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Treating plants with plant growth regulators to alleviate adverse effects of stresses such as drought and salinity has received growing attentions in recent years. In this study, the mitigation of salt stress effects induced by application of spermidine (Spd) in two indigenous pigmented rice cultivars, namely Niewdam Gs.no.00621 (salt-tolerant, having violet leaf color) and KKU-LLR-039 (salt-sensitive, having green leaf color) was investigated. Rice seedlings were grown in plastic pots filled with paddy soils mixed with farmyard manure (3:1) in a net-house under natural light conditions. Sixty days after planting the plants of each cultivar were divided into 3 groups: (1) control group; plants irrigated with tap water, (2) NaCl group; plants sprayed with distilled water for 7 days prior to being irrigated with 25 mM NaCl and (3) NaCl+Spd group; plants sprayed with 1 mM Spd for 7 days prior to being irrigated with 25 mM NaCl. The salt stress treatment was conducted for 20 days. Sampling of leaves was performed at 10-day intervals (days 0, 10 and 20) to determine changes in the physiological characteristics of the leaves. Salt stress triggered an increase in electrolyte leakage (EL), malondialdehyde (MDA), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), proline, protein and Na+ but caused a decrease in Fv/Fm, total chlorophyll and K+/Na+ ratio. Rice plants subjected to Spd pre-treatment showed, in comparison to the salt-stress treatment, a decrease in EL, MDA, H2O2, proline, protein and Na+ but increase in Fv/Fm, total chlorophyll and K+/Na+ ratio. The alleviative effects of Spd were more prominent in the sensitive cultivar (KKU-LLR-039). Spd can improve salt tolerance of rice, particularly the salt-sensitive genotype, by enhancing several physiological mechanisms such as maintaining ion homeostasis, water balance and membrane integrity as well as protecting pigments and photosynthetic machinery.
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