Main content area

Developing a high-throughput phenotyping method for oxidative stress tolerance in barley roots

Wang, Haiyang, Shabala, Lana, Zhou, Meixue, Shabala, Sergey
Plant methods 2019 v.15 no.1 pp. 12
agricultural land, barley, breeding programs, cell viability, dose response, food security, genes, homeostasis, hydrogen peroxide, oxidative stress, paper, phenotype, plant breeders, plant breeding, quantitative trait loci, root growth, roots, salinity, salt stress, salt tolerance, staining, stress tolerance, wheat
BACKGROUND: More than 20% of the world’s agricultural land is affected by salinity, resulting in multibillion-dollar penalties and jeopardising food security. While the recent progress in molecular technologies has significantly advanced plant breeding for salinity stress tolerance, accurate plant phenotyping remains a bottleneck of many breeding programs. We have recently shown the existence of a strong causal link between salinity and oxidative stress tolerance in cereals (wheat and barley). Using the microelectrode ion flux estimation (MIFE) method, we have also found a major QTL conferring ROS control of ion flux in roots that coincided with the major QTL for the overall salinity stress tolerance. These findings open new (previously unexplored) prospects of improving salinity tolerance by pyramiding this trait alongside with other (traditional) mechanisms. RESULTS: In this work, two high-throughput phenotyping methods—viability assay and root growth assay—were tested and assessed as a viable alternative to the (technically complicated) MIFE method using barley as a check species. In viability staining experiments, a dose-dependent H₂O₂-triggered loss of root cell viability was observed, with salt sensitive varieties showing significantly more damage to root cells. In the root growth assays, relative root length (RRL) was measured in plants grown in paper rolls under different H₂O₂ concentrations. The biggest difference in RRL between contrasting varieties was observed for 1 mM H₂O₂ treatment. Under these conditions, a significant negative correlation in the reduction in RRL and the overall salinity tolerance is reported. CONCLUSIONS: These findings offer plant breeders a convenient high throughput method to screen germplasm for oxidative stress tolerance, targeting root-based genes regulating ion homeostasis and thus conferring salinity stress tolerance in barley (and potentially other species).