, Volume 217, Issue 5, pp 758–766 | Cite as

Photo- and antioxidative protection, and a role for salicylic acid during drought and recovery in field-grown Phillyrea angustifolia plants

Original Article


Mechanisms of photo- and antioxidative protection, the extent of oxidative stress, and salicylic acid accumulation in leaves of Phillyrea angustifolia L. (Oleaceae) plants exposed to drought and recovery in Mediterranean field conditions were studied. The amounts of α-tocopherol increased up to 4-fold and those of zeaxanthin increased up to 3-fold at relative leaf water contents (RWCs) of ca. 60%, which caused up to 70% increases in the de-epoxidation state of the xanthophyll cycle (DPS). While α-tocopherol increased further in severe drought, zeaxanthin levels and DPS remained constant, β-carotene decreased and malondialdehyde (MDA) levels increased at RWCs below 50%. Though this was associated with significant decreases in the maximum efficiency of photosystem II photochemistry (Fv/Fm), the same leaves that suffered from drought recovered after rainfalls, and similar MDA levels and Fv/Fm ratios to those observed before drought were attained. During recovery (i) the Fv/Fm ratio and β-carotene levels increased slowly, (ii) α-tocopherol levels decreased sharply, to increase again, and (iii) MDA levels in leaves increased to values 35% higher than those observed at maximum drought, and decreased later. Salicylic acid (SA) levels showed a strong negative correlation (r2=0.857) with the RWC, and increased progressively up to 5-fold, during drought. During recovery, SA levels decreased, but remained slightly higher than those observed before drought. SA levels were positively correlated with those of α-tocopherol during drought (r2=0.718), but not during recovery (r2=0.221). We conclude that (i) P. angustifolia plants activate several mechanisms of photo- and antioxidative protection to withstand drought stress during a Mediterranean summer, (ii) endogenous SA levels increase in leaves of drought-stressed plants, thus suggesting a role for SA in plant responses to drought, and (iii) plants suffer oxidative stress during recovery, and this stress is more severe as the previous drought is more intense.


Drought stress Oxidative stress Phillyrea Photoprotection Salicylic acid α-Tocopherol 



activated oxygen species






chlorophyll a+b


de-epoxidation state of the xanthophyll cycle


dry weight


maximum efficiency of photosystem II photochemistry


fresh weight

IR plants

irrigated plants


leaf mass/area ratio




photosynthetically active photon flux density


photosystem II


relative leaf water content


salicylic acid

SR1 plants

plants exposed to water deficit until their RWC was ca. 50% and then revived by rainfalls

SR2 plants

plants exposed to water deficit until their RWC was ca. 40% and then revived by rainfalls


vapour pressure deficit



We are very grateful to the Serveis Científico-Tècnics (University of Barcelona) for technical assistance. This research was supported by MCYT-REN2000-0278/CLI and MCYT-REN2001-0003/GLO grants from the Spanish Government and by the European Environment Programme (VULCAN-EVK2-CT-2000-00094).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unitat d'Ecofisiologia CSIC–CEAB–CREAF, Facultat de CiènciesUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  2. 2.Departament de Biologia Vegetal, Facultat de BiologiaUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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