, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 532–541 | Cite as

Physiological and ultrastructural responses of sour orange (Citrus aurantium L.) clones to water stress

  • A. Ben Salem-Fnayou
  • I. Belghith
  • M. Lamine
  • A. Mliki
  • A. Ghorbel
Original papers


Water stress is a major abiotic constraint leading to serious crop losses. Recently, in the Mediterranean region, water stress has become markedly sensed, especially in Citrus orchards. This study investigated the physiological responses of local sour orange (Citrus aurantium L.) clones to severe water stress. Water stress was applied by withholding irrigation during weeks, followed by a rewatering phase during three months. Under water stress, sour orange clones decreased their stomatal conductance, net photosynthetic rate, and transpiration rate. On the contrary, biomass was stable, especially in the Kliaa clone. In addition, reduced leaf water potentials (-3 MPa) and water contents were measured in most of the clones, except Kliaa which kept the highest water potential (-2.5 MPa). After rewatering, all clones recovered except of the Ghars Mrad (GM) clone. Ultrastructural observations of leaf sections by transmission electron microscopy did not reveal marked alterations in the mesophyll cells and chloroplast structure of Kliaa in comparison to the sensitive clone GM, in which palisade parenchyma cells and chloroplasts were disorganized. This contrasting behavior was mainly attributed to genetic differences as attested by molecular analysis. This study highlighted GM as the drought-sensitive clone and Kliaa as the tolerant clone able to develop an avoidance strategy based on an efficient stomatal regulation. Although a high percentage of polyembryony characterizes C. aurantium and justifies its multiplication by seeds, heterogeneous water-stress responses could be observed within sour orange plants in young orchards.

Additional key words

chloroplast ultrastructure gas exchange 



control, irrigated plants


intercellular CO2 concentration


dry mass




equivalent humidity


fresh mass


Ghars Mrad


stomatal conductance


indol-butyric acid


leaf water content


net photosynthetic rate


random amplified polymorphic DNA


rewatered plants


transmission electron microscopy


gravimetric soil water content


water-stressed plants


leaf water potential


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Copyright information

© The Institute of Experimental Botany 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Ben Salem-Fnayou
    • 1
  • I. Belghith
    • 1
  • M. Lamine
    • 1
  • A. Mliki
    • 1
  • A. Ghorbel
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Plant Molecular PhysiologyCenter of Biotechnology of Borj Cedia (CBBC)Hammam-LifTunisia

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