Exogenous Glycinebetaine-Mediated Modulation of Abiotic Stress Tolerance in Plants: Possible Mechanisms

  • Tianpeng Zhang
  • Xinghong YangEmail author


Glycinebetaine (GB) is one of the most studied and effective compatible solutes, and the exogenous application of GB can improve the tolerance of numerous plant species to various types of abiotic stresses, such as low temperature, high temperature, salt, drought and heavy metals, thereby enhancing subsequent growth and yield. In this chapter, we summarize our understanding of the research on exogenous GB under abiotic stress as an adaptive mechanism, with particular emphasis on the new insights into the molecular and physiological mechanisms involved in the exogenous GB-mediated modulation of abiotic stress tolerance in plants.


Glycinebetaine Exogenous application Abiotic stress Antioxidative defence Photosynthetic machinery Plant hormones Gene expression 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31470341, 31870216) and the State Key Basic Research and Development Plan of China (2015CB150105).


  1. Ahmad R, Lim CJ, Kwon SY (2013) Glycine betaine: a versatile compound with great potential for gene pyramiding to improve crop plant performance against environmental stresses. Plant Biotechnol Rep 7:49–57Google Scholar
  2. Aldesuquy HS, Abbas MA, Abo-Hamed SA, Elhakem AH, Alsokari SS (2012) Glycine betaine and salicylic acid induced modification in productivity of two different cultivars of wheat grown under water stress. J Stress Physiol Biochem 8:72–89Google Scholar
  3. Allard F, Houde M, Krol M, Ivanov A, Huner NPA, Sarhan F (1998) Betaine improves freezing tolerance in wheat. Plant Cell Physiol 39:1194–1202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anjum SA, Saleem MF, Wang LC, Bilal MF, Saeed A (2012) Protective role of glycinebetaine in maize against drought-induced lipid peroxidation by enhancing capacity of antioxidative system. Aust J Crop Sci 6:576–583Google Scholar
  5. Annunziata MG, Ciarmiello LF, Woodrow P, Aversana ED, Carillo P (2019) Spatial and temporal profile of glycinebetaine accumulation in plants under abiotic stresses. Front Plant Sci 10:230PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Asgher M, Khan NA, Khan MIR, Fatma F, Masood A (2014) Ethylene production is associated with alleviation of cadmium-induced oxidative stress by sulfur in mustard types differing in ethylene sensitivity. Ecotox Environ Safe 106:54–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Asgher M, Khan MIR, Anjum NA, Khan NA (2015) Minimising toxicity of cadmium in plants-role of plant growth regulators. Protoplasma 252:399–413PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Ashraf M (2009) Biotechnological approach of improving plant salt tolerance using antioxidants as markers. Biotechnol Adv 27:84–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ashraf M, Foolad MR (2007) Roles of glycinebetaine and proline in improving plant abiotic stress resistance. Environ Exp Bot 59:206–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Athar HUR, Zafar ZU, Ashraf M (2015) Glycinebetaine improved photosynthesis in canola under salt stress: evaluation of chlorophyll fluorescence parameters as potential indicators. J Agron Crop Sci 201:428–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bowman MS, Rohringer R (1970) Formate metabolism and betaine formation in healthy and rust-affected wheat. Can J Bot 48:803–811CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cha-um S, Kirdmanee C (2010) Effect of glycinebetaine on proline, water use, and photosynthetic efficiencies, and growth of rice seedlings under salt stress. Turk J Agric For 34:517–527Google Scholar
  13. Chen THH, Murata N (2002) Enhancement of tolerance to abiotic stress by metabolic engineering of betaines and other compatible solutes. Curr Opin Plant Biol 5:250–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chen THH, Murata N (2008) Glycinebetaine: an effective protectant against abiotic stress in plants. Trends Plant Sci 13:499–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chen THH, Murata N (2011) Glycinebetaine protects plants against abiotic stress: mechanisms and biotechnological applications. Plant Cell Environ 34:1–20PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Maria S, Puschenreiter M, Rivelli AR (2013) Cadmium accumulation and physiological response of sunflower plants to Cd during the vegetative growing cycle. Plant Soil Environ 59:254–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Duman F, Aksoy A, Aydin Z, Temizgul R (2011) Effects of exogenous glycinebetaine and trehalose on cadmium accumulation and biological responses of an aquatic plant (Lemna gibba L.). Water Air Soil Poll 217:545–556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Einset J, Nielsen E, Connolly EL, Bones A, Sparstad T, Winge P, Zhu JK (2007) Membrane-trafficking RabA4c involved in the effect of glycine betaine on recovery from chilling stress in Arabidopsis. Physiol Plant 130:511–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Einset J, Winge P, Bones AM, Connolly EL (2008) The FRO2 ferric reductase is required for glycine betaine’s effect on chilling tolerance in Arabidopsis roots. Physiol Plant 134:334–341PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. Farooq M, Aziz T, Hussain M, Rehman H, Jabran K, Khan MB (2008a) Glycinebetaine improves chilling tolerance in hybrid maize. J Agron Crop Sci 194:152–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Farooq M, Basra S, Wahid A, Cheema Z, Cheema M, Khaliq A (2008b) Physiological role of exogenously applied glycinebetaine to improve drought tolerance in fine grain aromatic rice (Oryza sativa L.). J Agron Crop Sci 194:325–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Flora SJS (2009) Structural, chemical and biological aspects of antioxidants for strategies against metal and metalloid exposure. Oxidative Med Cell Longev 2:191–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Giri J (2011) Glycinebetaine and abiotic stress tolerance in plants. Plant Signal Behav 6:1746–1751PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gupta N, Thind S (2015) Improving photosynthetic performance of bread wheat under field drought stress by foliar applied glycine betaine. J Agric Sci Technol 17:75–86Google Scholar
  25. Gupta N, Thind SK (2019) Foliar application of glycine betaine alters sugar metabolism of wheat leaves under prolonged field drought stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci India Sect B Biol Sci 89:877–884CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gururani MA, Venkatesh J, Tran LSP (2015) Regulation of photosynthesis during abiotic stress-induced photoinhibition. Mol Plant 8:1304–1320PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Hasanuzzaman M, Alam MM, Rahman A, Hasanuzzaman M, Nahar K, Fujita M (2014) Exogenous proline and glycinebetaine mediated upregulation of antioxidant defence and glyoxalase systems provides better protection against salt-induced oxidative stress in two rice (Oryza sativa L.) varieties. Biomed Res Int 2014:1–17Google Scholar
  28. Hoque MA, Banu MNA, Okuma E, Amako K, Nakamura Y, Shimoishi Y, Murata Y (2007) Exogenous proline and glycinebetaine increase NaCl-induced ascorbate-glutathione cycle enzyme activities, and proline improves salt tolerance more than glycinebetaine in tobacco Bright Yellow-2 suspension-cultured cells. J Plant Physiol 164:1457–1468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hoque MA, Banu MNA, Nakamura Y, Shimoishi Y, Murata Y (2008) Proline and glycinebetaine enhance antioxidant defence and methylglyoxal detoxification systems and reduce NaCl-induced damage in cultured tobacco cells. J Plant Physiol 165:813–824CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hossain MA, Fujita M (2010) Evidence for a role of exogenous glycinebetaine and proline in antioxidant defense and methylglyoxal detoxification systems in mung bean seedlings under salt stress. Physiol Mol Biol Pla 16:19–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hossain MA, Hasanuzzaman M, Fujita M (2010) Up-regulation of antioxidant and glyoxalase systems by exogenous glycinebetaine and proline in mung bean confer tolerance to cadmium stress. Physiol Mol Biol Pla 16:259–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hossain MA, Hasanuzzaman M, Fujita M (2011a) Coordinate induction of antioxidant defense and glyoxalase system by exogenous proline and glycinebetaine is correlated with salt tolerance in mung bean. Front Agric China 5:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hossain MA, Teixeira da Silva JA, Fujita M (2011b) Glyoxalase system and reactive oxygen species detoxification system in plant abiotic stress response and tolerance: an intimate relationship. In: Shanker AK, Venkateswarlu B (eds) Abiotic stress/book 1. INTECH Open Access Publisher, Rijeka, pp 235–266Google Scholar
  34. Hossain MA, Mostofa MG, Burritt DJ, Fujita M (2014) Modulation of reactive oxygen species and methylglyoxal detoxification systems by exogenous glycinebetaine and proline improves drought tolerance in mustard (Brassica juncea L.). Int J Plant Biol Res 2:1014Google Scholar
  35. Hu L, Hu T, Zhang X, Pang H, Fu J (2012) Exogenous glycinebetaine ameliorates the adverse effect of salt stress on perennial ryegrass. J Am Soc Hortic Sci 137:38–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jewell MC, Campbell BC, Godwin ID (2010) Transgenic plants for abiotic stress resistance. In: Kole C, Michler C, Abbott AG, Hall TC (eds) Transgenic crop plants. Springer, Berlin, pp 67–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Khan MIR, Khan NA (2014) Ethylene reverses photosynthetic inhibition by nickel and zinc in mustard through changes in PS II activity, photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency, and antioxidant metabolism. Protoplasma 251:1007–1019PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Khan MS, Yu X, Kikuchi A, Asahina M, Watanabe K (2009) Genetic engineering of glycine betaine biosynthesis to enhance abiotic stress tolerance in plants. Plant Biotechnol 26:125–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Khan MIR, Iqbal N, Masood A, Per TS, Khan NA (2013) Salicylic acid alleviates adverse effects of heat stress on photosynthesis through changes in proline production and ethylene formation. Plant Signal Behav 8:e26374PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Khan MIR, Nazir F, Asgher M, Per TS, Khan NA (2015) Selenium and sulfur influence ethylene formation and alleviate cadmium-induced oxidative stress by improving proline and glutathione production in wheat. J Plant Physiol 173:9–18PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. Kotb MA, Elhamahmy MA (2014) Improvement of wheat productivity and their salt tolerance by exogenous glycinebetaine application under saline soil condition for long-term. Zagazig J Agric Res 41:1127–1143Google Scholar
  42. Kumar V, Khare T (2015) Individual and additive effects of Na+ and Cl ions on rice under salinity stress. Arch Agron Soil Sci 61:381–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kumar V, Yadav SK (2009) Proline and betaine provide protection to antioxidant and methylglyoxal detoxification systems during cold stress in Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze. Acta Physiol Plant 31:261–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kumar V, Shriram V, Hoque TS, Hasan MM, Burritt DJ, Hossain MA (2017) Glycinebetaine-mediated abiotic oxidative-stress tolerance in plants: physiological and biochemical mechanisms. In: Stress signaling in plants: genomics and proteomics perspective, vol 2. Springer, Cham, pp 111–133Google Scholar
  45. Kurepin LV, Ivanov AG, Zaman M, Pharis RP, Allakhverdiev SI, Hurry V, Hüner NPA (2015) Stress-related hormones and glycinebetaine interplay in protection of photosynthesis under abiotic stress conditions. Photosynth Res 126:221–235PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kurepin LV, Ivanov AG, Zaman M, Pharis RP, Hurry V, Hüner NP (2017) Interaction of glycine betaine and plant hormones: protection of the photosynthetic apparatus during abiotic stress. In: Photosynthesis: structures, mechanisms, and applications. Springer, Cham, pp 185–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ladyman JAR, Hitz WD, Hanson AD (1980) Translocation and metabolism of glycine betaine by barley plants in relation to water stress. Planta 150:191–196PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  48. Li SF, Li F, Wang JW, Zhang W, Meng QW, Chen THH, Murata N, Yang XH (2011) Glycinebetaine enhances the tolerance of tomato plants to high temperature during germination of seeds and growth of seedlings. Plant Cell Environ 34:1931–1943PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lopez CML, Takahashi H, Yamazaki S (2002) Plant-water relations of kidney bean plants treated with NaCl and foliarly applied glycinebetaine. J Agron Crop Sci 188:73–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lou Y, Yang Y, Hy L, Liu H, Xu Q (2015) Exogenous glycinebetaine alleviates the detrimental effect of Cd stress on perennial ryegrass. Ecotoxicology 24:1330–1340PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  51. Ma QQ, Zou Q, Li Y, Li DQ, Wang W (2004) Amelioration of the water status and improvement of the anti-oxidant enzyme activities by exogenous glycinebetaine in water-stressed wheat seedlings. Acta Agron Sin 30:321–328Google Scholar
  52. Ma QQ, Wang W, Lib YH, Lib DQ, Zou Q (2006) Alleviation of photoinhibition in drought-stressed wheat (Triticum aestivum) by foliar-applied glycinebetaine. J Plant Physiol 163:165–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Mäkelä P, Mantila J, Hinkkanen R, Pehu E, Peltonen-Sainio P (1996) Effect of foliar applications of glycinebetaine on stress tolerance, growth, and yield of spring cereals and summer turnip rape in Finland. J Agron Crop Sci 176:223–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mäkelä P, Munns R, Colmer TD, Condon AG, Peltonen-Sainio P (1998) Effects of foliar applications of glycinebetaine on stomatal conductance, abscisic acid and solute concentrations in leaves of salt- or drought-stressed tomato. Aust J Plant Physiol 25:655–663Google Scholar
  55. Mäkelä P, Konttur M, Pehu E, Somersalo S (1999) Photosyntehtic response of drought- and salt-stressed tomato and turnip rape plants to foliar-applied glycinebetaine. Physiol Plant 105:45–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Mäkelä P, Kärkkäinen J, Somersalo S (2000) Effect of glycinebetaine on chloroplast infrastructure, chlorophyll and protein content, and RuBPCO activities in tomato grown under drought or salinity. Biol Plant 43:471–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Masood A, Iqbal N, Khan NA (2012) Role of ethylene in alleviation of cadmium-induced photosynthetic capacity inhibition by sulphur in mustard. Plant Cell Environ 35:524–533PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  58. Masood A, Per TS, Asgher M, Fatma M, Khan MIR, Rasheed F, Hussain SJ, Khan NA (2016) Glycine betaine: role in shifting plants toward adaptation under extreme environments. In: Osmolytes and plants acclimation to changing environment: emerging omics technologies. Springer, New Delhi, pp 69–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Molla MR, Ali MR, Hasanuzzaman M, Almamun MH, Ahmed A, Nazimuddowla MAN, Rohman MM (2014) Exogenous proline and betaine-induced upregulation of glutathione transferase and glyoxalase I in lentil (Lens culinaris) under drought stress. Not Bot Horti Agrobo 42:73–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Nawaz K, Ashraf M (2010) Exogenous application of glycinebetaine modulates activities of antioxidants in maize plants subjected to salt stress. J Agron Crop Sci 196:28–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Nishiyama Y, Murata N (2014) Revised scheme for the mechanism of photoinhibition and its application to enhance the abiotic stress tolerance of the photosynthetic machinery. Appl Microbiol Biot 98:8777–8796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Nishiyama Y, Allakhverdiev SI, Murata N (2006) A new paradigm for the action of reactive oxygen species in the photoinhibition of photosystem II. Biochim Biophys Acta 1757:742–749PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  63. Oukarroum A, El Madidi S, Strasser RJ (2012) Exogenous glycine betaine and proline play a protective role in heat-stressed barley leaves (Hordeum vulgare L.): a chlorophyll a fluorescence study. Plant Biosyst 146:1037–1043CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Park EJ, Jeknic Z, Chen THH (2006) Exogenous application of glycinebetaine increases chilling tolerance in tomato plants. Plant Cell Physiol 47:706–714PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rajagopal S, Carpentier R (2003) Retardation of photo-induced changes in photosystem I submembrane particles by glycinebetaine and sucrose. Photosynth Res 78:77–85PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  66. Raza SH, Athar H, Ashraf M (2006) Influence of exogenously applied glycinebetaine on the photosynthetic capacity of two differently adapted wheat cultivars under salt stress. Pak J Bot 38:341–351Google Scholar
  67. Rhodes D, Hanson AD (1993) Quaternary ammonium and tertiary sulfonium compounds in higher plants. Annu Rev Plant Physiol Mol Biol 44:357–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sorwong A, Sakhonwasee S (2015) Foliar application of glycinebetaine mitigates the effect of heat stress in three marigold (Tagetes erecta) cultivars. Hort J 84:161–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Stepien P, Gediga K, Piszcz U, Karmowska K (2016) Effects of the exogenous glycinebetaine on photosynthetic apparatus in cucumber leaves challenging Al stress. In Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Heavy Metals in the EnvironmentGoogle Scholar
  70. Takabe T, Rai V, Hibino T (2006) Metabolic engineering of glycinebetaine. In: Rai A, Takabe T (eds) Abiotic stress tolerance in plants: toward the improvement of global environment and food. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 137–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Takahashi S, Murata N (2008) How do environmental stresses accelerate photoinhibition? Trends Plant Sci 13:178–182PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  72. Tuteja N, Gill SS, Tuteja R (2011) Plant responses to abiotic stresses: shedding light on salt drought cold heavy metal stress. In: Tuteja N, Gill SS, Tuteja R (eds) Omics and plant abiotic stress tolerance. Bentham Science Publishers Ltd., Beijing, pp 39–64Google Scholar
  73. Wang C, Ma XL, Hui Z, Wang W (2008) Glycine betaine improves thylakoid membrane function of tobacco leaves under low-temperature stress. Photosynthetica 46:400–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Xing W, Rajashekar CB (1999) Alleviation of water stress in beans by exogenous glycine betaine. Plant Sci 148:185–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Yang XH, Lu CM (2005) Photosynthesis is improved by exogenous glycinebetaine in salt-stressed maize plants. Physiol Plant 124:343–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Yang XH, Lu CM (2006) Effects of exogenous glycinebetaine on growth, CO2 assimilation, and photosystem II photochemistry of maize plants. Physiol Plant 127:593–602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Yang Z, Yu J, Merewitz E, Huang B (2012) Differential effects of abscisic acid and glycine betaine on physiological responses to drought and salinity stress for two perennial grass species. J Am Soc Hortic Sci 137:96–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Yildirim E, Ekinci M, Turan M, Dursun A, Kul R, Parlakova F (2015) Roles of glycinebetaine in mitigating deleterious effect of salt stress on lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.). Arch Agron Soil Sci 61:1673–1689CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Zhang LX, Lai JH, Gao M, Ashraf M (2014) Exogenous glycinebetaine and humic acid improve growth, nitrogen status, photosynthesis, and antioxidant defense system and confer tolerance to nitrogen stress in maize seedlings. J Plant Interact 9:159–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Zhao XX, Ma QQ, Liang C, Fang Y, Wang YQ, Wang W (2007) Effect of glycinebetaine on function of thylakoid membranes in wheat flag leaves under drought stress. Biol Plant 51:584–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Life Science, State Key Laboratory of Crop Biology, Shandong Key Laboratory of Crop Biology, Shandong Agricultural UniversityTaianChina

Personalised recommendations