Comparative physiological, metabolomic, and transcriptomic analyses reveal mechanisms of improved abiotic stress resistance in bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L). Pers.] by exogenous melatonin

Haitao Shi, Chuan Jiang, Tiantian Ye, Dun Xian Tan, Russel J. Reiter, Heng Zhang, Renyi Liu, Zhulong Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

181 Scopus citations


Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine), a well-known animal hormone, is also involved in plant development and abiotic stress responses. In this study, it is shown that exogenous application of melatonin conferred improved salt, drought, and cold stress resistances in bermudagrass. Moreover, exogenous melatonin treatment alleviated reactive oxygen species (ROS) burst and cell damage induced by abiotic stress; this involved activation of several antioxidants. Additionally, melatonin-pre-treated plants exhibited higher concentrations of 54 metabolites, including amino acids, organic acids, sugars, and sugar alcohols, than non-treated plants under abiotic stress conditions. Genomewide transcriptomic profiling identified 3933 transcripts (2361 up-regulated and 1572 down-regulated) that were differentially expressed in melatonin-treated plants versus controls. Pathway and gene ontology (GO) term enrichment analyses revealed that genes involved in nitrogen metabolism, major carbohydrate metabolism, tricarboxylic acid (TCA)/org transformation, transport, hormone metabolism, metal handling, redox, and secondary metabolism were over-represented after melatonin pre-treatment. Taken together, this study provides the first evidence of the protective roles of exogenous melatonin in the bermudagrass response to abiotic stresses, partially via activation of antioxidants and modulation of metabolic homeostasis. Notably, metabolic and transcriptomic analyses showed that the underlying mechanisms of melatonin could involve major reorientation of photorespiratory and carbohydrate and nitrogen metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)681-694
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015



  • Abiotic stress
  • Antioxidant
  • Bermudagrass
  • Melatonin
  • Metabolites
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Transcriptomic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science

Cite this