Priming with Vitamin U Enhances Cold Tolerance of Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.)
Priming may be an efficient pre-treatment of plants in order to enhance their ability to cope with unfavourable growth conditions, and to improve defensive metabolism through elevated levels of protective substances which may also act as health-promoting agents upon human consumption. The aim of this work was to evaluate the beneficial influence of priming with the naturally occurring, but scarcely known vitamin U (S-methylmethionine) on cold stress tolerance of lettuce (the frequently grown ‘May King’ cultivar). Effects on germination, photosynthetic efficiency, as well as on health-promoting carotenoid and vitamin C contents were investigated. Photosynthetic capacity, strongly related to productivity, was evaluated with parameters of induced chlorophyll fluorescence and of leaf gas exchange through stomata, using plants grown in hydroponic cultures. Priming with vitamin U significantly compensated for the delaying effect of low temperature (5 °C) on seed germination, as well as for inhibition of light-converting photochemical reactions and of carbon dioxide assimilation by cold stress. Use of vitamin U to prime lettuce plantlets for low temperature stress resulted in an elevated content of carotenoid pigments and of vitamin C in leaves, which improve the quality of consumed lettuce with respect to the health-promoting capacity. This beneficial influence of vitamin U was not proportional with its concentration (2 mM had no stronger effects than 0.25 mM), so small amounts of this substance were sufficient for a sustained efficiency in promoting hardening against chilling temperatures. This is the first report on priming of lettuce for cold tolerance by using S-methylmethionine (vitamin U), with a possible application in improvement of crop quality and productivity.
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