Ecophysiological and antioxidant traits of Salvia officinalis under ozone stress


Ecophysiological and antioxidant traits were evaluated in sage (Salvia officinalis) plants exposed to 120 ppb of ozone for 90 consecutive days (5 h day−1). At the end of fumigation, plants showed slight leaf yellowing that could be considered the first visual symptom of leaf senescence. Ozone-stressed leaves showed (1) reduced photosynthetic activity (−70 % at the end of exposure), (2) chlorophyll loss (−59 and −56 % of chlorophyll a and b concentrations, starting from 30 days from the beginning of exposure), and (3) cellular water deficit (−12 % of the relative water content at the end of the fumigation). These phenomena are indicative of oxidative stress in the chloroplasts (as confirmed by the strong degradation of β-carotene) despite the photoprotection conferred by xanthophyll cycle [as demonstrated by the significant rise of de-epoxidation index, reaching the maximum value at the end of the treatment (+69 %)], antioxidant compounds [as confirmed by the increase of phenols (in particular caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid)], and water-soluble carbohydrates (especially monosaccharides). By means of combined ecophysiological and biochemical approaches, this study demonstrates that S. officinalis is able to activate an adaptive survival mechanism allowing the plant to complete its life cycle even under oxidative stressful conditions.

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Fig. 1
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Fig. 3
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Fig. 5
Fig. 6


%D :

Fraction of absorbed light that was thermally dissipated in PSII antennae


Actual quantum yield of PSII

A :

Photosynthetic activity


Analysis of variance

A + V:

Anteraxanthin + violaxanthin

CEO3 :

Cumulative exposure to O3

C i :

Intercellular CO2 concentration




Cumulative O3 Uptakes


De-epoxidation index value

F 0 :

Minimal fluorescence

F0 :

Minimal fluorescence in the light-adapted state


From the beginning of exposure

F m :

Maximal fluorescence

Fm :

Maximal fluorescence in the light-adapted state

F s :

Steady-state fluorescence yield in the light-adapted state


Fresh weight

G w :

Stomatal conductance to water vapor


Light harvesting complex

O3 :



Photon flux density


Photosystem I


Photosystem II


No photochemical quenching


Photochemical quenching


Reactive oxygen species


Relative water content

WUEi :

Intrinsic water use efficiency


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Correspondence to Cristina Nali.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Pellegrini, E., Francini, A., Lorenzini, G. et al. Ecophysiological and antioxidant traits of Salvia officinalis under ozone stress. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 13083–13093 (2015).

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  • Carbohydrates
  • Carotenoids
  • Medicinal plants
  • Oxidative stress
  • Phenolic acids
  • Xanthophyll cycle