Alterations in photosynthetic pigments, protein and osmotic components in cotton genotypes subjected to short-term drought stress followed by recovery
In order to assess drought tolerance mechanism in cotton, short-term drought-induced biochemical responses were monitored in two cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) genotypes contrasting their tolerance to water deficit. The seeds of two genotypes, namely GM 090304 (moderately drought tolerant) and Ca/H 631 (drought sensitive), were sown in pots containing soil, sand and peat in the ratio of 1:1:1, and irrigated every alternate day up to 45 days after sowing when each genotype was subjected to a cycle of water stress by withholding irrigation for 7 days. The stress cycle was terminated by re-watering the stressed plants for 7 days. The leaf of the drought tolerant genotype (GM 090304) maintained higher relative water content under water stress than that of the drought sensitive genotype (Ca/H 631). The levels of biochemical components, such as chlorophylls, carotenoids, total protein, free proline, total free amino acids, sugars, starch and polyphenols, were measured during the stress as well as the recovery periods. The chlorophylls, carotenoids, protein and starch contents decreased in drought stressed plants as compared to control and tended to increase when the plants were recovered from stress. The degree of decrease in chlorophylls, carotenoids and protein contents under drought was higher in the sensitive genotype (Ca/H 631) as compared to the moderately tolerant genotype (GM 090304). However, proline, total free amino acids, total sugars, reducing sugars and polyphenol contents were increased in drought stressed plants and tended to decrease during the period of recovery. Drought-induced increases in total free amino acids, proline, sugars and polyphenols were significantly higher in the moderately tolerant genotype (GM 090304) than in the sensitive genotype (Ca/H 631). These results suggest that proline, sugars and polyphenols act as main compatible solutes in cotton in order to maintain osmotic balance, to protect cellular macromolecules, to detoxify the cells, and to scavenge free radicals under water stress condition.