Drought-induced disturbance of carbohydrate metabolism in anthers and male abortion of two Gossypium hirsutum cultivars differing in drought tolerance

  • Wei Hu
  • Yanjun Huang
  • Dimitra A. Loka
  • Hua Bai
  • Yu Liu
  • Shanshan Wang
  • Zhiguo ZhouEmail author
Original Article


Key message

Cotton pollen abortion, under drought stress, was closely associated with changes in anther carbohydrate metabolism, and pollen abortion rate due to drought was higher in drought-sensitive cultivars than drought-tolerant cultivars.


Cotton reproductive failure under drought stress is intrinsically connected with altered male fertility, however, studies investigating the effect of drought stress on cotton male fertility are nonexistent. Thus, a drought stress experiment was conducted with two cotton cultivars, differing in drought tolerance, to study pollen fertility and anthers’ physiology. Results indicated that drought stress reduced pollen fertility of both cultivars due to decreases in anther starch and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis. Lower assimilate supply capacity in conjunction with impaired activities of ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase and soluble starch synthase were the main reasons for the decreased starch levels in drought-stressed anthers. The decreased activities of sucrose synthetase and acid invertase were responsible for the higher sucrose level in drought-stressed anthers than well-watered anthers and the changing trend of sucrose was intensified by the decreased expressions of sucrose synthase genes (GhSusA, GhSusB, GhSusD) and acid invertase genes (GhINV1, GhINV2). However, despite sucrose degradation being limited in drought-stressed anthers, glucose level was higher in droughted anthers than well-watered ones, and that might be attributed to the down-regulated respiration since decreased anther ATP levels were detected in drought-stressed plants. Furthermore, compared to the drought-tolerant cultivar, pollen fertility was more suppressed by drought stress for the drought-sensitive cultivar, and that was attributed to the larger decrease in starch and ATP contents.


Water deficit Gossypium hirsutum L. Carbon metabolism Pollen fertility 



This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31901463, 31630051, 31571606), Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (BK20190524), China Agriculture Research System (CARS-15-14), Jiangsu Collaborative Innovation Center for Modern Crop Production (JCIC-MCP) and High-level Talent Introduction Program of Nanjing Agricultural University.

Author contribution statement

WH and ZZ conceived and directed this study, designed and performed the experiments, and wrote the manuscript; WH, YH, YL and SW analyzed the data; DAL, HB and ZZ provided suggestions and revised the manuscript. All authors approved the manuscript and the version to be published.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 4514 kb)
299_2019_2483_MOESM2_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of AgricultureNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Institute of Industrial and Forage CropsHellenic Agricultural OrganizationLarissaGreece
  3. 3.School of Agricultural SciencesNorthwest Missouri State UniversityMaryvilleUSA

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