The effects of nitric oxide on soybean superoxide dismutase activity during osmotic stress
Nitric oxide (NO) is a signaling molecule involved in mediating plant responses to various biotic and abiotic stresses. Major abiotic stresses (drought, salinity, cold) induce common cellular responses, causing osmotic stress in plants. This results in oxidative stress due to increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The increased ROS levels simultaneously induce the antioxidative system (including antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase) that regulates ROS toxicity and enhance stress tolerance in plants. It is suggested that the scavenging of ROS by antioxidant enzymes can be controlled by NO. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of exogenously applied NO on soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.) during osmotic stress, with the purpose of determining the effects of NO on the superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in response to osmotic stress. This study also aimed at identifying and characterising SOD isoforms induced in soybean in response to osmotic stress and exogenous NO. To achieve these aims, soybean plants were treated with sorbitol (to induce osmotic stress), an NO donor [2,2'-(hydroxynitrosohydrazono)bis-ethanimine, DETA/NO] and its respective control (Diethylenetriamine, DETA). The results showed that exogenous NO alleviated osmotic stress-induced damage by reducing the superoxide radical content, lipid peroxidation levels and also maintaining cell viability in soybean leaves, nodules and roots. Only two SOD isoforms i.e. manganese SOD (MnSOD) and copper/zinc SOD (CuZnSOD) were identified and characterised in soybean leaves and roots, iron SOD (FeSOD) was not induced. The isoforms identified exhibited low SOD activity in response to osmotic stress, with the exception of a few isoforms that had increased activity. The SOD activity was regulated by exogenously applied NO. The enzymatic activity of SOD isoforms was up-regulated by exogenous NO, except for a few SOD isoforms that were not responsive to NO. The results also showed that the increased SOD activity was associated with reduced lipid peroxidation levels. The results obtained from this study suggest that exogenous NO improves osmotic stress tolerance in soybean by regulating and increasing the SOD activity of only specific isoforms. The increased SOD activity maintains the redox homeostasis balance by detoxifying and controlling the superoxide radical levels, subsequently reducing lipid peroxidation and maintaining cell viability.