The effect of polyethylene glycol-induced drought stress on photosynthesis, carbohydrates and cell membrane in Stevia rebaudiana grown in greenhouse

  • Shokoofeh Hajihashemi
  • Adriano SofoEmail author
Original Article


Drought stress is one of the major environmental stresses that limit crop production in arid regions. A greenhouse culture experiment was conducted to evaluate the response of an agronomically and economically important sweet medical herb (Stevia rebaudiana) to polyethylene glycol (PEG 6000)-induced drought stress (5, 10, and 15% (w/v) PEG, equivalent to leaf water potentials of − 0.49, − 1.40 and − 2.93 MPa, respectively) for 1 month. Plant mass, a major determinant of Stevia yield, showed a reduction after PEG treatments. PEG-reduced photosynthesis traits included the maximal quantum yield of photosystem II (Fv/Fm), efficiency of photosystems I and II (PIabs), intercellular CO2, net photosynthesis, chlorophylls, carotenoids and water use efficiency, followed by the reduction of carbohydrates. Under PEG treatment, the reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation occurred and plants exhibited an increase in H2O2 generation. Consequently, an increase in malondialdehyde and electrolyte leakage was evident in PEG treatment, indicating membrane lipid peroxidation. In PEG-treated plants, the ROS accumulation was accompanied by an increase in activity of some enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants. Leaf extracts of PEG-treated plants showed lower superoxide anion, hydroxyl and nitric oxide radical scavenging activity than control plants. Drought stress also caused the accumulation of the compatible solutes proline and glycine betaine. Collectively, the results demonstrated that PEG-induced oxidative stress, due to insufficient antioxidant mechanisms, provoked damages to cell membrane and photosynthetic apparatus, with consequently reduced carbohydrates and plant growth. These results are of basic importance as vegetative growth is the major determining criterion for Stevia crops and adequate irrigation is crucial for obtaining higher yield.


Antioxidants Carbohydrates Lipid peroxidation Photosynthesis Oxidative stress Stevia rebaudiana 



This research has not received any financial support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Franciszek Górski Institute of Plant Physiology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plant Biology Department, Faculty of ScienceBehbahan Khatam Alanbia University of TechnologyKhuzestanIran
  2. 2.School of Agricultural, Forestry, Food and Environmental SciencesUniversità degli Studi della BasilicataPotenzaItaly

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