Cadmium (Cd) level is continuously increasing in agricultural soils mainly through anthropogenic activities. Cadmium is one of the most phytotoxic metals in soils. The present study investigates the possible role of exogenously applied glycinebetaine (GB) in alleviating Cd toxicity in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) plants in a hydroponic system. Three concentrations of Cd (0, 1.0, and 5.0 μM) were tested with and without foliar application of GB (1.0 mM). Cadmium toxicity caused a significant decrease in plant height, root length, number of leaves per plant, fresh and dry weights of leaf, stem and root and intensively increased Cd concentration in different plant parts. Cadmium toxicity also decreased photosynthetic pigments and gas exchange characteristics in leaves. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), guaiacol peroxidase (POD), catalases (CAT) and ascorbate (APX) activities increased under lower Cd stress (1.0 μM) while decreased under higher Cd stress (5.0 μM). Cadmium toxicity increased the concentration of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as indicated by the increased production of malondialdehyde (MDA), hydgrogen peroxide (H2O2) and electrolyte leakage in both leaves and roots. Application of GB decreased Cd concentration in different plant parts, alleviated Cd-induced inhibition in plant growth and biomass and led to a significant increase in photosynthetic pigments, protein contents and antioxidant enzymes. Glycinebetaine application alleviated the oxidative damage as evidenced by the decreased production of electrolyte leakage, H2O2 and MDA contents. These results revealed that GB might alleviate Cd toxicity in cotton plants through lowering Cd concentrations and regulating Cd induced oxidative stress in different plant parts possibly by increasing the performance of the antioxidant enzymatic system.
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