Drought represents a major threat to plants in natural ecosystems and agricultural settings. The biostimulant Super Fifty (SF), produced from the brown alga Ascophyllum nodosum, enables ecologically friendly stress mitigation. We investigated the physiological and whole-genome transcriptome responses of Arabidopsis thaliana to drought stress after a treatment with SF. SF strongly decreased drought-induced damage. Accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which typically stifle plant growth during drought, was reduced in SF-primed plants. Relative water content remained high in SF-treated plants, whilst ion leakage, a measure of cell damage, was reduced compared to controls. Plant growth requires a functional shoot apical meristem (SAM). Expression of a stress-responsive negative growth regulator, RESPONSIVE TO DESICCATION 26 (RD26), was repressed by SF treatment at the SAM, consistent with the model that SF priming maintains the function of the SAM during drought stress. Accordingly, expression of the cell cycle marker gene HISTONE H4 (HIS4) was maintained at the SAMs of SF-primed plants, revealing active cell cycle progression after SF priming during drought. In accordance with this, CYCP2;1, which promotes meristem cell division, was repressed by drought but enhanced by SF. SF also positively affected stomatal behavior to support the tolerance to drought stress. Collectively, our data show that SF priming mitigates multiple cellular processes that otherwise impair plant growth under drought stress, thereby providing a knowledge basis for future research on crops.
Keywords: Ascophyllum nodosum; abiotic stress; drought; priming; reactive oxygen species.