Seed pretreatment with brassinosteroids stimulates sunflower immunity against parasitic weed (Orobanche cumana) infection

Physiol Plant. 2024 May-Jun;176(3):e14324. doi: 10.1111/ppl.14324.


Broomrape (Orobanche cumana) negatively affects sunflower, causing severe yield losses, and thus, there is a need to control O. cumana infestation. Brassinosteroids (BRs) play key roles in plant growth and provide resilience to weed infection. This study aims to evaluate the mechanisms by which BRs ameliorate O. cumana infection in sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Seeds were pretreated with BRs (1, 10, and 100 nM) and O. cumana inoculation for 4 weeks under soil conditions. O. cumana infection significantly reduced plant growth traits, photosynthesis, endogenous BRs and regulated the plant defence (POX, GST), BRs signalling (BAK1, BSK1 to BSK4) and synthesis (BRI1, BR6OX2) genes. O. cumana also elevated the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), hydroxyl radical (OH-), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and superoxide (O2 •-) in leaves/roots by 77/112, 63/103, 56/97 and 54/89%, as well as caused ultrastructural cellular damages in both leaves and roots. In response, plants activated a few enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidase (POD) and reduced glutathione but were unable to stimulate the activity of ascorbate peroxidase (APX) and catalase (CAT) enzymes. The addition of BRs (especially at 10 nM) notably recovered the ultrastructural cellular damages, lowered the production of oxidative stress, activated the key enzymatic antioxidants and induced the phenolic and lignin contents. The downregulation in the particular genes by BRs is attributed to the increased resilience of sunflower via a susceptible reaction. In a nutshell, BRs notably enhanced the sunflower resistance to O. cumana infection by escalating the plant immunity responses, inducing systemic acquired resistance, reducing oxidative or cellular damages, and modulating the expression of BR synthesis or signalling genes.

MeSH terms

  • Brassinosteroids* / metabolism
  • Brassinosteroids* / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / drug effects
  • Helianthus* / drug effects
  • Helianthus* / immunology
  • Helianthus* / physiology
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Malondialdehyde / metabolism
  • Orobanche* / drug effects
  • Orobanche* / physiology
  • Photosynthesis / drug effects
  • Plant Diseases / immunology
  • Plant Diseases / parasitology
  • Plant Immunity / drug effects
  • Plant Leaves / drug effects
  • Plant Leaves / immunology
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Plant Roots / drug effects
  • Plant Roots / immunology
  • Plant Weeds / drug effects
  • Plant Weeds / physiology
  • Seeds* / drug effects
  • Seeds* / immunology


  • Brassinosteroids
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Plant Proteins
  • Malondialdehyde