1College of Enology, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China2Institute of Biology II, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany3Shaanxi Engineering Research Center for Viti-Viniculture, Yangling, China
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Grapes are an important economic crop and are widely cultivated around the world. Most grapes are grown in arid or semi-arid regions, and droughts take a heavy toll in grape and wine production areas. Developing effective drought-resistant cultivation measures is a priority for viticulture. Melatonin, an indoleamine, mediates many physiological processes in plants. Herein, we examined whether exogenously applied melatonin could improve the resistance of wine grape seedlings grown from cuttings to polyethylene glycol-induced water-deficient stress. The application of 10% polyethylene glycol (PEG) markedly inhibited the growth of cuttings, caused oxidative stress and damage from H2O2 and Symbol, and reduced the potential efficiency of Photosystem II and the amount of chlorophyll. Application of melatonin partially alleviated the oxidative injury to cuttings, slowed the decline in the potential efficiency of Photosystem II, and limited the effects on leaf thickness, spongy tissue, and stoma size after application of PEG. Melatonin treatment also helped preserve the internal lamellar system of chloroplasts and alleviated the ultrastructural damage induced by drought stress. This ameliorating effect may be ascribed to the enhanced activity of antioxidant enzymes, increased levels of nonenzymatic antioxidants, and increased amount of osmoprotectants (free proline). We conclude that the application of melatonin to wine grapes is effective in reducing drought stress.