What Is Stress? Dose-Response Effects in Commonly Used in Vitro Stress Assays

In vitro stress assays are commonly used to study the responses of plants to abiotic stress and to assess stress tolerance. A literature review reveals that most studies use very high stress levels and measure criteria such as germination, plant survival, or the development of visual symptoms such as bleaching. However, we show that these parameters are indicators of very severe stress, and such studies thus only provide incomplete information about stress sensitivity in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). Similarly, transcript analysis revealed that typical stress markers are only induced at high stress levels in young seedlings. Therefore, tools are needed to study the effects of mild stress. We found that the commonly used stress-inducing agents mannitol, sorbitol, NaCl, and hydrogen peroxide impact shoot growth in a highly specific and dose-dependent way. Therefore, shoot growth is a sensitive, relevant, and easily measured phenotype to assess stress tolerance over a wide range of stress levels. Finally, our data suggest that care should be taken when using mannitol as an osmoticum.

Claeys, M., Van Landeghem, S., Dubois, M., Maleux, K., Inzé, D. (2014) What Is Stress? Dose-Response Effects in Commonly Used in Vitro Stress Assays. Plant Physiol. 165(2):519-527.

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