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PLoS One. 2011 Apr 28;6(4):e18862. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018862.

Rising from the sea: correlations between sulfated polysaccharides and salinity in plants.

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Laboratório de Tecido Conjuntivo, Instituto de Bioquímica Médica and Hospital Universitário Clementino Fraga Filho, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


High salinity soils inhibit crop production worldwide and represent a serious agricultural problem. To meet our ever-increasing demand for food, it is essential to understand and engineer salt-resistant crops. In this study, we evaluated the occurrence and function of sulfated polysaccharides in plants. Although ubiquitously present in marine algae, the presence of sulfated polysaccharides among the species tested was restricted to halophytes, suggesting a possible correlation with salt stress or resistance. To test this hypothesis, sulfated polysaccharides from plants artificially and naturally exposed to different salinities were analyzed. Our results revealed that the sulfated polysaccharide concentration, as well as the degree to which these compounds were sulfated in halophytic species, were positively correlated with salinity. We found that sulfated polysaccharides produced by Ruppia maritima Loisel disappeared when the plant was cultivated in the absence of salt. However, subjecting the glycophyte Oryza sativa Linnaeus to salt stress did not induce the biosynthesis of sulfated polysaccharides but increased the concentration of the carboxylated polysaccharides; this finding suggests that negatively charged cell wall polysaccharides might play a role in coping with salt stress. These data suggest that the presence of sulfated polysaccharides in plants is an adaptation to high salt environments, which may have been conserved during plant evolution from marine green algae. Our results address a practical biological concept; additionally, we suggest future strategies that may be beneficial when engineering salt-resistant crops.

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