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Front. Plant Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.00499

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi alleviate drought stress in C3 (Leymus chinensis) and C4 (Hemarthria altissima) grasses via altering antioxidant enzyme activities and photosynthesis

Junqin Li1, Bo Meng1, Hua Chai1, Xuechen Yang1, Wenzheng Song1, Shuixiu Li1, Ao Lu1,  Tao Zhang1* and  Wei Sun1*
  • 1Northeast Normal University, China

As one of the most important limiting factors of grassland productivity, drought is predicted to increase in intensity and frequency. Greenhouse studies suggest that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can improve plant drought resistance. However, whether AMF can improve plant drought resistance in field conditions and whether the effects of AMF on drought resistance differ among plants with different photosynthetic pathways remain unclear. To evaluate the effect of indigenous AMF on plant drought resistance, an in situ rainfall exclusion experiment was conducted in a temperate meadow in northeast China. The results showed that AMF significantly reduced the negative effects of drought on plant growth. On average, AMF enhanced plant biomass, photosynthetic rate (A), stomatal conductance (gs), intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity of the C3 species Leymus chinensis by 58%, 63%, 38%, 15% and 45%, respectively, reduced levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) by 32% under light and moderate drought (rainfall exclusion of 30% and 50%, respectively). However, under extreme drought (rainfall exclusion of 70%), AMF elevated only aboveground biomass and catalase (CAT) activities. Averagely, AMF increased the aboveground biomass, A and CAT activity of Hemarthria altissima (C4) by 37%, 28% and 30%, respectively, under light and moderate droughts. The contribution of AMF to plant drought resistance was higher for the C3 species than that for the C4 species under both light and moderate drought conditions. The results highlight potential photosynthetic type differences in the magnitude of AMF associated enhancement in plant drought resistance. Therefore, AMF may determine plant community structure under future climate change scenarios by affecting the drought resistance of different plant functional groups.

Keywords: AMF, Climate Change, drought resistance, C3 and C4 species, Antioxidant enzyme activities, Photosynthesis

Received: 28 Jan 2019; Accepted: 01 Apr 2019.

Edited by:

Pablo Cornejo, Universidad de La Frontera, Chile

Reviewed by:

Rosa Porcel, Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain
Nieves Goicoechea, University of Navarra, Spain  

Copyright: © 2019 Li, Meng, Chai, Yang, Song, Li, Lu, Zhang and Sun. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Prof. Tao Zhang, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, 130024, Jilin Province, China,
Prof. Wei Sun, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, 130024, Jilin Province, China,