Melatonin enhances plant growth and abiotic stress tolerance in soybean plants

Wei Wei, Qing Tian Li, Ya Nan Chu, Russel J. Reiter, Xiao Min Yu, Dan Hua Zhu, Wan Ke Zhang, Biao Ma, Qing Lin, Jin Song Zhang, Shou Yi Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

262 Scopus citations


Melatonin is a well-known agent that plays multiple roles in animals. Its possible function in plants is less clear. In the present study, we tested the effect of melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) on soybean growth and development. Coating seeds with melatonin significantly promoted soybean growth as judged from leaf size and plant height. This enhancement was also observed in soybean production and their fatty acid content. Melatonin increased pod number and seed number, but not 100-seed weight. Melatonin also improved soybean tolerance to salt and drought stresses. Transcriptome analysis revealed that salt stress inhibited expressions of genes related to binding, oxidoreductase activity/process, and secondary metabolic processes. Melatonin up-regulated expressions of the genes inhibited by salt stress, and hence alleviated the inhibitory effects of salt stress on gene expressions. Further detailed analysis of the affected pathways documents that melatonin probably achieved its promotional roles in soybean through enhancement of genes involved in cell division, photosynthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, fatty acid biosynthesis, and ascorbate metabolism. Our results demonstrate that melatonin has significant potential for improvement of soybean growth and seed production. Further study should uncover more about the molecular mechanisms of melatonin's function in soybeans and other crops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-707
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Melatonin
  • Soybean
  • Stress tolerance
  • Transcriptome
  • Yield increase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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