Stem metabolism under drought stress – a paradox of increasing respiratory substrates and decreasing respiratory rates

Jesús Rodríguez-Calcerrada, Ana M. Rodrigues, Carla António, Pedro Perdiguero, Pilar Pita, Carmen Collada, Meng Li, Luis Gil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Metabolic changes underpinning drought-induced variations in stem respiration (Rs) are unknown. We measured Rs rates and metabolite and gene expression profiles in Ulmus minor Mill. and Quercus ilex L. seedlings subjected to increasing levels of drought stress to better understand how carbon, nitrogen and energy metabolism interact during drought. In both species, only plants showing extreme stress symptoms – i.e. negligible rates of leaf stomatal conductance and photosynthesis, and high stem dehydration (30–50% of maximum water storage) and contraction (50–150 μm week−1) – exhibited lower Rs rates than well-watered plants. Abundance of low-molecular weight sugars (e.g. glucose and fructose) and sugar alcohols (e.g. mannitol) increased with drought, at more moderate stress and to a higher extent in Q. ilex than U. minor. Abundance of amino acids increased at more severe stress, more abruptly, and to a higher extent in U. minor, coinciding with leaf senescence, which did not occur in Q. ilex. Organic acids changed less in response to drought: threonate and glycerate increased, and citrate decreased although slightly in both species. Transcripts of genes coding for enzymes of the Krebs cycle decreased in Q. ilex and increased in U. minor in conditions of extreme drought stress. The maintenance of Rs under severe growth and photosynthetic restrictions reveals the importance of stem mitochondrial activity in drought acclimation. The eventual decline in Rs diverts carbon substrates from entering the Krebs cycle that may help to cope with osmotic and oxidative stress during severe drought and to recover hydraulic functionality afterwards.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysiologia Plantarum
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Stem metabolism under drought stress – a paradox of increasing respiratory substrates and decreasing respiratory rates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this