Drought stress induced pollen sterility is a detrimental factor reducing grain number in wheat. Exploring the mechanisms underlying pollen fertility under drought conditions could assist breeding high-yielding wheat cultivars with stress tolerance. Here, by using two Chinese wheat cultivars subjected to different levels of polyethylene glycol (PEG)- induced drought stress, possible links between pollen fertility and stress tolerance were analyzed under different levels of drought stress at the young microspore stage. In both cultivars, higher grain number reduction was observed under condition of lower water availability. Overall, the drought tolerant cultivar (Jinmai47) exhibited less grain number reduction than the drought sensitive cultivar (Shiluan02-1) under all stress conditions. Compared with Shiluan02-1, Jinmai47 exhibited superior physiological performance in terms of leaf photosynthetic rate, ear carbohydrate accumulation, pollen sink strength, pollen development and fertility under stress. Moreover, Jinmai47 showed a lower increase in endogenous abscisic acid in ears than Shiluan02-1. Furthermore, higher levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and peroxidase (POD) activities were also found in the drought tolerant cultivar Jinmai47 under PEG stress, compared with the drought sensitive cultivar Shiluan02-1. Changes in these physiological traits could contribute to better pollen development and male fertility, ultimately leading to the maintenance of grain number under drought stress.
Dong, B., Zheng, X., Liu, H., Able, J. A., Yang, H., Zhao, H., … Liu, M. (2017). Effects of drought stress on pollen sterility, grain yield, abscisic acid and protective enzymes in two winter wheat cultivars. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2017.01008