Main conclusions: Arabidopsis and Eutrema show similar stomatal sensitivity to drying soil. In Arabidopsis, larger metabolic adjustments than in Eutrema occurred, with considerable differences in the phytohormonal responses of the two species. Although plants respond to soil drying via a series of concurrent physiological and molecular events, drought tolerance differs greatly within the plant kingdom. While Eutrema salsugineum (formerly Thellungiella salsuginea) is regarded as more stress tolerant than its close relative Arabidopsis thaliana, their responses to soil water deficit have not previously been directly compared. To ensure a similar rate of soil drying for the two species, daily soil water depletion was controlled to 5–10% of the soil water content. While partial stomatal closure occurred earlier in Arabidopsis (Day 4) than Eutrema (from Day 6 onwards), thereafter both species showed similar stomatal sensitivity to drying soil. However, both targeted and untargeted metabolite analysis revealed greater response to drought in Arabidopsis than Eutrema. Early peaks in foliar phytohormone concentrations and different sugar profiles between species were accompanied by opposing patterns in the bioactive cytokinin profiles. Untargeted analysis showed greater metabolic adjustment in Arabidopsis with more statistically significant changes in both early and severe drought stress. The distinct metabolic responses of each species during early drought, which occurred prior to leaf water status declining, seemed independent of later stomatal closure in response to drought. The two species also showed distinct water usage, with earlier reduction in water consumption in Eutrema (Day 3) than Arabidopsis (Day 6), likely reflecting temporal differences in growth responses. We propose Arabidopsis as a promising model to evaluate the mechanisms responsible for stress-induced growth inhibition under the mild/moderate soil drying that crop plants are typically exposed to.
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- Bioactive cytokinins
- Drought resilience
- Metabolite profiles
- Redox state
- Stomatal conductance
- Unsupervised multivariate analysis