Understanding the mechanisms underlying Argania spinosa responses to drought stress is essential for its regeneration and domestication. Toward that end, an integrative study of tolerance responses to drought stress in four A. spinosa ecotypes (2 contrasting coastal ecotypes (Adm and Rab) and 2 contrasting inland ecotypes (Alz and Lks)) have been conducted. Responses to soil drying and re-watering were measured at physiological and biochemical levels. Soil drying resulted in significant increase in leaf concentrations of potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) with differential responses between ecotypes. The glutathione-related enzymes: glutathione peroxidase (GP), glutathione reductase (GR) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) showed a significant increase in their enzymatic activity in A. spinosa plants subjected to drought stress. Additionally, a significant increase in thiol protein content in the four ecotypes was recorded, during drought stress. These antioxidant traits responded differently depending on ecotype. However, rapid and significant changes in the studied physiological and biochemical traits were observed during recovery from drought, only after four days. According to the traits having the most discriminating power, the both inland ecotypes, especially Lks ecotype, seem to be potential candidates for regeneration of argan forest and their domestication in arid and semi-arid environments.
Key words: Argania spinosa, drought stress, glutathione enzymes, thiol compounds, recovery.
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