Targeted Phytohormone Profiling Identifies Potential Regulators of Spikelet Sterility in Rice under Combined Drought and Heat Stress

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 28;22(21):11690. doi: 10.3390/ijms222111690.


Rice cultivated under rainfed or semi-irrigated ecosystems is frequently exposed to a combination of drought and heat stress. As a sensitive crop at the reproductive stage, exposure to combined drought and heat stress will have a deleterious effect on yield. In this study, two rice cultivars with contrasting spikelet sterility, AVT2-5315 (low sterility) and AC35027 (high sterility), under combined stress were selected for physiological characterization and phytohormonal profiling at anthesis. Under combined stress, both cultivars did not differ in the physiological parameters such as relative water content, photosynthetic rate, light-adapted chlorophyll fluorescence and biomass, suggesting a similar source activity under stress. However, AVT2-5315 showed better yield due to better pollen and spikelet fertility than AC35027, suggesting its intrinsic tolerance ability under combined stress. Targeted profiling of 15 phytohormones from drought, heat and combined stress-treated flag leaf and spikelet tissues using LC-MS/MS showed increased accumulation of auxins (indole 3-acetic acid and indole 3-butyric acid) in flag leaves and jasmonic acid in spikelets of AVT2-5315, while there was increased accumulation of ethylene in flag leaves and methyl-jasmonate in spikelets of AC35027. Increased accumulation of these hormones correlated with key biosynthetic pathway genes. In the flag leaves, increased accumulation of auxins was correlated with increased transcript levels of YUCCA-like gene 1 (OsYUCCA1) and fish bone (OsFIB), in AVT2-5315 under combined stress. In AC35027, increased ethylene content was correlated with expression of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase 1 (OsASC1) and aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid oxidase 2 (OsACO2). Similarly, in spikelets, increased accumulation of jasmonic acid in AVT2-5315 was correlated with expression of allene oxide cyclase (OsAOC) and 12-oxophytodienoic acid reductase 1 (OsOPR1). The mechanism of regulating spikelet sterility by these hormones needs further investigation towards improving rice tolerance to combined stress.

Keywords: combined drought and heat stress; flag leaf; phytohormones; rice; spikelets.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Heat-Shock Response*
  • Oryza / metabolism*
  • Osmoregulation*
  • Plant Growth Regulators / metabolism*
  • Plant Infertility*


  • Plant Growth Regulators