Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 84, Issue 2, pp 383–394 | Cite as

Ecophysiological and phytochemical responses of Salvia sinaloensis Fern. to drought stress

  • Matteo Caser
  • Francesca D’Angiolillo
  • Walter Chitarra
  • Claudio Lovisolo
  • Barbara Ruffoni
  • Luisa Pistelli
  • Laura Pistelli
  • Valentina Scariot
Original paper


Salvia sinaloensis Fern. (sage) is a medicinal plant containing plant secondary metabolites (PSMs) with antioxidant properties. The current study investigated the effects of drought stress on S. sinaloensis morphological and ecophysiological traits, and active constituent production. Sage plants were cultivated in controlled conditions for 34 days and exposed to full irrigation as control, half irrigation, or no irrigation. Changes in growth index (G.I.), dry biomass, leaf water potential (LWP), physiological parameters, active compounds, volatilome (BVOCs) and essential oils (EOs) were determined. Not irrigated plants showed a decrease in total chlorophyll content (~ − 14.7%) and growth (G.I., ~ − 59.4%) from day 18, and dry biomass at day 21 (− 56%), when the complete leaf withering occurred (LWP, − 1.10 MPa). Moderate drought stressed plants showed similar trends for chlorophyll content and growth but kept a constant LWP (− 0.35 MPa) and dry biomass throughout the experiment, as control plants. Carotenoids were not affected by water regimes. The photosynthetic apparatus tolerated mild to severe water deficits, without a complete stomatal closure. Plants under both stress conditions increased the percentage of phenols and flavonoids and showed altered BVOC and EO chemical profiles. Interestingly Camphor, the main EO oxygenated monoterpene, increased in moderate stressed plants while the sesquiterpene hydrocarbon Germacrene D decreased. The same trend was seen in the headspace under stress severity. The data evidenced a possible role of the active molecules in the response of S. sinaloensis plants to drought stress. Taking together, these findings point at S. sinaloensis as a potential drought adaptive species, which could be used in breeding strategies to obtain sages with high quality PSMs, saving irrigation water.


Antioxidant activity BVOCs Drought stress EOs Monoterpenes Sage 



Biogenic volatile organic compounds


Essential pils


Plant secondary metabolites


Medicinal and aromatic plants


Container capacity


Leaf water potential


Internal CO2 concentration


Transpiration rate


Stomatal conductance


Net photosynthetic rate


Growth index


Ferric reducing antioxidant power


Ferric tripyridyl triazine


Solid phase micro extraction


Gas chromatography–electron impact mass spectrometry


Water use efficiency


Fresh weight


Dry weight



This research was partially funded by the INTERREG-ALCOTRA 2007–2013 Project “AROMA” (n. 68). Authors acknowledged Claudio Cervelli and Paolo Lo Turco for plant furnishing and multiplication.

Supplementary material

10725_2017_349_MOESM1_ESM.docx (30 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 29 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food SciencesUniversity of TorinoGrugliasco (TO)Italy
  2. 2.Department of Agriculture, Food, and EnvironmentUniversity of PisaPisaItaly
  3. 3.CREA-OF, Ornamental Species Research UnitSanremo (IM)Italy
  4. 4.Department of PharmacyUniversity of PisaPisaItaly
  5. 5.Institute for Sustainable Plant ProtectionNational Research Council (IPSP-CNR)Torino (TO)Italy
  6. 6.CREA-VE, Viticulture and Enology Research CentreConegliano (TV)Italy

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