Melatonin (MT) can effectively reduce oxidative damage induced by abiotic stresses such as salt in plants. However, the effects of MT on physiological responses and molecular regulation during wheat germination remains largely elusive. In this study, the response of wheat seeds to MT under salt stress during germination was investigated at physiological and transcriptome levels. Our results revealed that application of MT significantly reduced the negative influence of salt stress on wheat seed germination. The oxidative load was reduced by inducing high activities of antioxidant enzymes. In parallel, the content of gibberellin A3 (GA3) and jasmonic acid (JA) increased in MT-treated seedling. RNA-seq analysis demonstrated that MT alters oxidoreductase activity and phytohormone-dependent signal transduction pathways under salt stress. Weighted correlation network analysis (WGCNA) revealed that MT participates in enhanced energy metabolism and protected seeds via maintained cell morphology under salt stress during wheat seed germination. Our findings provide a conceptual basis of the MT-mediated regulatory mechanism in plant adaptation to salt stress, and identify the potential candidate genes for salt-tolerant wheat molecular breeding.
Keywords: hormone; melatonin; salt stress; seed germination; temporal transcriptome.