State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-ecosystems; Key Laboratory of Grassland Livestock Industry Innovation, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs; Engineering Research Center of Grassland Industry, Ministry of Education; College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and Technology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, 730000, PR China. Electronic address: [Email]
Haloxylon ammodendron, a C4 perennial, succulent and xero-halophytic shrub, is highly resistant to harsh environments, therefore, exploring the stress resistance mechanism will be beneficial for the use of xerophytes to prevent desertification. To determine osmotic adjustment (OA) and antioxidase functions under simulated drought stress, 8-week-old seedlings were treated with sorbitol solutions to maintain osmotic potentials (Ψs) at a control and -0.5 and -1.0 MPa. Under -0.5 MPa osmotic stress, H. ammodendron stably maintained the water content of assimilating branches, a result that was not significantly different from the result of the control group. Moreover, the Ψs decreased significantly, which helped plants absorb water efficiently from the environment, as H. ammodendron accumulated massive osmotic regulators in its assimilating branches to adjust shoot Ψs. Specifically, the contribution of Na+ to shoot Ψs was up to 45%, and Na+ became the main osmotic regulator of OA. During the treatments, the content and contribution of K+ remained stable. However, the total contribution of three organic osmotic regulators (free proline, betaine and soluble sugar) was only 20%, and betaine was the main organic osmotic regulator, accounting for approximately 15% of the 20% contribution. Moreover, H. ammodendron seedlings presented strong antioxidases, especially when there was a high activity level of superoxide dismutase, and with an increase in treatment time and degree of osmotic stress, the activity of peroxidase and catalase increased significantly. Substantial accumulation of osmotic adjustment substances was an important strategy for H. ammodendron to cope with simulated drought stress, in particular, H. ammodendron absorbed much Na+ and transported Na+ into the assimilating branch for OA. The scavenging of reactive oxygen species by antioxidases was another adaptation strategy for H. ammodendron to adapt to simulated drought stress.