Proteomic analysis of the similarities and differences of soil drought and polyethylene glycol stress responses in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)

  • Guibin Cui
  • Yanfeng Zhao
  • Jialing Zhang
  • Manning Chao
  • Kunliang Xie
  • Chao Zhang
  • Fengli Sun
  • Shudong Liu
  • Yajun XiEmail author


Key message

Our results reveal both soil drought and PEG can enhance malate, glutathione and ascorbate metabolism, and proline biosynthesis, whereas soil drought induced these metabolic pathways to a greater degree than PEG.


Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is widely used to simulate osmotic stress, but little is known about the different responses of wheat to PEG stress and soil drought. In this study, isobaric tags for relative quantification (iTRAQ)-based proteomic techniques were used to determine both the proteomic and physiological responses of wheat seedlings to soil drought and PEG. The results showed that photosynthetic rate, stomatal conductance, intercellular CO2 concentration, transpiration rate, maximum potential efficiency of PS II, leaf water content, relative electrolyte leakage, MDA content, and free proline content exhibited similar responses to soil drought and PEG. Approximately 15.8% of differential proteins were induced both by soil drought and PEG. Moreover, both soil drought and PEG inhibited carbon metabolism and the biosynthesis of some amino acids by altering the accumulation of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase, and phosphoglycerate kinase, but they both enhanced the metabolism of malate, proline, glutathione, and ascorbate by increasing the accumulation of key enzymes including malate dehydrogenase, monodehydroascorbate reductase, pyrroline-5-carboxylate dehydrogenase, pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthetase, ascorbate peroxidase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione S-transferase. Notably, the latter five of these enzymes were found to be more sensitive to soil drought. In addition, polyamine biosynthesis was specifically induced by increased gene expression and protein accumulation of polyamine oxidase and spermidine synthase under PEG stress, whereas fructose-bisphosphate aldolase and arginase were induced by soil drought. Therefore, present results suggest that PEG is an effective method to simulate drought stress, but the key proteins related to the metabolism of malate, glutathione, ascorbate, proline, and polyamine need to be confirmed under soil drought.


Water deficit Osmotic stress Proline Glutathione Ascorbate Polyamine 



Alcohol dehydrogenase


Ascorbate peroxidase


Differentially accumulated protein


Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase


Gene ontology annotation


Glutathione peroxidase


Glutathione S-transferase


Malate dehydrogenase


Pyrroline-5-carboxylate dehydrogenase


Pyruvate dehydrogenase


Phosphoglycerate kinase


Reactive oxygen species


Fructose-bisphosphate aldolase




Field capacity


Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase


Glucose-6-phosphate isomerase




Isocitrate dehydrogenase


Monodehydroascorbate reductase


Pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthetase


Polyethylene glycol





YX thanks The National Key Basic Research Program, China (2017YFD0100706), Protection and Utilization of Germplasm Resources of Shaanxi Province, China (20171010000004), and Agriculture Technology Demonstration Project of Yangling, China (2017-TS-20) for financial support.

Author contributions

YX designed and directed this study as well as drafted and revised the manuscript. GC and YZ performed the experiments and analyzed the data as well as drafted and revised the manuscript. MC and JZ conducted the physiological and stress parameters determination. KX measured the gene expression of all selected proteins. FS, CZ and SL improved the data analysis and revised the manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Crop Stress Biology for Arid Areas, College of AgronomyNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.Seed Management Center of Shaanxi ProvinceXianChina

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