5-Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is a type of nonprotein amino acid that promotes plant stress tolerance. However, the underlying physiological and biochemical mechanisms are not fully understood. We investigated the role of ALA in low-temperature and weak-light stress tolerance in cucumber seedlings. Seedlings grown in different ALA treatments (0, 10, 20, or 30 mg ALA·kg−1
added to substrate) were exposed to low temperature (16/8 ˚C light/dark) and weak light (180 μmol·m−2
photosynthetically active radiation) for two weeks. Treatment with ALA significantly alleviated the inhibition of plant growth, and enhanced leaf area, and fresh and dry weight of the seedlings under low-temperature and weak-light stress. Moreover, ALA increased chlorophyll (Chl) a
, Chl b
, and Chl a
contents. Net photosynthesis rate, stomatal conductance, transpiration rate, photochemical quenching, non-photochemical quenching, actual photochemical efficiency of photosystem II, and electron transport rate were significantly increased in ALA-treated seedlings. In addition, ALA increased root activity and antioxidant enzyme (superoxide dismutase, peroxidase, and catalase) activities, and reduced reactive oxygen species (hydrogen peroxide and superoxide radical) and malondialdehyde accumulation in the root and leaf of cucumber seedlings. These findings suggested that ALA incorporation in the substrate alleviated the adverse effects of low-temperature and weak-light stress, and improved Chl contents, photosynthetic capacity, and antioxidant enzyme activities, and thus enhanced cucumber seedling growth.
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