Comprehensive physiological analyses and reactive oxygen species profiling in drought tolerant rice genotypes under salinity stress
Drought, salinity and alkalinity are distinct forms of osmotic stress with serious impacts on rice productivity. We investigated, for a salt-sensitive rice cultivar, the response to osmotically equivalent doses of these stresses. Drought, experimentally mimicked by mannitol (single factor: osmotic stress), salinity (two factors: osmotic stress and ion toxicity), and alkalinity (three factors: osmotic stress, ion toxicity, and depletion of nutrients and protons) produced different profiles of adaptive and damage responses, both locally (in the root) as well as systemically (in the shoot). The combination of several stress factors was not necessarily additive, and we even observed cases of mitigation, when two (salinity), or three stressors (alkalinity) were compared to the single stressor (drought). The response to combinations of individual stress factors is therefore not a mere addition of the partial stress responses, but rather represents a new quality of response. We interpret this finding in a model, where the output to signaling molecules is not determined by their abundance per se, but qualitatively depends on their adequate integration into an adaptive signaling network. This output generates a systemic signal that will determine the quality of the shoot response to local concentrations of ions.