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Effect of salt stress on photosynthesis and chlorophyll fluorescence in Medicago truncatula

Najar, Rim, Aydi, Samir, Sassi-Aydi, Sameh, Zarai, Abdennabi, Abdelly, Chedly
Plant biosystems 2019 v.153 no.1 pp. 88-97
Ensifer meliloti, Medicago truncatula, carbon dioxide, chlorophyll, electron transfer, genetic variation, greenhouses, legumes, nitrogen fixation, nutrient solutions, photochemistry, photosystem II, pigments, salinity, salt stress, salt tolerance, screening, sodium chloride, stomatal conductance
In the present study, photosynthetic parameters including gas exchanges, pigment contents, and chlorophyll fluorescence, were compared in two contrasting local Medicago truncatula lines TN6.18 and TN8.20, in response to salt added to the nutrient solution. Plants were cultivated under symbiotic nitrogen fixation (SNF) after inoculation with a reference strain Sinorhizobium meliloti 2011, a very tolerant strain to salinity (700 mM NaCl), and grown in a controlled glasshouse. On one month old plants (with active SNF), salt treatment (75 mM NaCl) was gradually applied. Photosynthesis, assimilating pigments and chlorophyll fluorescence were monitored throughout the experiment during both short and long terms, compared to control (non-saline) conditions. A genotypic variation in salt tolerance was found; TN6.18 was the more sensitive to salinity. The relative tolerance of TN8.20 was concomitant with the highest photochemical quenching coefficient (qP) affecting the maximum quantum yield of PSII (Y); the real quantum yield (ɸₑₓc) was the most affected in the sensitive line. Moreover, stomatal and PSII reaction centers activities differed clearly between the studied lines. We found that the effect of salinity on photosynthesis of M. truncatula was related to PSII activity reduction rather than to stomatal conductance limitation. Photosynthesis was reduced by the inhibition of CO₂ assimilation caused by PSII damage. This was clearly estimated by the Y, ɸₑₓc and especially by the quantum yield of electron transport of PSII (ΦPSII). Thus, on the basis of our results on the two local M. truncatula lines, we recommend the use of chlorophyll fluorescence as non-destructive screening method to discriminate susceptible and resistant legumes to salt stress.