Journal of Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 463–478 | Cite as

Physiological and Transcriptomics Analyses Reveal that Ascophyllum nodosum Extracts Induce Salinity Tolerance in Arabidopsis by Regulating the Expression of Stress Responsive Genes

  • M. N. Jithesh
  • Pushp S. Shukla
  • P. Kant
  • Jyoti Joshi
  • Alan T. Critchley
  • B. PrithivirajEmail author


Extracts of the brown alga, Ascophyllum nodosum, are widely used as plant biostimulants to improve growth and to impart tolerance against abiotic stresses. However, the molecular mechanisms by which A. nodosum extract (ANE) mediates stress tolerance are still largely unknown. The aim of this study was to study selected anti-stress mechanisms at the transcriptome level. We show that methanolic sub-fractions of ANE improved growth of Arabidopsis thaliana under NaCl stress; biomass increased by approximately 50% under 100 mM and 150 mM NaCl, relative to the control. Bioassay-guided fractionation revealed that the ethyl acetate sub-fraction of ANE (EAA) had the majority of stress alleviating, bioactive components. Microarray analysis showed that EAA elicited substantial changes in the global transcriptome on day 1 and day 5, after treatment. On day one, 184 genes were up-regulated while this number increased to 257 genes on day 5. On the other hand, 91 and 262 genes were down-regulated on day 1 and day 5, respectively. On day 1, 2.2% of the genes altered were abiotic stress regulated and this increased to 6% on day 5. EAA modulate the expression of number of the genes involved in stress responses, carbohydrate metabolism, and phenylpropanoid metabolism. Thus, our results suggested that bioactive components in the ethyl acetate fraction of A. nodosum induced salinity tolerance in A. thaliana by modulating the expression of a plethora of stress-responsive genes, providing a better understanding of the mechanisms through which ANE mediates tolerance by plants to salinity stress.


Ascophyllum nodosum Arabidopsis Bioactive compounds Salinity stress Organic extracts 



Authors are grateful for the valuable suggestions of Dr. Dhirti Battacharya and Emily Mantin for reading the manuscript. The work reported in this paper was partly funded by Atlantic Innovation Fund program of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Acadian Seaplants Limited.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be considered as a potential conflict of interest. Authors declare no conflict of interest, financial or non-financial.

Supplementary material

344_2018_9861_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (333 kb)
Fig. S1 Methanolic extract of A. nodosum (MEA) impart protection against salinity stress. Two-week-old Arabidopsis were subjected to two different concentrations 100 and 150 mM NaCl. (A) Leaf Area (sq cm), (B) Plant Height (cm), (C) Leaf Number and (D) Fresh weight (mg). Fig. S2 Growth parameters of A. thaliana in the presence of salinity supplemented with different organic sub-fraction of A. nodosum (ANE): (A) Plant Height (cm) (B) Fresh weight (mg) (C) Leaf Number and (D) Leaf Area (sq cm) of Arabidopsis. Experiments without the NaCl treatments and quantification performed with or without the different sub-fraction treatment served as a control. Fig. S3 Relative root growth of Arabidopsis with different concentrations of EAA under salt stress. Relative root length of Arabidopsis upon treatment with different concentrations of EAA (0.1, 0.25, 0.5, 1.0 g L-1 equivalents of seaweed extract). The average root length (from 30 seedlings) was measured after 3 days of transferring to ½ MS plates supplemented with different concentrations of EAA under NaCl stress (100mM). Fig. S4 Salt stress sensitivity of wild-type (Col-0), sos mutants grown on vertical plates. Four-day-old seedlings of WT, cat2hp1, cat2hp2, sos1, sos2, sos3 were transferred from MS medium (1/2 x) to MS media containing 0 mM NaCl (A), 75 mM NaCl (B) or 75 mM NaCl supplemented with EAA (C). Seedlings were allowed to grow for 5 d. Fig. S5 Comparison of level of gene expression between EAA (A, B) and MEA (C, D) treatments. The relation between the 1.5-fold difference and statistical significance using t test are presented by volcano plots in EAA and MEA treatments at day 1 and day 5 post treatments. Fig. S6 Heat map representing the clustering of differentially expressed genes on day1 and day 5 of the application of EAA in the presence of 150 mM NaCl. The fold change expression data represented in this figure is obtained from three replicates. Color scale represents the normalized fold induction is presented in the figure: green represents high expression and red represents low expression. Fig. S7 Heat map representing the clustering of differentially expressed genes on day1 and day 5 of the application of MEA in the presence of 150 mM NaCl. The fold change expression data represented in this figure is obtained from three replicates. Color scale represents the normalized fold induction is presented in the figure: green represents high expression and red represents low expression. Fig. S8 MIPS classification of genes regulated by EAA treatments. Functional Classification (FunCat) of genes performed based on MIPS ( was used to analyze the GO categories of differentially regulated genes increased by EAA (A, B) and decreased by the treatment (C, D) over two days (day 1 and day 5). Figure shows the results of normalizing the frequency for the number of gene in each category to the frequency of the number of genes in each category present on the ATH1 gene chip. IDs falling into classification categories other than unclassified and classification not yet clear-cut were removed from these categories. (PDF 332 KB)
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Authors and Affiliations

  • M. N. Jithesh
    • 1
  • Pushp S. Shukla
    • 1
  • P. Kant
    • 1
  • Jyoti Joshi
    • 2
  • Alan T. Critchley
    • 3
  • B. Prithiviraj
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Marine Bio-products Research Laboratory, Department of Plant, Food and Environmental SciencesDalhousie UniversityTruroCanada
  2. 2.Department of Plant, Food and Environmental SciencesDalhousie UniversityTruroCanada
  3. 3.Research and DevelopmentAcadian Seaplants LimitedDartmouthCanada

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