BackgroundExcessive soil salinity is an important problem for agriculture, however, salt tolerance is a complex trait that is not easily bred into plants. Exposure of cultivated tomato to salt stress has been reported to result in increased antioxidant content and activity. Salt tolerance of the related wild species, Solanum pennellii, has also been associated with similar changes in antioxidants. In this work, S. lycopersicum M82, S. pennellii LA716 and a S. pennellii introgression line (IL) population were evaluated for growth and their levels of antioxidant activity (total water-soluble antioxidant activity), major antioxidant compounds (phenolic and flavonoid contents) and antioxidant enzyme activities (superoxide dismutase, catalase, ascorbate peroxidase and peroxidase) under both control and salt stress (150 mM NaCl) conditions. These data were then used to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) responsible for controlling the antioxidant parameters under both stress and nonstress conditions.
ResultsUnder control conditions, cultivated tomato had higher levels of all antioxidants (except superoxide dismutase) than S. pennellii. However, under salt stress, the wild species showed greater induction of all antioxidants except peroxidase. The ILs showed diverse responses to salinity and proved very useful for the identification of QTL. Thus, 125 loci for antioxidant content under control and salt conditions were detected. Eleven of the total antioxidant activity and phenolic content QTL matched loci identified in an independent study using the same population, thereby reinforcing the validity of the loci. In addition, the growth responses of the ILs were evaluated to identify lines with favorable growth and antioxidant profiles.
ConclusionsPlants have a complex antioxidant response when placed under salt stress. Some loci control antioxidant content under all conditions while others are responsible for antioxidant content only under saline or nonsaline conditions. The localization of QTL for these traits and the identification of lines with specific antioxidant and growth responses may be useful for breeding potentially salt tolerant tomato cultivars having higher antioxidant levels under nonstress and salt stress conditions.