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Effect of salt stress on the accumulation of triterpenoid saponins in aseptic cultured Glycyrrhiza uralensis


Glycyrrhizae Radix (licorice) comprises the dried roots and rhizomes of the Glycyrrhiza species and has been used as a medicine and sweetener in Asia and Europe. Because prolonged environmental degradation and overharvesting have significantly reduced the available natural sources of Glycyrrhizae Radix, the development of a cultivation system for this plant is needed. However, the accumulation of secondary metabolites is lower in most cultivated Glycyrrhiza plants compared with that in the wild version. Here, we cultivated G. uralensis under various salinity conditions and determined the effect of salt stress on the accumulation of triterpenoid saponins and ononin (isoflavonoid) using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry. Treatment with up to 1.2% NaCl did not affect the fresh weight of the G. uralensis seedling roots. Moreover, morphological changes were not observed in samples cultivated under 0.3% and 0.6% NaCl, except for a reduction in the number of leaves compared with that of the control plants. The content of glycyrrhizin, licorice-saponins G2, H2, and B2, in the roots increased concomitantly with increasing salt concentration in the medium. In contrast, soyasaponin Bb in the roots decreased significantly at 1.2% salt concentration, in which the concentration of glycyrrhizin and its analogs was the highest. There was no significant difference in the content of ononin. These results demonstrated that salt stress preferentially enhances the production of glycyrrhizin and licorice-saponins in G. uralensis.

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This work was supported by a Grant-in-Aid from the JSPS KAKENHI (Grant No. JP21J10068).

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YN: obtained funding, designed and performed experiments, analyzed data, and wrote and revised the manuscript. KN: performed experiments. KT: conceived the study design, obtained funding, analyzed data, reviewed and revised the manuscript, and provided overall supervision for the present study. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ken Tanaka.

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

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Communicated by Kalina Ananieva.

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Nishidono, Y., Niwa, K. & Tanaka, K. Effect of salt stress on the accumulation of triterpenoid saponins in aseptic cultured Glycyrrhiza uralensis. Plant Growth Regul (2022).

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  • Glycyrrhiza uralensis
  • Glycyrrhiza species
  • Salt stress
  • Glycyrrhizin
  • Licorice-saponin
  • Ononin