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Environmental-dependent proline accumulation in plants living on gypsum soils

Boscaiu, Monica, Bautista, Inmaculada, Lidón, Antonio, Llinares, Josep, Lull, Cristina, Donat, Pilar, Mayoral, Olga, Vicente, Oscar
Acta physiologiae plantarum 2013 v.35 no.7 pp. 2193-2204
Helianthemum, biosynthesis, drought, gypsum, habitats, humidity, proline, salt stress, semiarid zones, soil, solutes, spring, stress tolerance, summer
Biosynthesis of proline - or other compatible solutes - is a conserved response of all organisms to different abiotic stress conditions leading to cellular dehydration. However, the biological relevance of this reaction for plant stress tolerance mechanisms remains largely unknown, since there are very few available data on proline levels in stress-tolerant plants under natural conditions. The aim of this work was to establish the relationship between proline levels and different environmental stress factors in plants living on gypsum soils. During the 2-year study (2009-2010), soil parameters and climatic data were monitored, and proline contents were determined, in six successive samplings, in ten taxa present in selected experimental plots, three in a gypsum area and one in a semiarid zone, both located in the province of Valencia, in south-east Spain. Mean proline values varied significantly between species; however, seasonal variations within species were in many cases even wider, with the most extreme differences registered in Helianthemum syriacum (almost 30 µmol g-1 of DW in summer 2009, as compared to ca. 0.5 in spring, in one of the plots of the gypsum zone). Higher proline contents in plants were generally observed under lower soil humidity conditions, especially in the 2009 summer sampling preceded by a severe drought period. Our results clearly show a positive correlation between the degree of environmental stress and the proline level in most of the taxa included in this study, supporting a functional role of proline in stress tolerance mechanisms of plants adapted to gypsum. However, the main trigger of proline biosynthesis in this type of habitat, as in arid or semiarid zones, is water deficit, while the component of 'salt stress' due to the presence of gypsum in the soil only plays a secondary role.