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Comparative proteomic and metabolomic analyses reveal stress responses of hemp to salinity

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Integrated omics analyses outline the cellular and metabolic events of hemp plants in response to salt stress and highlight several photosynthesis and energy metabolism related pathways as key regulatory points.


Soil salinity affects many physiological processes of plants and leads to crop yield losses worldwide. For hemp, a crop that is valued for multiple aspects, such as its medical compounds, fibre, and seed, a comprehensive understanding of its salt stress responses is a prerequisite for resistance breeding and tailoring its agronomic performance to suit certain industrial applications. Here, we first observed the phenotype of salt-stressed hemp plants and found that under NaCl treatment, hemp plants displayed pronounced growth defects, as indicated by the significantly reduced average height, number of leaves, and chlorophyll content. Next, we conducted comparative proteomics and metabolomics to dissect the complex salt-stress response mechanisms. A total of 314 proteins and 649 metabolites were identified to be differentially behaving upon NaCl treatment. Functional classification and enrichment analysis unravelled that many differential proteins were proteases associated with photosynthesis. Through metabolic pathway enrichment, several energy-related pathways were found to be altered, such as the biosynthesis and degradation of branched-chain amino acids, and our network analysis showed that many ribosomal proteins were involved in these metabolic adaptations. Taken together, for hemp plants, influences on chloroplast function probably represent a major toxic effect of salinity, and modulating several energy-producing pathways possibly through translational regulation is presumably a key protective mechanism against the negative impacts. Our data and analyses provide insights into our understanding of hemp’s stress biology and may lay a foundation for future functional genomics studies.

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The datasets supporting the conclusions of the present study are included within this article and the supplementary material.


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‘Bama’ hemp seeds were kindly provided by the Guangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences in China. We thank Prof. Feihu Liu (School of Agriculture, Yunnan University) for helpful advice on the experimental design. Z. Li also acknowledges the financial aid of grants from Research Start-Up Funding of Yunnan University (C176220100077), Yunnan Fundamental Research Projects (202201AT070130 and 202301AT070168), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (32360448).


This study was funded by the Scientific Research Fund of the Yunnan Provincial Education Department (2023J0005) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (32360538).

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Authors and Affiliations



Y.Y, G.D, and Z.Li. designed and supervised the project. Y.Y. and H.Y. performed the experiments. Z.Li, Y.C., and Z.Lu. analysed the data. Z.Li. and Y.Y. wrote, reviewed, and edited the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Zheng Li.

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The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

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Communicated by Leandro Peña.

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Yang, Y., Cheng, Y., Lu, Z. et al. Comparative proteomic and metabolomic analyses reveal stress responses of hemp to salinity. Plant Cell Rep 43, 154 (2024).

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