Sex-specific responses of Populus deltoides to interaction of cadmium and salinity in root systems
More research about branch order-specific accumulation of toxic ions in root systems is needed to know root branch-related responses in growth and physiology. In this study, we used Populus deltoides females and males as a model to detect sex-specific differences in physiology, biochemistry, ultrastructure of absorbing roots and distribution of toxic ions in heterogeneous root systems under Cd, salinity and combined stress. Healthy annual male and female plants of P. deltoides were cultivated in soils including 5 mg kg−1 of Cd, 0.2% (w/w) of NaCl and their combination for a growth season. Our results are mainly as follows: (1) females suffered more growth inhibition, root biomass decline, root viability depression, and damage to distal root cells, but lower ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species (ROS) than the males under all stresses; (2) In both sexes, salinity adopted in the present study caused more significant negative effects on growth and organelles integrity than Cd stress, while interaction treatment did not induced a further depression in growth or more impairments in root cells of both sexes in comparison to salinity, indicating influence of combined stress was not equal simply to a superposition of the effects caused by single factors; (3) Cd and Na accumulation in root systems is highly heterogeneous and branch order-specific, with lower-order roots containing more Cd2+ but less Na+, and higher-order roots accumulating more Na+ but less Cd2+. Besides, it is noteworthy that females accumulated more Cd2+ in 1–2 order roots and more Na+ in 1–3 order roots than males under the interaction treatment. These results indicated that strategies in toxic ions accumulation in heterogeneous root systems of P. deltoides was highly branch order-specific, and may closely correlate with sex-specific root growth and physiological responses to the interaction of Cd and salinity.