Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 131–136 | Cite as

Chitosan enhances leaf membrane stability and antioxidant enzyme activities in apple seedlings under drought stress

  • Feng Yang
  • Jingjiang Hu
  • Jianlong Li
  • Xiaoling Wu
  • Yurong Qian
Brief Communication


Chitosan is a cationic marine polysaccharide with unique bioactive properties that make it an effective scavenger of reactive oxygen species. Chitosan application has been suggested as an aid for reducing oxidative injury caused by drought stress in crop plants. In order to confirm the antioxidant effects of exogenous chitosan, cell membrane stability and antioxidant enzyme activities were analyzed in leaves of apple seedlings placed under a period of drought stress. Pretreatment of apple seedling leaves with chitosan solution (20, 50, 100, 150 and 200 mg l−1) prior to drought stress significantly decreased electrolyte leakage and the production of malondialdehyde in the leaves, while increasing antioxidant enzyme activities (superoxide dismutase, catalase), following imposition of drought stress conditions. An optimum response was obtained at a chitosan concentration of 100 mg l−1. When apple seedlings were pretreated with 100 mg l−1 of chitosan, cell membrane stability and antioxidant enzyme activities were enhanced for 21 days of drought treatment. Following restoration of moisture and a repeated drought stress, similar results were obtained on day 35. It is proposed that chitosan may act as an exogenous antioxidant that enhances resistance to oxidative stress during drought.


Antioxidative enzymes Chitosan Lipid peroxidation Malus sieversii Oxidative stress 





Drought stress


Electrolyte leakage


Fresh weight




Reactive oxygen species


Superoxide dismutase


Well watered



We are grateful to professor Mrs. Marilyn White (Brigham Young University, USA) for the critical reading of the manuscript. Illuminating comments from the chief editor and anonymous reviewers are also appreciated. This research was mainly supported by “The National High Technology Research and Development Program (“863”Program) of China (2007AA10Z231)” and “The National Key Fund Project (30230230)”.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Feng Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jingjiang Hu
    • 2
  • Jianlong Li
    • 1
  • Xiaoling Wu
    • 3
  • Yurong Qian
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, School of Life ScienceNanjing UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Life ScienceNorthwest Science and Technology University of Agriculture and ForestryYanglingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.School of AgricultureNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China

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