Acta Physiologiae Plantarum

, 41:20 | Cite as

Oxidative damage and antioxidant mechanism in tomatoes responding to drought and heat stress

  • Rong Zhou
  • Lingpeng Kong
  • Xiaqing Yu
  • Carl-Otto Ottosen
  • Tongmin Zhao
  • Fangling Jiang
  • Zhen WuEmail author
Original Article


Abiotic stresses especially combined stress such as concurrence of drought and heat will influence crop production more seriously in the near future. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) worked as signal transduction molecule to accelerate plant response at abiotic stress conditions, the accumulation of which caused oxidative damage. Understanding the underlying effect of combined stress on the ROS metabolism and antioxidant mechanism in plant is a prerequisite for crop improvement in a changing climate. We aimed to explore the distinct response of the ROS production and its scavenging system in tomato at single and combined stress and to elucidate the crosstalk of tolerance mechanism. Thereby, dynamic changes in ROS metabolism and antioxidant mechanism in tomatoes at control, drought, heat and drought + heat (combined stress) were investigated. Two tomato cultivars (Sufen 14: CV1, Jinlingmeiyu: CV2) were applied to compare the cultivar difference. 6 days of drought and combined stress led to a sharp increase in H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) content and O2·− (superoxide radicals) production speed of both cultivars even though there were fluctuations from day 1 to day 5. Dramatic increase of SOD and APX activity and significant decrease of CAT activity occurred in both cultivars at all stresses on day 3. In contrast, combined stress significantly depressed the POD and CAT activity in both cultivars on day 6. The significant increase in MDA content was observed in CV1 at drought and combined stress and in CV2 at three stresses. Meanwhile, combined stress induced significant decrease in proline content only in CV1. The canopy area and stem diameter of both cultivars at the combined stress were smaller than single stress. We found that there was cultivar variation in heat tolerance but not in drought and combined stress tolerance. In conclusion, the stress tolerance of tomatoes at drought and heat is closely associated with its ability to respond to oxidative damage and regulation of ROS scavenging system with unique ROS response induced by the combined stress. This study not only increases our understanding of the complex ROS responses in plants to abiotic stress, but also provides knowledge to improve crop tolerance.


Tomato Reactive oxygen species Antioxidant enzyme Heat Drought 



Ascorbic acid peroxidase




Hydrogen peroxide




Singlet oxygen


Hydroxyl radical


Superoxide anion




Photosynthetic photon flux density


Relative humidity


Reactive oxygen species


Superoxide dismutase



The authors thank the funding from NSFC (National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 31601745) and Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (No. BK20160579, No. BK20140712). We acknowledge Mr. Duanyue Huang for their assistance during the experiments.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

We declared that there was no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11738_2019_2805_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 KB)
11738_2019_2805_MOESM2_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 18 KB)
11738_2019_2805_MOESM3_ESM.jpg (453 kb)
Supplementary material 3 The pictures of plants from Sufen 14 (CV1) and Jinlingmeiyu (CV2) at control, drought, heat and combined stress. The S1, S2, S3, S4, S5 and S6 indicated the 6 days of the stress treatment, while the R2 indicated the second day of the recovery treatment. In each sub-graph, the sequence of the treatments is control, drought, heat and combined stress from left to right. (JPG 452.808 KB)


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Copyright information

© Franciszek Górski Institute of Plant Physiology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rong Zhou
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lingpeng Kong
    • 1
  • Xiaqing Yu
    • 1
  • Carl-Otto Ottosen
    • 3
  • Tongmin Zhao
    • 2
  • Fangling Jiang
    • 1
  • Zhen Wu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.College of HorticultureNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Vegetable CropJiangsu Province Academy of Agricultural SciencesNanjingChina
  3. 3.Department of Food ScienceAarhus UniversityÅrslevDenmark

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