The effects of aqueous garlic extracts (AGEs), diallyl disulfide (DADS), and allicin (AAS) were investigated during seed-to-seedling transition of tomato. Independent bioassays were performed including seed priming with AGE (0, 100, and 200 µg∙mL−1
), germination under the allelochemical influence of AGE, DADS, and AAS, and germination under volatile application of AGE. Noticeable differences in germination indices and seedling growth (particularly root growth and fresh weights) were observed in a dose-dependent manner. When germinated under 50 mM NaCl, seeds primed with AGE exhibited induced defense via antioxidant enzyme activities (superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidase (POD), and catalase (CAT)), lipid peroxidation (malondialdehyde content (MDA)), and H2
scavenging. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent analysis (ELISA) of the endogenous phytohormones auxin (IAA), abscisic acid (ABA), cytokinin (ZR), and gibberellic acid (GA3
) in the roots and shoots of the obtained seedlings and the relative expression levels of auxin-responsive protein (IAA2), like-auxin (LAX5), mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK7 and MPK2), respiratory burst oxidase homolog (RBOH1), CHI3 and SODCC1 suggested allelopathic functions in stimulating growth responses. Our findings suggest that garlic allelochemicals act as plant biostimulants to enhance auxin biosynthesis and transportation, resulting in root growth promotion. Additionally, the relative expressions of defense-related genes, antioxidant enzymes activities and phytohormonal regulations indicate activation of the defense responses in tomato seedlings resulting in better growth and development. These results, thus, provide a basis to understand the biological functions of garlic allelochemicals from the induced resistance perspective in plants.
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