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Physiological characteristics of three wild Sonchus species to prolonged drought tolerance in arid regions

Peng-Yan Jia, Li-Xia Zhang, Ze Huang, Fu-Ping Tian, Yu Hu and Gao-Lin Wu

Drought is one of the main abiotic factors determining plants growth and productivity in arid and semiarid regions. Understanding the physiological responses of wild plants to drought in different growth stages is essential to evaluate their ability of drought tolerance and allow identification and selection of valuable tolerant plants to be cultivated and introduced in arid and semiarid regions. Three wild Sonchus species, Sonchus oleraceus L., Sonchus wightianus DC. and Sonchus uliginosus M. B. were compared regarding some physiological indexes in leaves such as antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase and peroxidase), malondialdehyde, osmotic solutes (proline, soluble sugar and soluble protein), photosynthetic pigments (total chlorophyll, chlorophyll a, chlorophyll b and carotenoid) under the natural condition at seeding stage, flowering stage and maturation stage respectively. Comparing to S. uliginosus and S. wightianus, S. oleraceus had the higher peroxidase (POD) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activities and total chlorophyll (Chla+b) and carotenoid (Car) content in three growth stages, and the higher proline content at flowering and maturation stage and the lower malondialdehyde (MDA) content at seeding stage and flowering stage. But the ratio of Chla/Chlb and Car/Chla+b in S. uliginosus were significantly higher than that in S. oleraceus and S. wightianus. These findings suggested that S. oleraceus had the higher tolerance to prolonged drought than S. wightianus and S. uliginosus due to the better capacity to prevent oxidative damage to cellular components and osmoregulation and photosynthetic ability and S. uliginosus were more photo-protected under drought. The research results were instructive for cultivation and introduction of S. oleraceus in arid and semiarid regions

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