Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus Rhizophagus irregularis alleviates drought stress in soybean with overexpressing the GmSPL9d gene by promoting photosynthetic apparatus and regulating the antioxidant system.Microbiol Res. 2023 Aug; 273:127398.MR
Drought is the most destructive abiotic stress and negatively affects crop growth and productivity. Modern breeding efforts have produced numerous cultivars with distinct genetic traits that improve crop growth and drought stress tolerance. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can enhance drought tolerance in soybean plants by directly providing nutrients to plants, promoting photosynthesis, or influencing interspecific plant interactions in natural communities. However, the interactions between AMF and wild and transgenic soybean genotypes remain unclear. Therefore, in the present study, we evaluated the effect of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on the growth performance of drought-stressed transgenic soybean lines (ZXOE-11 and ZXOE-13) overexpressing GmSPL9d gene and their wild soybean Tianlong 1 (TL1) at the seedling stage (45 d after sowing). The results showed that colonization of wild and transgenic soybean with Rhizophagus irregularis significantly decreased the adverse effects of drought on plant growth. AMF inoculation significantly increased plant biomass, root activity, chlorophyll metabolism, photosynthesis, and chlorophyll fluorescence in wild-type and transgenic plants under both control and drought stress conditions. Drought causes the production of ROS, such as hydrogen peroxide, which enhances MDA, thereby decreasing the membrane stability index (MSI). However, AMF-inoculated plants exhibited decreased ROS accumulation and increased MSI. Moreover, AMF treatment significantly improved osmolyte, nitrogen, and nitrate reductase activity under control and drought conditions, which increased the relative water content. Furthermore, AMF treatment enhanced the antioxidant systems of drought-stressed plants by increasing the activities of peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, catalase, and ascorbate peroxidase. AMF improved the growth performance, photosynthesis, and antioxidant activity of transgenic plants under drought stress conditions. The present findings indicate that the AMF contribution to soybean seedling drought tolerance was more significant for the transgenic plants than for the wild plants under drought conditions. The current findings emphasize the possibility of growth and photosynthetic variation in the degree of AMF-associated drought resistance in soybean plants. Our findings suggest that future crop breeding challenges include developing cultivars for sustainable production and maximizing crop cultivar and fungal species (AMF) combinations in drought-stressed regions.