Plant Physiology and Biochemistry 49 (2011) 1333-1341
Chenopodium quinoa (Willd.) is an Andean plant showing a remarkable tolerance to abiotic stresses. In Chile, quinoa populations display a high degree of genetic distancing, and variable tolerance to salinity. To investigate which tolerance mechanisms might account for these differences, four genotypes from coastal central and southern regions were compared for their growth, physiological, and molecular responses to NaCl at seedling stage. Seeds were sown on agar plates supplemented with 0, 150 or 300 mM NaCl. Germination was significantly reduced by NaCl only in accession BO78. Shoot length was reduced by 150 mM NaCl in three out of four genotypes, and by over 60% at 300 mM (except BO78 which remained more similar to controls). Root length was hardly affected or even enhanced at 150 mM in all four genotypes, but inhibited, especially in BO78, by 300 mM NaCl. Thus, the root/shoot ratio was differentially affected by salt, with the highest values in PRJ, and the lowest in BO78. Biomass was also less affected in PRJ than in the other accessions, the genotype with the highest increment in proline concentration upon salt treatment. Free putrescine declined dramatically in all genotypes under 300 mM NaCl; however (spermidine spermine)/putrescine ratios were higher in PRJ than BO78. Quantitative RT-PCR analyses of two sodium transporter genes, CqSOS1 and CqNHX, revealed that their expression was differentially induced at the shoot and root level, and between genotypes, by 300 mM NaCl. Expression data are discussed in relation to the degree of salt tolerance in the different accessions.