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J Exp Bot. 2009;60(11):3097-107. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erp140. Epub 2009 May 12.

Medicago truncatula improves salt tolerance when nodulated by an indole-3-acetic acid-overproducing Sinorhizobium meliloti strain.

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Institute of Genetics and Biophysics Adriano Buzzati Traverso, via P. Castellino 111, 80131 Naples, Italy.


The abiotic stress resistance of wild-type Sinorhizobium meliloti 1021 was compared with that of RD64, a derivative of the 1021 strain harbouring an additional pathway for the synthesis of indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), expressed in both free-living bacteria and bacteroids. It is shown here that the IAA-overproducing RD64 strain accumulated a higher level of trehalose as its endogenous osmolyte and showed an increased tolerance to several stress conditions (55 degrees C, 4 degrees C, UV-irradiation, 0.5 M NaCl, and pH 3). Medicago truncatula plants nodulated by RD64 (Mt-RD64) showed re-modulation of phytohormones, with a higher IAA content in nodules and roots and a decreased IAA level in shoots as compared with plants nodulated by the wild-type strain 1021 (Mt-1021). The response of nodulated M. truncatula plants to salt stress, when 0.3 M NaCl was applied, was analysed. For Mt-RD64 plants higher internal proline contents, almost unchanged hydrogen peroxide levels, and enhanced activity of antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, total peroxidase, glutathione reductase, and ascorbate peroxidase) were found compared with Mt-1021 plants. These results were positively correlated with reduced symptoms of senescence, lower expression of ethylene signalling genes, lower reduction of shoot dry weight, and better nitrogen-fixing capacity observed for these plants. Upon re-watering, after 0.3 M NaCl treatment, Mt-1021 plants almost die whereas Mt-RD64 plants showed visual signs of recovery. Finally, the shoot dry weight of Mt-RD64 plants treated with 0.15 M NaCl was not statistically different from that of Mt-1021 plants grown under non-stressed conditions.

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