Flooding is a frequently occurring environmental stress that can severely affect plant growth. This study shows that treatment of corn (Zea mays L.) seedlings with abscisic acid (ABA) increases their tolerance to anoxia 10-fold over untreated seedlings and twofold over seedlings treated with water. Corn seedlings stressed anoxically for 1 day showed only 8% survival when planted in vermiculite. Pretreatment of root tips with 100 micromolar ABA or water for 24 hours before the 1 day anoxic stress increased the anoxic survivability of seedlings to 87% and 47%, respectively. Cycloheximide (5 milligrams per liter), added together with ABA, reduced the seedling survival rate, indicating that the induction of anoxic tolerance in corn by ABA was partly a result of the synthesis of new proteins. ABA treatment induced a threefold increase in alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme activity in corn roots. However, after 24 h of anoxia, alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme activity between the ABA-pretreated and non-pretreated corn roots was not significantly different. The results indicated that ABA played an important role in inducing anoxic tolerance in corn and that the induced tolerance was probably mediated by an increase in alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme activity before the anoxic stress.
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