3,3'-diindolylmethane improves drought tolerance of Zea mays through enhancing antioxidant activity
Basson, Gerhard Leroy
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Maize is one of the most abundantly produced cereals and contributes to about 40% of the global cereal production. This figure will have to increase in order to feed the ever-growing human population. One of the major environmental constraints that impact maize production is drought. Plants use antioxidant defences to cope with drought stress. Understanding and improving these defence mechanisms will be important to improve overall drought tolerance. A previous study done by Gokul and authors in 2016 showed that 3,3’-diindolylmethane (DIM) improves both seed germination and seedling shoot growth in Brassica napus. Plants belonging to the Brassicaceae family have the metabolic machinery to synthesize glucosinolates such as DIM, which play vital roles in physiological and stress responses. These responses have not been investigated in plants such as maize, which lack the machinery to produce DIM. Therefore, this study investigated the effects of exogenously applied DIM on the physiological and biochemical responses of maize under drought stress. Physiological parameters such as relative water content, chlorophyll content and lipid peroxidation, were determined in order to understand how drought and DIM , as separate or combined treatments, affected the plants. Additionally, proline accumulation was also assessed because free proline plays a role as an osmoprotectant during stress. The accumulation of ROS, namely hydrogen peroxide, was measured using spectrophotometric assays to determine how the above treatments affect ROS accumulation in maize. As a result of changes in the ROS content in due to the treatments, it would only be natural to investigate the changes in antioxidants as well. Given that hydrogen peroxide was the ROS to be measured, we therefore investigated the antioxidant enzymatic activities responsible for hydrogen peroxide scavenging. Therefore, changes in Ascorbate peroxidase (APX) and catalase (CAT) were assessed. An improved drought response was observed in maize plants treated with DIM as these plants had better ability to maintain their water status than when no DIM was applied. This is indicated by water-deprived plants treated with DIM having a higher RWC than water-deprived plant without DIM.