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J Exp Bot. 2008;59(8):2029-41. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ern057. Epub 2008 May 9.

Mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal Lactuca sativa plants exhibit contrasting responses to exogenous ABA during drought stress and recovery.

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Departamento de Microbiología del Suelo y Sistemas Simbióticos. Estación Experimental del Zaidín (CSIC). Profesor Albareda no. 1, E-18008 Granada, Spain.


The arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis enhances plant tolerance to water deficit through the alteration of plant physiology and the expression of plant genes. These changes have been postulated to be caused (among others) by different contents of abscisic acid (ABA) between AM and non-AM plants. However, there are no studies dealing with the effects of exogenous ABA on the expression of stress-related genes and on the physiology of AM plants. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the influence of AM symbiosis and exogenous ABA application on plant development, physiology, and expression of several stress-related genes after both drought and a recovery period. Results show that the application of exogenous ABA had contrasting effects on AM and non-AM plants. Only AM plants fed with exogenous ABA maintained shoot biomass production unaltered by drought stress. The addition of exogenous ABA enhanced considerably the ABA content in shoots of non-AM plants, concomitantly with the expression of the stress marker genes Lsp5cs and Lslea and the gene Lsnced. By contrast, the addition of exogenous ABA decreased the content of ABA in shoots of AM plants and did not produce any further enhancement of the expression of these three genes. AM plants always exhibited higher values of root hydraulic conductivity and reduced transpiration rate under drought stress. From plants subjected to drought, only the AM plants recovered their root hydraulic conductivity completely after the 3 d recovery period. As a whole, the results indicate that AM plants regulate their ABA levels better and faster than non-AM plants, allowing a more adequate balance between leaf transpiration and root water movement during drought and recovery.

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