Plants accumulate a number of osmoprotective substances in response to NaCl stress, one of them being proline (Pro). While characterizing some of the changes in solute accumulation in NaCl-stressed rice (Oryza sativa L.), we identified several other potential osmoprotectants. One such substance, trehalose, begins to accumulate in small amounts in roots after 3 d. We performed a series of experiments to compare the effects of Pro and trehalose on ion accumulation to determine whether the two chemicals protect the same physiological processes. We found that Pro either has no effect or, in some cases, exasperates the effect of NaCl on growth inhibition, chlorophyll loss, and induction of a highly sensitive marker for plant stress, the osmotically regulated salT gene. By contrast, low to moderate concentrations of trehalose reduce Na+ accumulation, salT expression, and growth inhibition. Somewhat higher concentrations (10 mM) prevent NaCl-induced loss of chlorophyll in blades, preserve root integrity, and enhance growth. The results of this study indicate that during osmotic stress trehalose or carbohydrates might be more important for rice than Pro.
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