Biochemical analyses of sorghum varieties reveal differential responses to drought

Ogbaga, Chukwuma C. and Stepien, Piotr and Dyson, Beth C. and Rattray, Nicholas J. W. and Ellis, David I. and Goodacre, Royston and Johnson, Giles N. (2016) Biochemical analyses of sorghum varieties reveal differential responses to drought. PLoS ONE, 11 (5). e0154423. ISSN 1932-6203 (

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We have examined the biochemical responses of two sorghum cultivars of differing drought tolerance, Samsorg 17 (more drought tolerant) and Samsorg 40 (less drought tolerant), to sustained drought. Plants were exposed to different degrees of drought and then maintained at that level for five days. Responses were examined in terms of metabolic changes and the expression of drought induced proteins - Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs) and dehydrins (DHNs). Generalised phenotypic changes were studied using Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) Spectroscopy and non-targeted Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) was employed to detect changes in metabolites, while changes in protein expression were examined using Western blot analysis. Different response profiles of metabolites, HSPs and DHNs were observed in the two cultivars. Metabolic changes involved variation in amino acids, polysaccharides and their derivatives. A total of 188 compounds, with 142 known metabolites and 46 unknown small molecules, were detected in the two sorghum varieties. Under water deficit conditions, Samsorg 17 accumulated sugars and sugar alcohols, while in Samsorg 40 amino acids increased in concentration. This study suggest that the two Sorghum varieties adopt distinct approaches in response to drought, with Samsorg 17 being better able to maintain leaf function under severe drought conditions.