Two bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) cultivars, differing in their response to chilling, were exposed to three levels of root-zone temperatures. Gas exchange, shoot and root phenology, and the pattern of change of the central metabolites and secondary metabolites caffeate and benzoate in the leaves and roots were profiled. Low root-zone temperature significantly inhibited gaseous exchange, with a greater effect on the sensitive commercial pepper hybrid (Canon) than on the new hybrid bred to enhance abiotic stress tolerance (S103). The latter was less affected by the treatment with respect to plant height, shoot dry mass, root maximum length, root projected area, number of root tips and root dry mass. More carbon was allocated to the leaves of S103 than nitrogen at 17°C, while in the roots at 17°C, more nitrogen was allocated and the ratio between C/N decreased. Metabolite profiling showed greater increase in the root than in the leaves. Leaf response between the two cultivars differed significantly. The roots accumulated stress-related metabolites including γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), proline, galactinol and raffinose and at chilling (7°C) resulted in an increase of sugars in both cultivars. Our results suggest that the enhanced tolerance of S103 to root cold stress, reflected in the relative maintenance of shoot and root growth, is likely linked to a more effective regulation of photosynthesis facilitated by the induction of stress-related metabolism.
© 2017 Scandinavian Plant Physiology Society.