely related to Arabidopsis thaliana, is tolerant to high salinity. The two species were compared under conditions of osmotic stress to assess the relationships between stress tolerance, the metabolome, water homeostasis and growth performance. A broad range of metabolites were analysed by metabolic fingerprinting and profiling, and the results showed that, despite a few notable differences in raffinose and secondary metabolites, the same metabolic pathways were regulated by salt stress in both species. The main difference was quantitative: Thellungiella had much higher levels of most metabolites than Arabidopsis whatever the treatment. Comprehensive quantification of organic and mineral solutes showed a relative stability of the total solute content regardless of the species or treatment, meaning that little or no osmotic adjustment occurred under stress. The reduction in osmotic potential observed in plants under stress was found to result from a passive loss of water. Thellungiella shoots contain less water than Arabidopsis shoots, and have the ability to lose more water, which could contribute to maintain a water potential gradient between soil and plant. Significant differences between Thellungiella and Arabidopsis were also observed in terms of the physicochemical properties of their metabolomes, such as water solubility and polarity. On the whole, the Thellungiella metabolome appears to be more compatible with dehydration. Osmotic stress was also found to impact the metabolome properties in both species, increasing the overall polarity. Together, the results suggest that Thellungiella copes with osmotic stress by tolerating dehydration, with its metabolic configuration lending itself to osmoprotective strategies rather than osmo-adjustment.

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