Wood vinegar (WV) or pyroligneous acid (PA) is a reddish-brown liquid created during the dry distillation of biomass, a process called pyrolysis. WV contains important biologically active components, which can enhance plant growth and tolerance to drought stress. However, its mechanism of action remains unknown. Our results after presoaking wheat seeds with various concentrations of WV indicate that a 1:900 WV concentration can significantly enhance growth. To investigate the response of wheat roots to drought stress, we compared quantitative proteomic profiles in the roots of wheat plants grown from seeds either presoaked (treatment) or non-presoaked (control) with WV. Our results indicated that the abscisic acid (ABA) content of wheat roots in the WV treatment was significantly increased. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and malonaldehyde (MDA) levels roots were significantly lower than in the control treatment under drought stress, while the activity of major antioxidant enzymes was significantly increased. Two-dimensional electrophoresis (2D-PAGE) identified 138 differentially accumulated protein (DAP) spots representing 103 unique protein species responding to drought stress in wheat roots of the control and WV-treated groups. These DAPs are mostly involved in the stress response, carbohydrate metabolism, protein metabolism, and secondary metabolism. Proteome profiles showed the DAPs involved in carbohydrate metabolism, stress response, and secondary metabolism had increased accumulation in roots of the WV-treated groups. These findings suggest that the roots from wheat seeds presoaked with WV can initiate an early defense mechanism to mitigate drought stress. These results provide an explanation of how WV enhances the tolerance of wheat plants to drought stress.
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