The Interplay Between Water Limitation, Dhurrin, and Nitrate in the Low-Cyanogenic Sorghum Mutant adult cyanide deficient class 1

Viviana C. Rosati, Cecilia K. Blomstedt, Birger Lindberg Møller, Trevor Garnett, Roslyn Gleadow

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Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench produces the nitrogen-containing natural product dhurrin that provides chemical defense against herbivores and pathogens via the release of toxic hydrogen cyanide gas. Drought can increase dhurrin in shoot tissues to concentrations toxic to livestock. As dhurrin is also a remobilizable store of reduced nitrogen and plays a role in stress mitigation, reductions in dhurrin may come at a cost to plant growth and stress tolerance. Here, we investigated the response to an extended period of water limitation in a unique EMS-mutant adult cyanide deficient class 1 (acdc1) that has a low dhurrin content in the leaves of mature plants. A mutant sibling line was included to assess the impact of unknown background mutations. Plants were grown under three watering regimes using a gravimetric platform, with growth parameters and dhurrin and nitrate concentrations assessed over four successive harvests. Tissue type was an important determinant of dhurrin and nitrate concentrations, with the response to water limitation differing between above and below ground tissues. Water limitation increased dhurrin concentration in the acdc1 shoots to the same extent as in wild-type plants and no growth advantage or disadvantage between the lines was observed. Lower dhurrin concentrations in the acdc1 leaf tissue when fully watered correlated with an increase in nitrate content in the shoot and roots of the mutant. In targeted breeding efforts to down-regulate dhurrin concentration, parallel effects on the level of stored nitrates should be considered in all vegetative tissues of this important forage crop to avoid potential toxic effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1458
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2019


  • cyanogenesis
  • cyanogenic glucosides
  • drought
  • resource allocation
  • specialized metabolites

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