Differential Responses of CO2 Assimilation, Carbohydrate Allocation and Gene Expression to NaCl Stress in Perennial Ryegrass with Different Salt Tolerance

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Little is known about the effects of NaCl stress on perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) photosynthesis and carbohydrate flux. The objective of this study was to understand the carbohydrate metabolism and identify the gene expression affected by salinity stress. Seventy-four days old seedlings of two perennial ryegrass accessions (salt-sensitive ‘PI 538976’ and salt-tolerant ‘Overdrive’) were subjected to three levels of salinity stress for 5 days. Turf quality in all tissues (leaves, stems and roots) of both grass accessions negatively and significantly correlated with GFS (Glu+Fru+Suc) content, except for ‘Overdrive’ stems. Relative growth rate (RGR) in leaves negatively and significantly correlated with GFS content in ‘Overdrive’ (P<0.01) and ‘PI 538976’ (P<0.05) under salt stress. ‘Overdrive’ had higher CO2 assimilation and Fv/Fm than ‘PI 538976’. Intercellular CO2 concentration, however, was higher in ‘PI 538976’ treated with 400 mM NaCl relative to that with 200 mM NaCl. GFS content negatively and significantly correlated with RGR in ‘Overdrive’ and ‘PI 538976’ leaves and in ‘PI 538976’ stems and roots under salt stress. In leaves, carbohydrate allocation negatively and significantly correlated with RGR (r2 = 0.83, P<0.01) and turf quality (r2 = 0.88, P<0.01) in salt-tolerant ‘Overdrive’, however, the opposite trend for salt-sensitive ‘PI 538976’ (r2 = 0.71, P<0.05 for RGR; r2 = 0.62, P>0.05 for turf quality). A greater up-regulation in the expression of SPS, SS, SI, 6-SFT gene was observed in ‘Overdrive’ than ‘PI 538976’. A higher level of SPS and SS expression in leaves was found in ‘PI 538976’ relative to ‘Overdrive’. Accumulation of hexoses in roots, stems and leaves can induce a feedback repression to photosynthesis in salt-stressed perennial ryegrass and the salt tolerance may be changed with the carbohydrate allocation in leaves and stems.