A highly osmotolerant rhizobial strain confers a better tolerance of nitrogen fixation and enhances protective activities to nodules of Phaseolus vulgaris under drought stress
The effect of water deficiency on nodules of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) inoculated with three rhizobial strains differing in their osmotolerance, was investigated in two different experiments on sterile sand. In the first experiment, the control plants were maintained at 90% field capacity (FC) and water-deficient plants were grown at 35% FC. The nitrogen fixation and growth parameters drastically decreased under water deficiency, however the three rhizobial strains, Rhizobium etli A32 (sensitive), Rhizobium tropici CIAT899 (tolerant), and Ensifer meliloti 4H41 (highly tolerant), showed different symbiotic performances. E. meliloti 4H41 allowed the best acetylene reduction activity (ARA) and biomass production and the highest number of large-sized nodules, while no significant effect was observed on lipid peroxidation, protein and legheamoglobin contents. The effect on antioxidant activities was the lowest. In the second experiment, plants were maintained at 90% FC during 45 days and then watering was stopped. The results showed that, the response to water deficit was quite similar for the three analyzed symbioses until 35% FC, but below this value of FC, symbiosis involving strain E. meliloti 4H41 was the most tolerant. This tolerance was accompanied, by in both experiments, by a stability of metabolic indices and protective antioxidant activities. These results suggest that, the relative tolerance of the nodules induced by strain 4H41 could be due to a constructive adaptation involving specific cortex structure and stress-adapted metabolic activities acquired during nodule formation and growth, rather than to a timely inducible response due to the stimulation of antioxidant enzymes. This suggestion should be confirmed through microscopic structure analysis and supplemental key enzymes in nodule metabolism such as sucrose synthase and malate dehydrogenase.
Key words: Antioxidant activities, in pots experiment, leghemoglobin content, nodule, rhizobia, osmotolerance, symbiotic efficiency, water deficiency.