Exogenous melatonin induces drought stress tolerance by promoting plant growth and antioxidant defence system of soybean plants
Khan, Abdul Latif
Khan, Muhammad Aaqil
Khan, Adil (TTU)
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Melatonin is an indolamine bioactive molecule that regulates a wide range of physiological processes during plant growth and enhances abiotic stress tolerance. Here we examined the putative role of exogenous melatonin application (foliar or root zone) in improving drought stress tolerance in soybean seedlings. Pre-treatment of soybean seedlings with melatonin (50 and 100 µM) was found to significantly mitigate the negative effects of drought stress on plant growth-related parameters and chlorophyll content. The beneficial impacts against drought were more pronounced by melatonin application in the rhizosphere than in foliar treatments. The melatonin-induced enhanced tolerance could be attributed to improved photosynthetic activity, reduction of abscisic acid and drought-induced oxidative damage by lowering the accumulation of reactive oxygen species and malondialdehyde. Interestingly, the contents of jasmonic acid and salicylic acid were significantly higher following melatonin treatment in the root zone than in foliar treatment compared with the control. The activity of major antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, polyphenol oxidase, peroxidase and ascorbate peroxidase was stimulated by melatonin application. In addition, melatonin counteracted the drought-induced increase in proline and sugar content. These findings revealed that modifying the endogenous plant hormone content and antioxidant enzymes by melatonin application improved drought tolerance in soybean seedlings. Our findings provide evidence for the stronger physiological role of melatonin in the root zone than in leaves, which may be useful in the large-scale field level application during drought.