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Plant Signal Behav. 2012 Mar;7(3):349-60. doi: 10.4161/psb.18967. Epub 2012 Mar 1.

Caspase-like enzymatic activity and the ascorbate-glutathione cycle participate in salt stress tolerance of maize conferred by exogenously applied nitric oxide.

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Department of Biotechnology; University of the Western Cape; Bellville, South Africa.


Salinity stress causes ionic stress (mainly from high Na⁺ and Cl⁻ levels) and osmotic stress (as a result of inhibition of water uptake by roots and amplified water loss from plant tissue), resulting in cell death and inhibition of growth and ultimately adversely reducing crop productivity. In this report, changes in root nitric oxide content, shoot and root biomass, root H₂O₂ content, root lipid peroxidation, root cell death, root caspase-like enzymatic activity, root antioxidant enzymatic activity and root ascorbate and glutathione contents/redox states were investigated in maize (Zea mays L. cv Silverking) after long-term (21 d) salt stress (150 mM NaCl) with or without exogenously applied nitric oxide generated from the nitric oxide donor 2,2'-(Hydroxynitrosohydrazano)bis-ethane. In addition to reduced shoot and root biomass, salt stress increased the nitric oxide and H₂O₂ contents in the maize roots and resulted in elevated lipid peroxidation, caspase-like activity and cell death in the roots. Altered antioxidant enzymatic activities, along with changes in ascorbate and glutathione contents/redox status were observed in the roots in response to salt stress. The detrimental effects of salt stress in the roots were reversed by exogenously applied nitric oxide. These results demonstrate that exogenously applied nitric oxide confers salt stress tolerance in maize by reducing salt stress-induced oxidative stress and caspase-like activity through a process that limits accumulation of reactive oxygen species via enhanced antioxidant enzymatic activity.

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