, Volume 247, Issue 5, pp 1229–1245 | Cite as

Maize water status and physiological traits as affected by root endophytic fungus Piriformospora indica under combined drought and mechanical stresses

  • Fatemeh Hosseini
  • Mohammad Reza Mosaddeghi
  • Anthony Roger Dexter
  • Mozhgan Sepehri
Original Article


Main conclusion

Under combined drought and mechanical stresses, mechanical stress primarily controlled physiological responses of maize. Piriformospora indica mitigated the adverse effects of stresses, and inoculated maize experienced less oxidative damage and had better adaptation to stressful conditions.

The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of maize root colonization by an endophytic fungus P. indica on plant water status, physiological traits and root morphology under combined drought and mechanical stresses. Seedlings of inoculated and non-inoculated maize (Zea mays L., cv. single cross 704) were cultivated in growth chambers filled with moistened siliceous sand at a matric suction of 20 hPa. Drought stress was induced using PEG 6000 solution with osmotic potentials of 0, − 0.3 and − 0.5 MPa. Mechanical stress (i.e., penetration resistances of 1.05, 4.23 and 6.34 MPa) was exerted by placing weights on the surface of the sand medium. After 30 days, leaf water potential (LWP) and relative water content (RWC), root and shoot fresh weights, root volume (RV) and diameter (RD), leaf proline content, leaf area (LA) and catalase (CAT) and ascorbate peroxidase (APX) activities were measured. The results show that exposure to individual drought and mechanical stresses led to higher RD and proline content and lower plant biomass, RV and LA. Moreover, increasing drought and mechanical stress severity increased APX activity by about 1.9- and 3.1-fold compared with the control. When plants were exposed to combined stresses, mechanical stress played the dominant role in controlling plant responses. P. indica-inoculated plants are better adapted to individual and combined stresses. The inoculated plants had greater RV, LA, RWC, LWP and proline content under stressful conditions. In comparison with non-inoculated plants, inoculated plants showed lower CAT and APX activities which means that they experienced less oxidative stress induced by stressful conditions.


Antioxidant enzymes activities Endophytic fungi Mechanical impedance Proline Relative water content 





Complex medium


Drought stress


Mechanical stress


Penetration resistance


Root fresh weight


Shoot fresh weight


Root diameter


Root volume


Leaf area


Root colonization percent




Ascorbate peroxidase


Relative water content


Leaf water potential


Analysis of variance



We would like to thank Iran National Science Foundation (INSF) and Isfahan University of Technology for the award of a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (no. 94027490) to the first author.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Soil Science, College of AgricultureIsfahan University of TechnologyIsfahanIran
  2. 2.Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation (IUNG-PIB)PulawyPoland
  3. 3.Department of Soil Science, School of AgricultureShiraz UniversityShirazIran

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